UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
Hollywood, CA (Abbreviation: USH)
NBC Universal / Comcast
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(7/10/17) Secret Life Of Pets Attraction Likely Canceled (MORE...)
(7/7/17) Universal Adds Even More Characters To The Park (MORE...)
(6/28/17) More Additions On The Way To CityWalk (MORE...)
(6/21/17) New Super Nintendo World Art (MORE...)
Read the Official Review of Halloween Horror Nights 2016 - CLICK HERE
Read the Official Review of Halloween Horror Nights 2015 - CLICK HERE
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem - THE GRAND OPENING
General Park News - (7/7/17) Universal Studios Hollywood has been all about adding new characters to the park this summer thus far. Tons of new characters from the Dreamworks Animation films have been making appearances in the park this summer and now Universal is welcoming a few new characters from Despicable Me 3, Dru (Gru's long-lost twin brother) and new Jail and Tourist themed Minion characters.
(6/28/17) According to Behind the Thrills, two more new additions are on the way to CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood. A new kisok on site now lists a "Poke Bar" and "Mini Monster" as Coming Soon. The former should be some kind of Japanese / Sushi cuisine eatery while the later appears to be a mini Snow Monster location serving high end unique dessert items, some of which can be seen here.
(6/16/17) Robert was on hand at Universal Studios Hollywood on Wednesday evening for Screamscape to experience the brand new Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle projection show. The show itself is a tribute to the four houses of Hogwarts, narrated by the Sorting Hat. It's a nice plus for the area. The previews have had set times, so people gather for about 30-60 minutes prior to get a good viewing spot. Of particular note is the portion of the show that depicts the walls of Hogwarts turning transparent, providing a brief look into the innards of the castle. In addition, lights hung in the many trees surrounding the school change color in response to the show. It's a nice touch that shows Universal is putting the effort into their presentations lately.
The video below speaks for itself, showing off the show in grand fashion.
Oh... before I forget, Universal Studios Hollywood on Facebook will host a Facebook Live event to stream the all-new “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” experience at “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” on Friday, June 23 at 8:30pm PST.
(6/7/17) Another interesting update from Universal Hollywood, they confirmed that Hello Kitty will be arriving at the park in 2018 along with park-exclusive merchandise from Sanrio featuring Hello Kitty and friends as part of a new store arriving to replace the former Cartooniversal store. This only makes sense as a similar Hello Kitty store was added to Universal Orlando last year.
(6/6/17) Universal Studios Hollywood has confirmed that the Hollywood version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will see the Christmas season come to the themed land starting in November 2017. This will include a new projection mapping nighttime spectacular show on Hogwarts Castle, special new holiday entertainment and even new holiday food items offered just for the season.
(5/20/17) An update posted to BlooLoop mentions that the musical score for the new Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle Details show will actually be a unique creation written by Academy Award-winning composer, John Williams, based on his original score for the Harry Potter films. Follow the link to read all the details.
(5/19/17) Universal Studios Hollywood has confirmed that their Shrek 4D attraction will be closing for good on August 13, 2017. The plan is to replace it with a brand new attraction, but they are not ready to say just what it is yet, though an early rumor suggests that a Kung Fu Panda themed attraction of some kind may be on the way instead. That said, the site where Shrek 4D currently sits right next to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which could opt to make use of the property for the long rumored Diagon Alley expansion plan as well.
If that wasn't enough Universal Studios Hollywood also announced that starting June 23rd, guests will be invited to see a new nighttime spectacular inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to be called "The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle". The new show will feature an extensive projection mapping experience on the iconic castle and promises lot of surprises they showcase the four houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.
The good news is that to make sure everyone can see it, the park says it will perform several times each night. Annual Passholders can also look forward to a special preview performance.
(5/16/17) In a strange bit of news, the local news sources have been reporting that Mayor Eric Garcetti is considering a plan that would add a an aerial gondola ride that would depart somewhere near Universal Studios and take riders up to the famous Hollywood sign.
An interesting idea to be sure, one that would free up tourist traffic on the roads near the sign for sure, but it makes me wonder what exactly there is to do up there once the riders get off the tram behind the sign.
(4/21/17) Congratulations to Universal Studios Hollywood on the inauguration of the new state-of-the-art Universal Cinema theater after a multi-million dollar renovation. Ron Meyer (Vice Chairman, NBC Universal), Steven Spielberg, Jordan Peele, Will Packer and Jason Blum were all on hand at the big ceremony last night.
Delivering modern, high-tech elegance and chic sophistication, the renovation of the split-level movie theatre offers a stylish and inviting place that captures the spirt of the glamourous movie studio—complete with screening room quality theatres and ultra-plush reclining seats.
The Director’s Lounge Cocktail Bar—an all-new upscale and stylish second-level retreat, flanked by the upper level theatres—adds a charismatic new dimension to the space for casual pre- and post- movie-going fun. Beverages served at the lounge can also be taken into the second level theatres.
Each redesigned theatre has been fully upgraded with the most technologically advanced sight and sound achievements. The Universal Cinema represents the first multiplex in the United States to incorporate Christie laser projection, Christie Vive audio sound system and Dolby ATMOS with recliner seating to deliver maximum-impact movie presentations in 18 auditoriums. The installation of new state-of-the art screens, perforated to enable 360 degree audio, complement the overall enhancements.
The recent upgrade to the IMAX theatre features IMAX’s next-generation 4K laser projection and 12-channel sound systems designed to enhance the entire movie-going experience and provide an audience with sharper, brighter, clearer and more vivid digital images than ever.
A departure from traditional movie concession stands, the completely redesigned AMC Marketplace offers movie-goers a contemporary grab-n-go, self-service experience, featuring a delectable new take on concession favorites, including specialty popcorn, gourmet foods, real fruit smoothies, café style coffees and a Coca-Cola Freestyle self-service touch screen soda fountain featuring 165 different Coca-Cola drink products.
A box office and guest services concierge is now located inside the venue, with convenient automated box office kiosks situated adjacent to the venue by the “5 Towers” outdoor concert stage. Additionally, movie-goers can enjoy $5 Movie General Parking with the purchase of a movie ticket (box-office rebate).
(4/14/17) Good news for Universal Studios Hollywood fans... because the park has announced that the Waterworld stunt show has reopened at last after a lengthy winter rehab. I'm curious if there have been any changes made.
At 5 O'Clock on Thursday evening Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville celebrated the official grand opening of the new Hollywood site in Universal's CityWalk with a performance by Jimmy Buffett himself with the Coral Reefer Band. Hundreds of Parrotheads and fans alike joined in the celebration that also marked the first-ever Margaritaville restaurant to open in California.
Jimmy Buffett said, “I walked onto the site of CityWalk when it was still under construction, and my first thought was ‘I want a Margaritaville here.’ Thanks to the great folks at Universal, we made it. It’s great to play at the opening and I look forward to visiting regularly on my journeys to the West Coast. Fins Up!”
“Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville is a perfect complement to Universal CityWalk,” said Karen Irwin, President and COO, Universal Studios Hollywood. “With its inviting tropical vibe, incredible selection of Margaritas and signature dishes, Margaritaville offers another exceptional dining experience at CityWalk that everyone can enjoy.”
Thanks to Universal for inviting Screamscape to be part of the event. Check out our photos of the new Margaritaville.
(3/27/17) Big news from Universal Studios Hollywood came out the other day about some amazing technical upgrades performed to the park's Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. According to a press release from Universal, the attractions projection systems have been upgraded to feature a new 4K-HD projection resolution, blasting into your ocular cavity at a mind-blowing 120 frames per second. This new frame-rate (now twice that of what it was before) plus the higher resolution image should really crank up the realism level of the already amazing attraction experience.
(12/19/16) With Super Nintendo World now confirmed for Japan as well as being in the pipeline for the Hollywood park but not until after 2020, the rumored Secret Life of Pets dark ride said to be delayed a few years, and the park still riding high on the success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter many are wondering exactly when the other shoe is going to drop. When exactly are they going to open that long-rumored Diagon Alley expansion?
The answer is complicated... but the short version is it wont open soon. You can look for those other two projects (Pets and Nintendo) to still both open ahead of Diagon Alley actually.
Soooo.... what does Universal have planned for the next few years in Hollywood? That's another good question, because after jumping through such a rapid transformation of much of the park's upper level, both inside the park and in Citywalk, it looks like they might take a little break... maybe. There are always other little projects in development, waiting in the wings for just the right time, so we'll have to wait and see. Plus there may be a really large surprise in the works as well that could really come unexpectedly out of left-field if the stars align just right. For now, enjoy all the new stuff you have Hollywood... you'll be growing again at a rapid pace soon enough.
Halloween Horror Nights 2017 - (6/16/17) Universal Studios Hollywood has confirmed that American Horror Story will return to Halloween Horror Nights this year, bringing the latest “Roanoke” nightmare to life. “American Horror Story: Roanoke” will unearth the twisted legacy of The Lost Colony of Roanoke, transporting guests to the haunted backwoods of North Carolina where they will experience the terror that has tormented the town for centuries. The all-new disturbing maze, reimagined in acute and disturbing details, will unmask a cast of deranged killers, from the cannibalistic Polk family who subsist by feeding upon innocent victims to The Butcher who thrives on human sacrifices. Trapped in a vicious circle of evil and murder, guests will find themselves in a life or death battle to outrun the nightmare of Roanoke before the vindictive spirts and demented killers soak the earth with the blood of their victims.
(5/20/17) Universal has confirmed that The Shining will be brought to life for Halloween Horror Nights this fall at Universal Orlando and at Universal Studios Hollywood. Check out the preview video below for the gory details about how you will venture into the Overlook Hotel.
Over the past couple years we've seen Universal bring to life some truly stunning re-creations of classic revered horror masterpieces, constructed with loving care in a way that allows guests to feel as if they are walking in the same footsteps of the film's characters and bear witness to the horrors first hand. Now I can't wait to see a film considered to be one of horror's greatest masterpieces given this treatment.
(4/11/17) Screamscape has been told that during the Monsterpalooza event in LA this week it was announced that an American Horror Story maze would also return to Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood this season. Unlike the already announced Orlando version of the maze that will focus on another three seasons of the show, the Hollywood version of the maze will mainly focus on the show's most recent season: Roanoke.
(4/1/17) I forgot to mention it here yesterday, but in case you didn't catch my story about Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando from yesterday there are enough clues out that seem to point to The Shining to be used as the theme of a marquee haunt experience on both coasts for 2017.
While this may seem like a stretch, I've been following some clues posted by John Murdy's twitter over the past couple months, as the mastermind behind the Hollywood park's HHN experience. Dear Mr. Murdy has taken a couple of interesting trips to Ireland where he secludes himself to work on a few particular big mystery HHN projects.
While he is there now once again and has been silent about it for the most part, he has mentioned a couple of interesting clues from his previous couple of research trips over the past few months.
"You'd think after writing 60 plus mazes for HHN, I'd be immune to Horror but this one still gives me the shivers after multiple viewings"
"So I've been writing this maze in Letterkenny, which is in Co. Donegal in Ireland, in a sitting room with an old fireplace..."
"Researching the next HHN maze in a suitable new environment, the blustery, rain-soaked north west coast of Ireland. Cold and creepy out!"
Oh... and the codename for one of the maze's this year is "Writer's Block".
If you haven't seen The Shining yet, watch it. Directly by Stanley Kubrick, it feature's Jack Nicholson who plays "Jack Torrance" as a writer who takes on the job of being a winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, an isolated property out in the middle of the winter woods, where he plans on using the quite time to write a novel. Meanwhile the odd hotel built on the site of an ancient burial ground, begins to warp his mind in the worst possible ways. What better way research the experience of re-creating The Shining in maze form than to isolate yourself in a hotel far far FAR away?
Oh, and one more clue from Murdy... "working on a super iconic scene that is damn near impossible to realize in a maze..."
Sounds a lot like the bloody elevator scene to me...
2018 - DreamWorks Theater - Confirmed - (6/6/17) Universal Studios Hollywood has confirmed that the DreamWorks Theater will arrive as a replacement for the Shrek 4D attraction in 2018. The theater is intended to be a multi-purpose theater to showcase DreamWorks Animation projects throughout the future, but as rumored, will start off with a Kung Fu Panda attraction film when it opens. This isn't just another 4D theater however, as they state that this attraction will actually use projection mapping and special in-theater LED lighting effects to help tell the story. Check out the preview video below showing off the new theater exterior and concept art.
Ahead of this, look for several new DreamWorks characters to arrive in the park in Summer 2017 in Universal Plaza including characters from Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, Shrek, How To Train Your Dragon and Trolls.
???? - The Secret Life of Pets Dark Ride - On Hold / Canceled - (7/10/17) According to the latest rumors the proposed Secret Life of Pets dark rides that were once planned for Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando have now been put on an indefinite hold for the time being. If they do opt to go ahead with them, I’m hearing that it would likely be 2020 or 2021 at the earliest if they do build them, which is a long time to wait for an attraction based on an animated movie that came out in Summer 2016.
While they have not been officially canceled, I’m told that the general feeling is that unless they get approved to be built sooner than later, they will likely be canceled in favor of newer projects instead. Meanwhile the other scuttlebutt was that the previously designed attraction was put on hold so they could send it back to the drawing board to look at other possible ideas for the ride system, as well as budget review if I had to guess. Again... I’m thinking time, plus the fact that the corporate office is now focused on taking advantage of their new Dreamworks Animation IPs, is not doing the “Pets” project any favors.
(7/11/16) With The Secret Life of Pets dark ride already in development (and possibly already under construction in the Hollywood park next to Transformers) long before the movie was released in theaters, it was clear Universal was not only taking a bit of a risk here, but it was also a strong show of their confidence in not only the property itself but also in the people making it.
Now the opening weekend is complete and it does seem that NBCUniversal's confidence in The Secret Life of Pets was justified as the film toppled Disney's Finding Dory out of the top spot and settled into #1 by pulling in $103.2 million domestically. The Legend of Tarzan (from WB) hung on to their #2 spot and Finding Dory from Disney/Pixar dropped to 3rd place, taking in another $20.4 million, for a total of $422.6 million after four weeks in theaters.
(6/22/16) NBCUniversal's CEO, Steve Burke, let it slip the other day that they are indeed working on a dark ride themed to The Secret Life of Pets. He didn't go into specifics about which park, but this is the first official confirmation that the project is on the way.
(2/26/16) I’m told that this major new family dark ride has been locked into opening at the Hollywood park in 2018. While there have been some rumors about it taking over the Mummy building, last I heard this would go into a new structure built to the left of Transformers on the lower lot. Also, look for this ride to feature a good number of classic animatronics.
(1/8/16) Several sites have been talking about a possible removal rumor for the Revenge of the Mummy attraction, as they expect it to be replaced by the 2017 attraction project. However, Screamscape sources have previously told us that this is not the case at all. The new attraction is expected to be a new dark ride experience of some kind, themed to Universal’s upcoming animated film, “The Secret Life of Pets”, hitting theaters in Summer 2016 and from the brains behind the Despicable Me series.
As for the location of this attraction… I was told to expect to see it built inside a new structure that would be built next to the Transformers building, which I’m assuming would be in the same basic area where the demolished Soundstage 28 (aka: Phantom of the Opera stage) was located. Remember, there was a lot of history and some interesting lore (some say it was haunted) surrounding the history of Soundstage 28, but it was removed in 2014 for a reason, and the proximity of the site to the “theme park” side of things is no coincidence.
As for Revenge of the Mummy... if the park was thinking of closing this indoor coaster, I really don't think it would happen until after they open a Hollywood version of the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride, along with Diagon Alley.
2021 to 2023 - Super Nintendo World - In Development - (6/21/17) I don’t know how much of the artwork is legit, and I don’t think all of it is, but a nice collection of some new and old Super Nintendo World attraction art has been posted to Disney & More this week. The one that sticks out fo rme isn’t the Mario Kart art, but the one showing off the Donkey Kong themed jungle area. While the lower area seems to contain a jungle themed play area, if you look in the top of the trees you’ll see a coaster track for that rumored Donkey Kong mine train coaster. In fact, look very carefully on the top left and you’ll see a mine cart jumping a gap in the coaster track, as described as being possible for the Boom Coaster ride patent. Look closer still and you can see the hidden arm coming off that mine cart and going down, where it looks to be attached to the true track for the ride, hidden from view below the riders, which is twisted into an arch, to allow the mine cart to appear to jump the gap in the faux tracks.
(6/17/17) About a week or so ago someone posted a layout map of what Super Nintendo World might look like when built at Universal Studios Florida... and the collective internet lost their mind. I can't say for certain the exact origin of this map, as it does look like it was professionally done, but from what I've been told from a few sources, this was simply an old simple proof of concept proposal and never intended to be built exactly as shown. This may have simply been a graphic used for the initial presentation to get Nintendo on board in the first place.
The layout shown was one that was quite cluttered and really doesn't look anything at all like what we've been seeing in the official graphics from Universal thus far. Plus it looked like a good bit of the land was dedicated to smaller attractions, and even playground style structures, so bottom line... don't believe it. The map did have one thing right however, the location, where we can expect Super Nintendo Land to take over the entire KidZone area.
So time to recap what we do know about Super Nintendo World:
Multi-Level - According to comments made at the ground breaking, the lands will feature multi-level buildings and pathways, which does match up with what is being shown in the concept artwork.
Super Mario Kart - They have also confirmed that what is expected to be the primary major attraction will be one themed to Super Mario Kart. Not only is this a good choice for the action element that can be translated well into a ride, but the nature of the game also allows for the inclusion of a large number of Nintendo characters to be grouped all together.
So what about the other attractions? Well, there are only rumors so far, but the long standing rumor has been that Super Nintendo World will feature 3 attractions, or at least it will in the North American installations. There is always the chance that the one going into Japan may cutback to just two attractions due to space issues, or to allow for the inclusion of more themed shopping, dining and character interaction spaces, as the Japanese market really appreciates those kind of extras.
That said... it has been pretty clear thus far that the second attraction would have to feature the giant ape in the room... Donkey Kong. As a character, Donkey Kong is easily just as well known as Mario and the popular rumor has been about that Boom Coaster ride patent Universal filed for, with a mine kart theme that has the ability for the kart to appear to jump gaps in the track and lean to the side on two wheels, while really running on a hidden track system. As rumored before, this is expected to be something themed to the Donkey Kong Country game series.
The third ride concept? Well... not a lot has been said, and I really don't know if even the rumor going around was locked in as the final concept or not, so take this one with a grain of salt, but if the rumor holds true, the idea I kept hearing about was for a Yoshi themed interactive dark ride concept. Even better, for capacity sake, the one rumor suggested it would even be an Omnimover style ride system, something Universal really hasn't tried yet. Given that the unique feature of the Yoshi character in games is typically his ability to lash out with a long tongue and gobble up things and even spit some of them back out at targets, so you can see how this could make for a fun interactive style dark ride. Fair warning... this is just a rumor... but it sounds like a good choice to me.
As for the rest? Well, for wanting Metroid, Kirby, Zelda or even Pokemon themed stuff in the land, I just wouldn't expect it yet. Maybe for a Phase 2... or something that could even be used as a second Nintendo themed land in another park, as all those characters really live within their own pocket-universe, while I think we will see Super Nintendo World focus on the core characters that cohabitate within the primary Nintendoverse.
(12/12/16) The Orlando Business Journey has reported that several new ride patents filed by Universal offer up a hint about some future attraction concepts in the works. You can see some of the concept art from the patent forms posted in a slideshow at OBJ, though keep in mind that they are keeping the themeing and concept as generic as they can in these patent forms, and focusing on the technology aspect of what the attraction will do to make it unique enough to deserve a patent.
Breaking it down however, there are images showing off a new two-passenger car ride where the cars appear to be able to fishtail out of control and/or simulate a "drift" style turn effect. There is a driver in the front with a steering wheel while the rider in the back seat has a console of buttons in front of them instead. The obvious answer here is that this is likely a mock-up for the future Mario Kart themed ride planned as part of a future Nintendo area.
Another mock-up shows guests loaded into some kind of over-head track mounted piece of hardware that holds a number of armored flight-suits. The appearance is that it could mimic the action of a super-hero character taking flight into the sky on an adventure. Screamscape sources tell us that this concept was proposed for an attraction that isn't expected to see the light of day at this point in time, but could resurface in the future.
Two of the concepts involve waterpark technology, one that could see technology added to a mat racer style slide (either controls or a video screen to the mat itself) or the possibility of setting something up on the mat before the slide that would trigger specific effects (lights, music, etc) to personalize the experience on the way down. A second waterpark concept is also an interesting new take on the popular new 'drop pod' idea, where in this case the pod that holds the rider would begin to actually fill half-way up with water before flushing the rider and human payload down the trapdoor.
The final idea shown is something called the Boom Coaster, showing off a mine-kart themed ride car that would look as if it was attached to a track system, but in reality the car is attached to a boom arm that goes down under the cart and attaches to an entirely hidden coaster style track system below the themeing. The concept would allow for the hidden track to lean, rise and fall, affecting how the car above appears to ride on the simulated themed ride surface. For example, it would allow for a coaster to appear to 'jump' a gap in the visual track, while staying connected to the hidden track system below. According to Screamscape sources the Boom Coaster concept is also a concept Universal is eyeballing for a future Nintendo themed ride concept that would involve a wild coaster ride through the world of Donkey Kong Country which often have mine cart coaster themed levels.
Universal may have a more complex time getting a patent on the Boom Coaster concept however, as I recall what seemed to be a very similar concept floating around the internet for years called the CANTILEVERED COASTER System, and in an interview with the creator posted to Coaster101 back in 2010, the creator of the Cantilevered Coaster says they were already granted a patent for their design in 2001. While the effect would be similar, there is a difference in the track systems between the two, as the Boom Coaster only appears to have one track system, while the Cantilevered Coaster would use two separate track systems, one to hold the car while the other would control all the extra movements, not unlike how S&S/Arrow's 4th Dimension coaster system also uses two rail systems for similar reasons.
(11/30/16) Universal has announced an update regarding their deal to build Nintendo themed attractions in the future. According to the press release "the fun of Nintendo" will be brought to life via "expansive, highly themed environments" at Universal Studios Japan, Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood theme parks.
"Imagine the fun of stepping into a larger-than-life Nintendo adventure. Gigantic Piranha Plants spring to life. Question blocks, power-ups and more surround you. And Mario and all his friends are there to pull you into a brand-new world.
You will enter an entire realm filled with iconic Nintendo excitement, gameplay, heroes and villains. And it is coming to three Universal theme parks around the globe.
The creative visionaries behind Nintendo’s legendary worlds and characters are working together with the creative teams behind Universal’s blockbuster theme park attractions. Their goal: to bring the characters, action and adventure of Nintendo video games to life within Universal theme parks. And to do so in new and innovative ways that capture what makes them so special. All of the adventure, fun and whimsy you experience through a screen will now be all around you – in breathtakingly authentic ways."
The new Nintendo lands will feature "multiple attractions" as well as themed shops and restaurants. Planning is already well under way and while they are not yet ready to announce any dates, they did mention that each will "open separately over the next several years." An updated announcement video featuring Mark Woodbury (Universal Creative) and Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo) can be seen below.
As for the attractions... while things are still being planned, the early rumors indicate as many as three different attractions may be in development, one of the themes is said to be locked in for a Mario Kart themed attraction. It is worth mentioning that they only listed Universal Orlando as the site, an not one specific theme park. They also say that the first more detailed announcement to come from a specific park will happen "soon".
UPDATE: Possibly Delayed to allow Japan to open the first one.
(2/26/16) A Nintendo themed area is expected to open in the lower lot by 2019. Due to size limitations, expect this area to be compact, but it should feature at least one major attraction that can feature a number of the famous Nintendo characters all at the same time, which is likely to be themed to the Mario Kart game. Placement may be tricky, but last I heard is that it would likely go where a few a couple of small soundstages are behind the Transformers building.
2021 to 2023 - Diagon Alley - In Development - (2/26/16) The plans to expand the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with a Diagon Alley are said to be locked in for a 2020 opening, which should see it open and go head to head with Disneyland’s Star Wars Land. Diagon Alley will take over the current site of the Waterworld stunt show, but there will be one major difference between it and the counterpart in Orlando… there will not be a Hogwarts Express attraction, just the “Escape From Gringotts” attraction.
Being build right next to the current Hogsmeade / Hogwarts area, there is no need to have a Hogwarts Express train to run between the two, plus even in Orlando they have to separate Diagon Alley from a recreation of England and the Kings Cross train station where the train departs from, and there simply isn’t room for that, while in Orlando it was a necessary addition to link the two theme parks and Potter themed attraction areas together.
(1/16/16) Even though the Wizarding World of Harry Potter isn’t even open yet, that has done little to stop the flood of rumors regarding the eventual addition of Diagon Alley. Now from what I’ve been hearing the west coast version of Diagon Alley will include an Escape From Gringotts ride for sure, but I haven't been able to lock down if it will include a Hogwarts Express or not. It seems this has become something of a major design issue that they are going back and forth on, but I did get one very interesting bit of information about it.
If the expansion does choose to include a Hogwarts Express experience… the interior experience will be a similar to what we’ve seen in Florida, but enhanced to be even better somehow. But Outside? Well… lets just say that the train itself won't actually move anywhere this time around.
This makes sense as there really is no room to add a functional train style ride experience like they did in Florida, but the idea of a simulated Hogwarts Express ride does intrigue me, especially when it comes to the idea of how they will allow guests to depart from one station and appear to arrive at another.
Now the only question is, will they build it or not?
(12/9/15) According to the latest rumors, the clock may be ticking for the Waterworld show at Universal Studios Hollywood. While I haven’t heard about exactly WHEN the end will come for Waterworld, I have heard that the reason it will depart is to connect it to the Wizarding World of Happy Potter to become a west coast version of Diagon Alley along with a copy of Escape From Gringots attraction.
With Diagon Alley being located so close to the Hogsmeade Village / Hogwarts area, will there still be a need to have a Hogwarts Express train? Apparently, that is the question still being discussed. Now don’t look for Diagon to open right away mind you… as I'm told that there is another attraction in the works elsewhere in the park that could open as early as 2017. With that in mind however, I have heard from one little bird that Comcast may be willing to fast-track Diagon Alley to open as early as 2018... simply because they would love to get it open before Disneyland can finish their new Star Wars land.
(6/8/15) Would you believe Diagon Alley could be added to Universal Studios Hollywood and kept on the upper lot? According to the very end of this article by the LA Times, a set of plans were drawn up that would place Diagon Alley on the site of the current Waterworld stunt show. I can see this being a more budget friendly concept compared to the idea of building it on the lower lot, with access only from a Hogwarts Express train ride.
I've yet to confirm if either version has truely been given the green light to go ahead, which I doubt would happen until they open Wizarding World itself next year anyway. So at this point I think Universal may simply be weighing their options in terms of both budget, and how best to manage the available property that they can use.
(6/6/15) I mentioned this all two years ago (see below) as being the rumored long-term plan for the Harry Potter franchise in Hollywood, but according to the latest post at Disney & More's Facebook page the advanced planning has begun full force to make way for an eventual Diagon Alley / Hogwarts Express expansion to the Wizarding World in California. The early prediction is that it could be ready as early as 2020.
How will they do it? Well the basic plan I've heard all along was to use a Hogwarts Express style transportation attraction to move guests from Hogwarts on the Upper Lot to a Diagon Alley attraction area to be built somewhere on the Lower Lot. While I don't know exactly where it might go, based on the layout and landscape of the park, I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up not too far away from the new Fast & Furious - Supercharged attraction area at the end run of the Backlot Tour.
(6/17/13) For the record, don’t think that they are done with the Wizarding World once the first phase opens in 2016. While obviously nothing will be decided and made official for years to come, there is a loose plan to possible create an expansion. Since land space is a major issue at the Hollywood park, they may take a nod from what is being built at Orlando right now, and look into building a Hogwarts Express ride that guests can ride out into a section of the backlot where another Diagon Alley would be built, complete with a copy of the Gringott’s Bank coaster ride. Don’t look for Phase 2 to happen until at least 2020 however… and only if the Harry Potter money machine is still alive and well for them by then.
???? - Resort Hotel - Rumor - (3/27/14) Inside Universal takes a look at the pending demolition for the old Fung Lum Chinese restaurant just down the hill from the Universal parking structure with the new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem built on top. According to the NBCUniversal Evolution Plan, the site is earmarked to become home to a 500-room hotel, so it looks like they may be ready to move forward on this project soon, as the Fung Lum Restaurant has sat closed and abandoned since the late 90s.
(1/2/14) According to one Screamscape source, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke has made a number of announcements, internal broadcasts and town hall meetings to Universal staff on both coasts and has been apparently referring to the ongoing construction of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando has the largest current hotel construction project in the US during each of these. That said, it seems entirely possible that the use of this phrasing for the Hollywood property may have been a mistake.
Despite this, I have been told elsewhere that a hotel / resort project for the Hollywood is still on the way, though the timeline is unknown.
(12/31/13) According to Screamscape sources, Steve Burke (NBCUniversal CEO) made a curious comment in a holiday message to the staff of Universal Studios Hollywood the other day. Possibly overlooked by many, but mixed in with comments regarding a great number of things, Steve also mentioned that “the largest hotel project in the U.S. is coming to Universal Studios Hollywood!”
Errrr… Excuse me? We know Universal’s newly approved Evolution plan for the property does give them clearance to build three on-site resort hotels at the Hollywood property. So clearly they are planning to start this off with a bang by building something very large. If I had to guess, they are going to want to have at least the first phase of this unknown new hotel ready to take advantage of the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Keep your ears open and eyes peeled.
???? - Backlot Changes - Announced - (4/1/17)
Screamscape obtained a few new photos from Universal Studios Hollywood this week, showing off the now cleared site where four of the soundstages (22 - 25) were demolished to apparently make way for future theme park expansion projects, such as the proposed Secret Life of Pets dark ride or Super Nintendo Land.
Meanwhile on the far North-Eastern edge of the park you can see as crews are busy removing what was left of the old swamp / red-sea crossing section of the backlot that was located East of the Clock Tower Square and North of the Earthquake attraction building. It looks like the bigger pond area (Park Lake) closest to Earthquake may be kept for the time being, but a dark construction barrier wall has been placed around it as well.
According to the 5-year plan the park submitted last year the goal was to remove a total of 13 soundstages close to the park (5 so far, 22-25 and 28) to allow it to grow while replacing them with up to 10 new soundstages to be built on the Eastern edge of the park, including the site where Park Lake is now. The new soundstages are said to be bigger than the ones they remove (some possibly with two floors) that will allow for an overall increase in production space.
(3/13/17) Down on the Universal Studios backlot, the crews continued the soundstage demolition and have also taken down Soundstage 25, competing the removal of the set of four that would easily allow for a future theme park expansion. Super Mario Land anyone?
(3/10/17) According to a post on Twitter from Inside Universal, Soundstages 22 - 24 have been demolished. For now SS25 is still standing it seems, but with 24 gone, 25 may not stay much longer than they need to keep it. This follows the demolition of Soundstage 28 (directly to the left of the Transformers attraction building) that took place last year, and 22-23 were located next door to the former site of 28, with 24 and 25 directly south from there going towards the Jurassic Park attraction area.
The land released by the demolition of these soundstages is ideal to allow for the future expansion of the theme park on the lower lot, if it gets handed over to the park for future development, which is what we had previously heard was going to be happening as new Soundstages are built in the far eastern corner of the backlot instead, near the old Crossing of the Red Sea area.
(6/26/16) In an exclusive to Variety, Universal Studios Hollywood confirmed a new five year plan that will see a collection of 13 soundstages close to the theme park removed to allow for future theme park expansion, while building new replacement soundstages elsewhere on the eastern side of the backlot where they will replace Park Lake, home to the very old parting of the Red Seas attraction on the backlot tour. Two of the new soundstages are already under construction it seems, and the other 10 will follow over the next couple of years, though some are pending the selection of Los Angeles for the 2024 Summer Olympics which would be used as an international broadcast center during the games. While fewer soundstages will be built than removed, they will be larger, so there will be an overall increase in the square-footage of production space available on the background.