April 9, 2014 – With Universal’s announcement of an ambitious five year plan still seared in the minds of fans, we thought we would take the opportunity to precisely delineate yesterday’s press release with our analysis.
Tuesday’s news consisted of a three-pronged approach: Fast & Furious – Supercharged, the introduction of nighttime Studio tours and an overarching release detailing the park’s five year plan, starting from 2012.
Let’s start with the announcement of Fast & Furious – Supercharged.
Billed as a “thrill ride,” the Fast and Furious tour animation will consist of 360 degree projection system similar to that of King Kong 360 – 3D. As Universal notes…
“The dynamic hydraulic motion-based ride will tell an original Fast & Furious story that fuses sophisticated hyper-realistic special effects with a state-of-the-art 3D audio system and 3D-HD imagery, projected onto the world’s longest and most expansive 360-degree screen. Spanning nearly 400 feet in length to encircle Studio Tour guests within a newly constructed 50,000-square-foot structure on the legendary backlot, the sprawling custom-built screen will employ 18, 4K projectors and a never-before-used front-projection system to fully envelope guests in unprecedented realism.”
Case in point, an enhanced version of King Kong. While it’s unlikely that Universal would simply replicate the King Kong experience without any additional improvements in the new Fast and Furious tour animation, the basic concept of a motion-simulator will probably remain the same (after all, we still need to factor in the logistics of the Studio Tour tram and its four car layout).
So while it may be a screen attraction at heart, Fast and Furious may also combine practical effects and screen effects in a comprehensive experience. Whispers have suggested that the main attraction could be prefaced with scene featuring practical animations – similar to the Luigi and Guido tire-fitting scene from Radiator Springs.
The presser also suggests that vehicles from the Upper Lot and perhaps even the Transportation Department in the Studio will be relocated to the site of the new attraction. As noted:
“Coupled with an intense blend of thrilling visceral effects, “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” will take guests on a wild ride that begins the moment they board the Studio Tour. Exclusive interstitial content, filmed with the cast members, will be featured on the tram monitors highlighting interactions with their interactions as they engage guests en route to the ride’s climatic scenes. Along the tram route, sightings of numerous prop cars from the Fast & Furious series, including Dom’s iconic Dodge Charger, will enhance the story.”
In terms of a location, it’s almost certain that Fast and Furious will be located at the former site of the Mummy’s Tomb. As we have been documenting comprehensively, construction has arisen near the area almost immediately after the tomb’s demolition, suggesting an imminent attraction.
With that in mind, we’re probably going to see an attraction similar in foundation to King Kong 360 – 3D with the possibility of additional practical effects. The attraction is almost certain to be on the former site of the Mummy’s Tomb, and is expected to debut in summer 2015.
One last interesting note to raise: with the usage of a 4K projection system, one has to wonder whether or not King Kong 360 will receive an upgrade in the near future. Should Fast and Furious use the same projection technology as Transformers: The Ride and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, the animation’s eye-ware will be incompatible with the technology used in King Kong. Since it’s burdensome to have guests carry two 3D glasses, King Kong may be upgraded to streamline all the Studio Tour attractions into one system.
With Fast and Furious fleshed out, let’s turn out attention to the introduction of nighttime tours.
Marked as another 2015 endeavor, Universal has announced the addition of nighttime Studio Tours.
As most readers of Inside Universal will know, nighttime tours have typically been prohibitive due to local noise ordinances and the lack of illumination of the backlot. With the popularity of King Kong in full swing however, Universal has been more receptive of evening tours in recent years – allowing the tour to run during expanded hours. While some of these tours have undoubtedly crossed into the night, this effort will most likely allow Universal to run the Studio Tour as a full day attraction. Since the tour typically closes a few hours before Universal proper, this will be a change in pace for most guests and in the operation of the park.
As Universal details:
“In celebration of Universal Studios Hollywood 50th anniversary, the ‘Nighttime Studio Tour’ will complement the popular daytime experience as we continue to create unparalleled opportunities that showcase the various dimensions of Hollywood movie making magic for our guests.”
With the new nighttime experience comes a modified tram route (most likely to appease surrounding neighbors) and additional lighting.
While the press release makes mention of a comprehensive effort to illuminate the backlot, Universal actually made a push a few months back in an internal project known as “Pools of Light.”
Illuminating landmark areas of the backlot such as the studio’s metropolitan sets and Jaws Lake, the Pools of Light project added a different dimension to the backlot experience through the use of colorful LEDs scattered caross the lot.
Whether or not the nighttime tours will differ from the Pools of Light project remains to be seen, but the addition of late tours will surely appease guests and fans looking for a refreshed way to view the backlot. It will also allow the tour to absorb more guests as the park prepares for the launch of Wizarding World in 2016. With this in mind, let’s move over to the park’s overarching plans for the next five years – including the addition of Springfield in 2015.
As followers of USHForums.com will probably know, we hinted at the possibility of Universal embarking in a five year plan aimed at redeveloping the theme park property earlier last year – starting with the addition of Transformers: The Ride in 2012. With Universal’s latest press release, our original thoughts have been confirmed:
“Transformers: The Ride—3D” set the stage for this epic transformation in 2012 and raised the bar for immersive, technologically advanced entertainment offered at Universal Studios Hollywood or elsewhere. Working in partnership with award-winning filmmaker Michael Bay and the technical luminaries at Industrial Light & Magic, the ride infused an adrenalized multi-level ride-track and visceral special effects with one of the most elaborate flight simulation ride systems ever created. Housed within a newly built 60,000 square foot structure, the ride utilized the highest, most sophisticated resolution of 3D-HD technology available to virtually launch guests into the dynamic, action-packed robotic world of the Transformers.”
Starting with Transformers in 2012, Universal Plaza in 2013, Despicable Me in 2014 and topping off with Fast and Furious/Springfield in 2015 leading to the opening of Potter in 2016, Universal has embarked on a comprehensive plan aimed at redeveloping the entirety of the Upper Lot.
As Universal readily admits, the Hollywood park has never embraced the concept of themed lands and instead has placed an emphasis on the movie studio/backlot experience with the notion of themed facades. With the addition of Despicable Me and Super Silly Fun Land however, the park has marked a major departure from the status quo.
As Universal documents:
“The footprint for “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land,” however, will serve as a crucial turning point for the theme park, as the adventure represents its first foray into fully expansive themed environments aimed at immersing visitors from the moment they enter the space. From experiencing Gru’s neighborhood to Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls and the imaginative seaside carnival, this all-encompassing approach is a decisive departure from the park’s more commonly used vignette ride exteriors to create holistic experiences and transport guests to that imaginary place.”
Indeed, with the introduction of Super Silly Fun Land and the imminent introduction of Springfield, Universal will have marked a radical transition. Speaking of Springfield…
“2015 will be a momentous year for the theme park with two spectacular attractions debuting as part of the 50th anniversary. “Springfield” an immersive land surrounding “The Simpsons Ride” will open in Spring 2015 and in Summer 2015, “Fast & Furious—Supercharged,” based on the blockbuster film series, will be introduced as the grand finale to the celebrated Studio Tour.”
The former layout of the park will become unrecognizable when “Springfield” hometown of America’s favorite family, The Simpsons, breathes new life to the sprawling and vibrant space surrounding “The Simpsons Ride.” “Springfield” will capture the spirit of the town and engage visitors and fans of the show in the intensely absorbing and colorful world made famous throughout the series’ 25 seasons.
“Springfield” is being designed to make guests feel as if they are being propelled through their television sets into the accurately depicted city, complete with signature eateries from Krusty Burger to Luigi’s Pizza and Phineas Q. Butterfat’s 5600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor to iconic watering holes like Moe’s Tavern and Duff’s Brewery.”
As we’ve tried to hint in the past, the demolition of the Hollywood Cantina and Doc Brown’s Chicken was a concentrated effort to introduce some of Universal Studios Florida’s success with Fast Food Boulevard to a west coast audience. However, unlike its counterpart in Florida, Hollywood’s Springfield will feature an elaborate facade unlike any other.
While some have raised concerns about the location of Springfield and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, no real issues should arise. Unlike its Florida counterpart, Fast Food Boulevard and Springfield will most likely be housed in a two story building that will be connected Three Broomstricks restaurant. Both establishments will share a kitchen, but the building will most likely be designed in a way that would prevent the cross between the two franchises.
On the theme of restaurants, it may also be expected that neighboring Simpsons Plaza eateries could be rethemed to match the new surrounding theme. Bye bye Ben?
With these public releases, Universal has introduced some much needed authority and credence to the developments currently occurring at the park leading to the opening of Wizarding World in 2016. As Despicable prepares to open and Springfield/Fast and Furious ahead, the next ten years are sure to be interesting at Universal.
Jon Fu is the editor-in-chief of Inside Universal.
Jon originally founded InsideUniversal.net in 2006 as a summer hobby aimed at providing families and fans a resource for all things “Universal Studios Hollywood.” Since then, the website has taken him throughout the United States and around the world – including to places like Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore.
Jon currently resides in Santa Cruz, California. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.