April 7, 2015 – Despite the soft opening of Springfield late last month, Universal is continuing to embark on its largest transformation to date. With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter fast approaching, Universal has attempted to expand its infrastructure with additional parking, a redefined entrance plaza, a new queue for Shrek 4D, various improvements to the Lankershim entrance and more.Indeed, Universal still has quite a bit on their plates, so let’s dig in.
With the Lankershim Metro pedestrian bridge slated for a Spring 2016 opening alongside a slew of other projects with unannounced dates, Universal has continued to modify the property’s Lankershim entrance by widening lanes and redirecting the flow of traffic while construction continues.
While the pedestrian bridge and lane expansion projects have both been chugging along, the planned hotel on the site of Fung Lum’s shows no signs of progress. Almost a year Universal demolished the empty Chinese restaurant, the site continues to host a mound of dirt with little activity. We’ll continue to monitor the plot of land, but it appears as if the new hotel won’t open in time for Potter’s 2016 date.
Parking, on the other hand, continues to progress in some respects and stall in others.
While construction crews have almost finished a bridge connecting the existing Curious George lot to the new parking structure, work on constructing additional floors has stopped as crews begin to focus on the structure’s surrounding infrastructure, including elevator fixtures, escalators and more. While not particularly exciting to document, the parking lot expansion remains instrumental in supporting Universal’s five year vision.
With an opening date of June 25, 2015, Universal has continued to work heavily on Fast and Furious’ interior.
While there’s nothing to publicly detail since we last covered Fast and Furious’ show building, Universal has begun to sell Supercharged merchandise in the Five Towers courtyard – right next to the ongoing Furious 7 promotion. Though nothing particularly major, the merchandise cart includes Supercharged-branded cups and shirts. If you’ve always been interested in a shot glass themed after your soon-to-be-favorite tour animation, now’s your chance.
With Springfield’s soft opening, the park has largely retained its original layout pre-Potter. With the exception of the direct pathway from Shrek 4D to the Studio Tour, Potter construction is now mostly self-contained within the confines of the original Gibson Amphitheater.
Indeed, the park has gained incredible breathing room as a result of Springfield (and to a lesser extent, Shrek’s) expansions and refurbishments, allowing Universal’s current slew of guests to navigate the park more fluidly. The lack of overtly intrusive construction is refreshing, to both guests and fans alike.
Flow and infrastructure aside, Universal has made remarkable progress on the exterior of Wizarding World, with many structures resembling their final counterparts in Florida and Japan. Set pieces – such as the Great Hall installation on the Forbidden Journey show building – have been transported on site, as Universal continues to furnish the expansion’s flagship attraction.
Looking at the park entrance, not much has really occurred since House of Horrors’ demolition with the site still hosting multiple mounts of dirt. That being said, here’s a photo catalog of said dirt from multiple angles.
Crews have also added the finishing touches to Shrek 4D’s new entrance and queue, furnishing a new Gate A sign alongside a new thematic touch to the Shrek entrance. It’s amazing what a nice reimaging could do, and Shrek’s 4D new queue manages to effortlessly transition from the world of Shrek to Harry Potter.
In a continuing effort to prepare for the upcoming nighttime tours alongside the new Fast & Furious tour animation, Universal has refreshed the queue for the Studio Tour, adding new posters and quotes from the studio’s vast catalog of films.
Alongside the new posters, Universal’s has also added turnstiles to the exit of the tour – much in the same vain that WaterWorld did just a few months back.
With soft openings continuing into April, Universal is continuing to add refinements to their newest land – Springfield. Menu structures have begun to pop up in front of the food court as Universal adds thematic details around the plaza – including a new set of Duff barrels in front of Duff Brewery.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to view our daytime and nighttime video and photo tour of Springfield in our First Looks series. Springfield is quite the addition, and Universal has added a slew of details that fans will love.
That does it for this update. Please continue to follow Inside Universal for the most comprehensive coverage of Universal Studios Hollywood in the industry, and be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more information from the park. Thanks for reading!
Jonathan Green is a contributing editor for Inside Universal.
Jonathan has been going to Universal for over 25 years, developing a deep passion for the theme park and its historic films. His real passion involves Universal Studios Hollywood’s storied past and how it eventually transformed from a movie studio into a theme park.
You may contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.