With the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter just weeks away, Universal Studios Hollywood has begun the process of winding down some of the property’s ongoing construction in hopes of meeting the park’s ever-approaching April 7 deadline. These ongoing projects – which include the Lankershim entrance, the park entrance, Hollywood and Dine, Universal Boulevard, Mel’s Diner and much, much more – are now nearing their completion as Universal completes the first half of their epic transformation aimed at revitalizing and upgrading the property’s infrastructure.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
Park Update Index
» Universal Hollywood Drive
» CityWalk Hollywood
» Park Entrance
» Hollywood & Dine
» Digital Display Board
» Universal Boulevard
» The Walking Dead Attraction
» Mel’s Diner
» Universal’s Animal Actors
» The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
» Soundstage 28
» Studio Backlot
Universal Hollywood Drive
The Lankershim hill, which seems to be the project that simply won’t end, has crews racing to finish Universal Hollywood Drive before the April 7 grand opening of Wizarding World West. As construction continues, crews are moving at a feverish pace with particular focus on the entrance and exit of the Metro pedestrian bridge. The staircases on both sides of the intersection now have their escalators, stairways and elevators in place as crews begin to flesh out their final designs.
As we continue our way up the hill, crews have continued to plant trees and install lighting up and down the median of Universal Hollywood Drive. The tunnel that allows employees to go under Universal Hollywood Drive from 10 Universal City Plaza, however, is moving at a slower pace and is not expected to be completed at the same time as the rest of the hill. The former Fung Lum restaurant location remains a holding site for the rest of the Lankershim projects, serving as the location for excess dirt and equipment.
Finally, as we head up towards the top of the hill, greenery is still being planted to help beautify the area in front of the Hilton and Sheraton hotel entrances.
CityWalk has also seen its fair share of changes during this transitional period. LudoBird – known for their unique take on fried chicken – is now starting to make their appearance in the former Jody Maroni location. While Jody Maroni’s basic infrastructure remains – namely a quick-serve counter with an awning overhead – LudoBird has introduced a modern beige and red paint scheme with a protruding counter.
The Starbucks CityWalk has also seen its outdoor patio modified, with a protruding curbside aimed at separating the coffee chain’s dining area from CityWalk’s main pathway to the park.
And finally, in the midst of closure after closure, we’re happy to report that Shoe Palace and the new colorful CityWalk fountains are now open! These additions – including the incoming Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant – should freshen up CityWalk’s existing portfolio of shops and restaurants.
The park entrance has also changed dramatically, with new security checkpoints now lining the far front half of the entrance plaza. Guests are now being rerouted with temporary barricades around the plaza so that they may pass through a mandatory metal-detector.
Once we proceed through the gates, we can see that Universal has also replaced some of the old lighting fixtures with a new dual-lamp design – topping off the beautification of the entrance plaza. LCD monitors also now line the ticket booths so that Universal’s new day-dependent pricing scheme may be reflected on a daily basis.
Finally, Universal is reconstructing the entrance plaza’s array of subwoofers on top of the ticket booths – adding two additional subwoofers in an endfire array aimed at steering low frequencies towards the plaza and away from the park’s entrance. The entrance plaza’s first pair of lighting posts have also been affixed with what appears to be attachments for additional column speakers (which will hopefully fare better than their predecessors when it comes to wear and tear to the grilles).
Hollywood & Dine
The former location of Hollywood Grill is under construction as it continues its transformation into Hollywood and Dine.
The exterior of the building has received new signage, matching the newly revealed Universal Boulevard and the rest of the park’s new entryway. Hollywood and Dine’s new outdoor seating patio was also installed, revealing umbrellas, tables, chairs and a nicely themed gate that will separate the restaurant from the rest of the street.
While the interior and exterior of Hollywood and Dine has received a facelift, the menu doesn’t appear to have changed. Much like its predecessor, this version will still appear to serve funnel cakes, burgers and pizza. The interior of the food venue has received a nice clean refresh, modernizing an otherwise old dining location. Finally, Coke Freestyle Machines that were once located in the interior of the food venue have now been moved outdoors – a nice touch for the soda lovers out there.
Digital Display Boards
In somewhat small news, Universal has added Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff to the park’s digital display boards and USHWaitTimes.com.
While Universal Boulevard has largely been revealed, the first building you see as you enter the gates of Universal is still boarded up, and has yet to reveal what lies behind those walls. Thankfully, these walls do not extend far out into the walkway, like we have been used to over the last year, making the entrance to the park a less complicated task.
A more recent update to the new Universal Boulevard is the addition of picture cars from the same general era of this location. The 1931 Duesenberg Model J from the 1999 film The Mummy along with a familiar motorcycle-sidecar duo have made their appearance in front of the new Universal Boulevard. These picture cars have been seen in various locations throughout the park, more recently on Baker Street. However, with the early Hollywood theming of Universal Boulevard, it makes much more sense to have these picture cars featured in this location. Now guests have yet another photo opportunity as they enter the park to make their friends at home jealous.
The Walking Dead Attraction
Just over a week ago, Universal and AMC announced that they are bringing a new year-round walk through attraction to Universal Studios Hollywood featuring AMC’s The Walking Dead. While no definite announcements have been made quite yet about what type of attraction this will be, it has been promised that there will be top-notch walker make-up effects, detailed set designs and costumes, and, perhaps the most interesting element, animatronic walkers.
AMC and Universal have worked together for the past four years at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Night, utilizing The Walking Dead in mazes, scare zones, and terror trams. They have partnered yet again to this attraction to the park all year long. This increasingly popular franchise is sure to cause excitement amongst the zombie-lovers in the theme park community.
Not much can be seen as of now except for walls blocking construction and a new sign promoting the new attraction. With the summer season quickly approaching, it is likely we will see more progress on this area very soon. Be sure to stay close to Inside Universal as we continue to keep you updated on this new attraction.
Mel’s is back! After a very long and extensive remodel, Mel’s Diner has officially reopened its doors to the public. While it still features a small dining area, the restaurant as a whole got a bit of a face-lift. With refreshed exterior, a completely remodeled interior, and a brand new wheelchair accessible entrance, classic diner lovers have found their dining heaven inside Universal Studios Hollywood!
Mel’s Diner’s new paint job and updated signage make the dining atmosphere much more enticing for park guests. The wheel chair accessible entrance also makes it a convenient dining location for everyone to enjoy. However, the only current downside we have noticed since its opening is the lack of seating areas for guests to actually enjoy their food. While there are a handful of tables scattered about, it is nowhere near the capacity that the Springfield restaurants are capable of holding. We are interested to see if this will change over the next few weeks.
Along with the Mel’s Diner update, the Paris facades along the backside of Mel’s Diner have also been refreshed. The newly refurbished facades feature new signs and new paint, creating a much more professional atmosphere consistent with the rest of the updates throughout the park.
Universal’s Animal Actors
While Universal is continuing construction projects on a major scale, there are also some smaller projects going on around the park – most notably on the exterior of Universal’s Animal Actors.
Universal appears to be patching portions of the show’s stucco exterior, located directly above Production Central. Will Universal beautify the show’s exterior in the coming days?
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Moving to inside the Wizarding World, Universal has begun mitigating the exposed Forbidden Journey show building with additional brickwork on the side facing Flight of the Hippogriff. Crews have also begun working on side of the show building facing the Studio Tour bridge.
As we head towards the back of Shrek 4D, we can see Universal painting a mural of trees that will hopefully better integrate Shrek’s show building from the vantage point of Hogsmeade.
While it is certainly appreciated that Universal is addressing these shortcomings before the land’s official debut in April, it begs the question why Universal didn’t redesign the exterior of the show building to better accommodate Hollywood’s surroundings. The decision to untheme the wall facing the greenhouse – as well as the portion facing Flight of the Hippogriff – appeared intentional, especially when one takes into consideration Universal Studios Japan’s installation and their overt white walls that line Forbidden Journey’s structure. If this is not acceptable at Universal Studios Hollywood, will Universal also modify Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Japan?
Moving onto Soundstage 28, not much has progressed in this location besides a few markings on the floor. A sign of future development, perhaps?
Finally, as we reported a few months back, Universal has cleared a large plot of land near the metropolitan sets that once housed storage facilites. Crews have finished surveying the land and have almost completed the initial work so they may begin to go vertical on some new structures that will be built in this location.
That does it for this month’s photo update!
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