Park of the Week: Efteling

Fix this theme park: Universal Studios Hollywood

October 3, 2012, 4:05 PM · Last week, the Los Angeles Planning Commission approved Universal Studios Hollywood's proposed $1.6 billion studio and theme park expansion (half a billion bucks more than Disney California Adventure's rebuild). Named Evolution, the project will include:

Evolution plan

  • 337,895 net new square feet [of] attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park
  • 39,000 net new square feet of retail and dining options at the theme park and CityWalk
  • Two new hotels and the option to replace amphitheatre with a smaller venue

Looking at the plan's concept map, and overlaying it on a Google Map of the same area, more detail emerges. If the plan goes forward as now drawn up, we'll be getting:

Consensus suggests that Waterworld (and possibly the Gibson) will become the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But what else does this park need to become not just a must-see on a Southern California vacation (which it is already), but a go-to place for frequent repeat visits, by visitors and locals alike, the way the Disneyland theme parks now are?

Unlike every other major theme park in America, Universal Studios Hollywood wasn't the product of designers working on a empty lot, building a design created on a blank sheet of paper. The theme park evolved around Universal's long-standing production lot in the hills above Los Angeles. Constrained between production facilities and unforgiving mountain geography, Universal Studios Hollywood lacks the hub-and-spoke or central lagoon design that define so many other theme parks. It meanders across a mountain top, with a second level below, accessible via a series of massive escalators.

Universal's most recent major overhaul of its property led to CityWalk, which finally gave the property the table-service dining, extensive retail and "places to just hang out" that the old studio-tour-and-show-theaters theme park lacked. But while CityWalk was revolutionary in the 1990s, by now, everyone's copied CityWalk. Rick Caruso's Grove and Americana at Brand duplicate the CityWalk experience, while being closer to many LA-area residents and offering much less expensive parking. This time around, Universal needs to improve the "hanging out" experience inside the park, with uniquely themed dining and retail experiences that outdoor malls such as the Grove can't match.

So for me, I hope that Evolution includes at least one table-service restaurant inside the park, something Universal Studios Hollywood now conspicuously lacks. But the park needs better variety in menus throughout the park, inspired by new, neighboring themed attractions. Ultimately, I think that unique dining does more to lure repeat visits from locals than anything else a park can offer. Sure, I like riding the rides and seeing the shows. But even the best attractions grow a little stale after several dozen times through. Great food, though, is always great food, and while I can go a day without theme park entertainment, it's real hard to go a day without eating.

USH's lack of unique food gives me fewer reasons to visit the park, even though I have an annual pass and live just 15 minutes away. The high parking prices and lack of an evening parking benefit on APs usually steers me toward Americana at Brand when I want to see a movie, since I can park there for no more than a couple bucks and the drive distance is a little shorter.

Put a Wizarding World of Harry Potter in USH, however, and the game changes. Give me a Three Broomsticks and Butterbeer, and now I have something unique to draw me to Universal. Create more themed lands with unique shopping and dining, such as a Madagascar area, or an expanded Simpsons land with a Moe's Tavern or a Frying Dutchman, and I'll have even more reasons to visit. Add a day-long free parking benefit for annual passholders, and Universal might win back some of the dinner-and-a-movie crowd that's flocking to places like Americana, as well.

Since Universal ditched plans to add housing to its Evolution plan, local opposition has evaporated. Unless there's an economic meltdown, this plan is going to happen, in some form or another. But with the details still to be filled in, what are you wishing for as Universal fixes this theme park?

Replies (34)

October 3, 2012 at 4:19 PM · USH wasn't the only park built up over time. Busch Gardens Tampa started as a brewery and evolved into a theme park.
October 3, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Wait, you would rather have Moe's Tavern or Frying Dutchman instead of Krusty Burger and Lard Lad? Hint, Krusty Burger has a Spiderpig. If these expansion ride rumors are true, then it doesn't really increase my chance of visiting. We have a WWOHP (soon two), Despicable Me, Transformers, and a possible Simpsons restaurant coming. If Universal wanted Florida guests to come to California, they need to offer something different. Sure, a Butterbeer is good and Despicable Me is fun to ride, but that would be a turnoff to Florida guests. Hopefully when this expansion is announced good news will come.
October 3, 2012 at 6:02 PM · Sadly, I have not been to Universal Hollywood since 1981, so I really can't comment. The only advice I can offer is for Universal to stick with the two franchises driving attendance at the Universal parks right now: Harry Potter and Transformers (I would add Spider-Man, but SoCal Uni is not allowed to do anything with the Disney/Marvel license). Despite the fact that neither Potter nor Transformers is a Universal property (royalties will continue to be an issue), the crowds have shown a strong interest in both. Expand them as much as possible and rake in the cash now, but plan for a huge park-wide overhaul in ten years when the current excitement for both franchises has completely expended itself.

As for that overhaul, is anyone else interested in Universal actually doing something with the properties they own? I would love to see some attractions based on their classic lineup of old school movie monsters. I can't be the only one with this desire...

October 3, 2012 at 7:13 PM · Never been there so I'm not sure but when I saw the Transformers building, it looked awefull. I hope the Fl one looks better on the outside. Theming is a big part of place making (aka to hang out in) and judging on this building it could use lots of love.
On the other hand, a working studio, wow, would love to visit them.
October 3, 2012 at 8:56 PM · Well I was reading on twitter John murdy tweeted back to someone that Shrek's venue isn't goin away next year, but big changes are coming.
October 3, 2012 at 9:06 PM · For the longest time I have been wondering the possibility to cram in a Harry Potter themed land into this already packed USH. It's a good news to me that they are trying to expanding their land. And if Universal can think as smart as Robert on the future plan of its theme park I would be more than happy to become its re-visitor family.

Personally, USH has always lack the detailed quality like Disneyland does and being on a confined lot that squeezes right against a working film back lot serves each other as a tumor next to a brain. But since now they are planning on more space, I hope to see that USH can work on plans of table serving restaurants and even bars, so the locals like us with an annual pass can true see this place as a resort other than merely a park for compromised vacation.

October 3, 2012 at 9:54 PM · With productions continuing to move away from Los Angeles, just turn the entire "backlot" and stages into a themepark. You could have one very large Harry Potter area.
October 3, 2012 at 10:23 PM · I was a long time Valley resident until 5 years ago. I usually had the USH annual pass, since they always had those specials, making it really affordable. Now you would think I would be there all the time as a passholder, with a short drive too. But I braved the more than an hour traffic filled drive to Disneyland more than USH. Firstly, the valley is HOT for a large portion of the year, much hotter than Orange County. On those hot days, walking around USH was torture, with little shade or cool areas to recuperate. Secondly, parking prices were ridiculous, as you said. Thirdly, and most importantly, I felt no "magic" at USH. Very little immersive theming to make you feel you are somewhere else. When there isn't that magic, you are just going from ride to show to ride, and if you are a passholder, then those rides and shows get old. But being in an immersively themed place, you can walk around and feel like you are really somewhere. Disneyland gives that feeling, but USH doesn't. They need to give some special Hollywood magic, that Hollywood theme needs to really be immersive with the Disney eye to detail. They could do old Hollywood glamour with the surroundings, restaurants, and shops. It will draw all those tourists who are looking for the Hollywood experience. Plus the theming will make it a special place for residents. And please put some cool areas for relief from that heat. And you're right, food is important. We always ate at Citywalk, never in the park. Citywalk just had better choices.
October 3, 2012 at 11:47 PM · Are you kidding? What about CityWalk, which offers great full-service dining options for theme park guests and is easily accessible for park patrons? In fact, for the majority of the year Universal is closed by 6:00 pm, so evening in park dining is not an option and don't try to argue that a restaurant would allow them to expand park hours as that would be utter nonsense.

This master planned expansion clearly explains the delay in starting the Harry Potter addition to the park.

I don't like your comment "half a billion bucks more than Disney California Adventure's rebuild". That is misleading your audience by misstating the facts. That statement infers that Universal is doing something better by spending more on the theme park than Disney did which is not true.

The proposed $1.5 billion includes a significant expansion of CityWalk, new hotels, expanded parking, studio expansion, plus significant infrastructure improvements property wide, besides the theme park expansion and improvements. The improvements aside from those in the theme park will account for a very large portion of that proposed amount, so I think it's very obvious that Universal will ultimately spend much less on the park than Disney did recently on California Adventure.

Regardless, it's still welcome news, but you shouldn't try to infer that Universal is going to upstage Disney by spending more on their theme park when it is obviously untrue.

Finally, I think Universal really positions the Hollywood park towards tourists who are visiting Los Angeles. They do market to locals, but they also understand the limitations of the park and how it loses its appeal with frequent, repeat visits. Even with some additional room for the park, which is a very minimal amount, there is only so much they can do.

October 3, 2012 at 11:56 PM · There's a lot riding on Harry Potter but I am yet to be convinced that it has true lasting appeal. J K Rowling's latest book is an adult affair and has both received a critical mauling and failed to sell as many as expected, (still not sold badly though). The kids who grew up on Harry Potter are all themselves now grown up so we can assume their love affair with the boy wizard will wane. My question is, how many new kids are reading Harry Potter for the first time? Is there a constant renewal of interest in the new generation that will keep the physical attractions at Universal popular into the foreseeable future?
Personally I think it's a major gamble...
October 4, 2012 at 12:10 AM · Universal needs a complete remodel of the upper lot. There is a mish mash mess of themes everywhere. You have UK, Paris, terminator/sci fi, studio buildings, simpsons, shrek, and heck theres even flintstones in there too. Theres just way too many themes thrown in the mix together, Id say the upper lot could accomodate 4 solidly themed lands, 5 at the most a la harry potter. Harry potters going to bring in the crowds and the cash, and universal needs to use that momentum to fix the rest of the upper lot.
My ideas well potter is a given. My idea is simple, have themed lands based on the most popular movie genres: Make a cowboy/frontierland and bring back the old west stunt show! Westerns are a huge part of hollywoods history and that genre should be celebrated. Have the show, a nice texas bbq restaurant and a ride (mine train, or river rapids) also.
MONSTERLAND. There should be a really spooky land in the style of transylvania celebrating van helsing, frankenstein and werewolf. There should be a really spooky castle in the style of dracula, and gothic architecture.
Sci fi land. They could have anything from terminnator, MIB, battle galactica, aliens, matrix whatever they can get their hands on. They should put a nice outdoor roller coaster here as universal florida has some excellent coasters (i especially liked hulk and rip ride rockit).
Actionland. This land could be themed to a major city like New York. Since most action movies take place in a world famous city. This could have a fast and furious race through the streets of the city!
Simpsons, shrek, madagascar and other cartoons should be merged into a singular toon land. Not sure how to theme it, but they cant have a land for every cartoon, there's just too many.
This way the themes are generic(save potter) and immersive and rides and attractions could constantly change without having to redo the land. And the amount of movies that fit those themes are endless.
Those are a few ideas I think are very doable and there's probably others that could be thought of. Finally, keep the main entrance in the already established style, that is uniquely Universal. But make the shops and reastaurants there more to fit the art deco theme.
October 4, 2012 at 12:24 AM · Let me put an end to this nonsense about the lasting appeal of Harry Potter.

The Harry Potter franchise has amassed more than $21 billion for Warner Brothers through the books, films, DVD and merchandise sales. It's the #1 movie franchise of all-time and one of the most successful creative franchises ever as a whole.

The original Star Wars film was released in 1977 and today, in 2012 it remains a marketable franchise, in use, in Disney's theme parks today. However, it's been 35 years since the original film was released and seven years since the release of the last one - Episode 3.

Star Wars fans are pretty fanatical, but Harry Potter fans just as much so, if not even more so. The fans of today will have their children of tomorrow reading the books.

I'm not a fan, but the films are amazing and apparently the books even more so. The Harry Potter books appeal is not based on a trend or fad, so their appeal will span generations.

Universal isn't gambling with the Harry Potter franchise. It's a sure thing and without a doubt I know it will retain its presence in some or all of their theme parks 30 years from now.

Your argument that J.K. Rowlings latest book didn't sell as well (with over hyped predictions) is irrelevant. Did George Lucas' failure "Howard The Duck" topple the Star Wars franchise? Absolutely not. What J.K. Rowlings does or does not do from here out will have NO impact on what she did do with Harry Potter!

October 4, 2012 at 2:52 AM · I think that there is a question of long-term viability of the HP franchise. I think it is unfair to compare it to Star Wars, as the two franchises are remarkably different. Star Wars may consist of 'only' six films compared to the eight of HP, but there have been television shows, specials, literally hundreds of books, and a dizzying array of toys and games. In other words, it is a franchise in the truest sense. There is constant new content that keeps the franchise relevant. HP, on the other hand, is by a single author and consists of a much smaller and tightly focused franchise. I don't think we will be seeing TV shows set in the wizarding world, nor do I think that other authors will be invited to add to the established canon of the seven books. Because of this, I think that HP is far more prone to stagnation than SW. There will always be fans, but how long it will remain economically viable as a franchise remains to be seen.
October 4, 2012 at 3:11 AM · ^Totally agree with Randall. Unless Rowling opens up and expands the HP universe through new books, movies, comics, games, whatever, it will continue to die a slow death until it is just another faded memory. Which makes it perfect for Universal as they generally tend to (not always, but most of the time) switch out their attractions and concepts about once every ten years.
October 4, 2012 at 7:51 AM · I don't think Harry Potter will stagnate. Do you think people will stop reading those books? Of course not. Those books are canon. People will keep reading them for years in the same way "Lord of the Rings" is read. New generations will read them and new fans are gained. The truth is the detractors have moved on. They are tired of it.

I'm tired of Star Wars and I felt the newest trilogy is horrible, but I expect new fans to enjoy the movies and there are plenty of content to see over and over again. I have a friend that comtemplated buying the 6 movie series in Blu-Ray. He did. So much for taste.

Harry Potter will live on. Who knows if they will do a reboot? People are expecting a reboot of Batman in 5 years. They don't even bother waiting 20 years for remakes anymore. Spiderman and The Hulk was remade in record time. I'm one of the people who hated the original Harry Potter movie. The latter movies gotten better. The last movie was very well done, but the kids seem too old for the parts. Nonetheless, there is much of the books that never made it to the movies due the time constraints. I can seem them filming side stories to bulk up the media. Perhaps a television series will develop. Why not? There is no constraint except for the author's permission.

As for Universal, there is much speculation, but I hope they get their park right. Too much of its development seem like a mismash. They need to get the theming right to feel like a Disney Park. The Wizarding World will have a big impact. Finally, Universal Studios gets a weenie (the Hogwarts Castle).

October 4, 2012 at 8:06 AM · I am planning a trip to the East Coast parks next year for the first time, I have been a frequent visitor to Florida and Disney Paris so am looking forward to seeing what the older siblings have to offer. I am a big fan of USF not so hot on IOA. I am keen to see USH due to the unique feature its a working studios. ALthough I cannot comment on how to fix this park directly I do have some wider suggestions that could add value. The comments on Harry Potter are correct, it was a very good business decision for universals to go with this franchise, the HP land in IOA rivals for thememing anything in Disney, and this is my point, Universal Studios I think needs to indentify its brand and indentity. Apart from HP land IOA just feels like a thrill ride park, much like six flags etc.... USF feels like a theme park, the streets are well themed with that magic feel of the movies, yes some of the rides need changing or a serious revamp but heres the dilemma, franchises dont always last, those that do have soul and passion that will withstand the test of time. I've never read a HP book and only seen a few movies, but from what I can see from the film and the land it captures everyones imagination and emerses everyoe into that land, in so many ways thats why epcot works, it has a very romantic cliche look of that country but thats what most of us want to see, the best of Italy, Germany or Morrocco. USH and USF dont need always just jump on the latest trend or franchise but embrace the movies in general with rides and attractions that encapsulates the genres of Movies, wether SCI/FI or Horror, animation etc.... No one will remeber transformers same way Terminator ride is on its last legs, however if you look at the successful themes in parks like runnaway mine train, or expedition evererest, space mountain they have a more general theme that are timeless, I would love to see a SCIFI ride using model technology that takes you through the history of SCI FI from the days of Forbidden Planet to how we see SCI FI now, Universal needs to become a timeless park, like the movie brand. Use franchises where you have to but like HP stick with strong bran and do it really well. EVeryone one loves disaster movies, Monster movies, you dont need to use a particular film to make that work, just put all that modern technology to use on an orginal idea. Again to labour the point Universal needs to stop thinking its in competition with Disney, its not Universal has its own unique appeal. If they embrace that people will come, im happy to spend my hard earned money on going to both Disney and Universal. IOA attedndance has increased because of HP. If i'm honest I go into the park just for that and Jurrasic Park, and spend the rest of the time in USF. So to conclude I would like to see Universal Studios stop chasing franchises and create amazing rides and attractions based on bold new ideas that make us feel like we are in the movies. Otherwise I can see a time when the cost of using franchise rights will mean that parks cant sustain themselves. Look at Busch and Seaworld, they both created a unique experience. Universals should do the same.
October 4, 2012 at 8:11 AM · @ Eric G

No need to be quite so aggressive. A simple 'I disagree with your comment' would have sufficed...

But I still don't buy that Potter has the lasting appeal of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I'm happy to be proved wrong but it seems to me that something like Star Wars appealed across a wider age range than Potter and will stand the test of time better. And as for the films being 'amazing' I've watched all 8 this year and apart from the last one they are anything but amazing... They were successful because the franchise was successful, not because the films themselves were any good.

Now, would you like to shout me down again or can we just agree to hold different points of view?

October 4, 2012 at 9:10 AM · David, Universal Fan Boys get very sensitive when you say anything negative about the Warner Bros franchise that saved Islands of Adventure. You just have to grip, grin, and move along.

Personally, I agree with you completely.

As for Universal Hollywood, they should milk the cash cow regardless of the lasting impact of a series of kids' books. If the attractions are good enough they can easily be retrofitted into a new "hot" theme if/when Potter fades into the background.

October 4, 2012 at 9:49 AM · "But I still don't buy that Potter has the lasting appeal of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings."

When you compare Harry Potter to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, you'll notice an overlap of qualities that Harry Potter has. Thus the criteria for Harry Potter's future success is a premise that's still in the running.

Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
1. Out longer - That's the only thing they have in common.

Star Wars and Harry Potter.
2. # Films, 6 versus 8.
3. Revenue, Huge.
4. Theme parks, Disney/Legoland versus Universal.

Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
4. # Books, 3 versus 7.

It's strange that we should be burying Harry Potter after the series ended. Did we do the same for Star Wars? No. Fans were clamoring for sequels. Same for Lord of the Rings with the Hobbit.

Harry Potter will definitely have sequels. First with the theme park counterparts. Then with other possibilities.

"J.K. Rowling alludes to possibility of a future 'Harry Potter' book"

October 4, 2012 at 10:13 AM · Let's see how HP stacks up against SW

1. The test of time- Star Wars is a classic and you can't deny that. A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back are considered to be two of the best films ever made. Now let's look at HP. While good, will people still talk about the films in 15 years?

2. Quality- The only bad SW films are considered to be Episodes I and II (yes James,VI wasnt bad; You just can't stand those damn Ewoks ;) ). Episodes III and VI are considered good films. IV and V have universal acclaim. Let's look at HP. All 8 are considered good films (about the same quality as III and VI), but haven't recieved near universal acclaim. IMO, Phantom Menace was better than COS and OOTP.

3. Expanded universe- I could go on about SW. With 2 (soon 4) TV shows, novels, a great ride, and the second highest grossing movie merch, it's clear that people love the EU. HP doesn't have an EU minus WWOHP. I know JK was looking into a spinoff, but wasn't she done with HP?

STAR WARS is better than HP.

October 4, 2012 at 11:25 AM · "STAR WARS is better than HP."

That's wasn't the debate. The debate is whether HP has lasting appeal.

If Disney wants to do a Star Wars Land and beat the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then it would be a good decision. But they didn't and instead went with Avatar and might add a Cars Land in Hollywood Studios.

Oh well.

The Harry Potter expansion tells us there is much appeal that extends beyond the books and it is strictly about the movie since the theme park version is built on the movie series.

Anyways, the picking apart of the Star Wars movies versus Harry Potter is rather lame. I'd rather have the Star Wars versus Star Trek comparison. That's more fun.

October 4, 2012 at 1:43 PM · @ Anon Mouse

I'm not burying Harry Potter at all - far from it - I think the phenomenon will be around for a few years yet and very popular. If Universal open a wizarding world in LA the quality of the build alone will guarantee crowds. (After all Transformers is hardly a great franchise and yet it produces a thrilling and immersive ride - people don't give a damn what the theme is sometimes if the product is good).

What I said was that I don't see it, AS YET, generating the next generation of excitement that will perpetuate the popularity of the franchise, hence my query about its staying power. I understand why Universal are investing big bucks in Harry Potter. I'd be amazed if JK Rowling didn't write something further - although she said in interviews this week that she would categorically NOT write a sequel or a prequel. The only thing she MIGHT write if she got a good enough idea would be a 'parallel' story, fleshing out the existing books.

Harry Potter is huge at the moment and the Wizarding Worlds will continue to draw punters for some time yet, but does it have the staying power of, say, Star Wars? Hmmm. Not convinced it's in the same league.

October 4, 2012 at 2:31 PM · Why does Harry Potter need to have the lasting appeal of Star Wars? Why are you setting the bar so high?

It could have lasting appeal in its own right.

Universal is in a large pond of theme parks, but Harry Potter in Universal is in its own smaller pond and it will do well. Star Wars in Disneyland and Disney Studios is barely even there. Based on money invested, they done lots more for Cars (an entire land with a gigantic E-Ticket) than they done for Star Wars.

There are rumors of George Lucas selling out. Maybe Disney should buy it. Then there is incentive for Disney to keep expanding the property. Maybe they should do a reboot.

October 4, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Just look at the number of people in line for SW and HP. SW looses big time and there is no way it would merit expansion based upon demand. HP will be around a very long time. And I am a SW fan, only saw HP 3/8 movies. Universal has a winner that will be around for generations.
October 4, 2012 at 2:51 PM · I'm not setting a bar at any height.

I'm merely expressing an opinion that Harry Potter might not be a lasting franchise like Star Wars. That doesn't mean it's not commercially sensible for Universal to invest in it right now - they'll see a huge return on any investment I'm sure. And we've already seen they can use it to create truly world-beating attractions and immersive lands. We all win here. I'm merely wondering aloud whether there'll still be the same love for it in, say, 20 years?

And anyway, it's only an opinion that the films are mostly poor. You are entitled to hold the opposite opinion. It's all subjective...

October 4, 2012 at 3:33 PM · I read that there are rumors for a reboot of "The Mummy" movies. The original is very old, barely watchable, and the newest one was successful, but the later sequels wasn't so much. There is still much interest in Egyptian themes. Maybe "The Mummy" attraction at Universal will continue to remain based on how popular it is.

There are new rumors of "Jurrasic Park" reboot. This will definitely save the ride.

These movies never die. They just keeping getting remade. Maybe not having a reboot doomed ET.

Do you think Star Wars popularity will remain steady? It seems like George Lucas is doing everything possible to alienate fans.

1. Change the original movies. Annoying new special effects. Han Solo now shoots second, not first, in the cantina.

2. Jar Jar Binks.

3. Ewoks.

4. Star Wars homage is satire. Stop with the parodies and the dance offs.

5. Trilogy sequels did not live up to expectations. Acting and script exposes weakness of the Star Wars storyline.

Despite all this, this is what Harry Potter competes with (rolls eyes).

October 4, 2012 at 4:55 PM · In terms of Potter, whether or not it will have the lasting debate of Star Wars, I don't think that's really a huge issue when it comes to the theme park experience.

Even with "good" movie status, that won't matter much to visitors who go to the park, they will ride or watch whatever is there.

There are current attractions based on:

Terminator 2 (21 years old) - People still pile into this.

Waterworld (17 years old) - People still pile into this.

Flintsones midway - People still play these games.

Even Back to the Future was an old franchise when it went was retired. Things like Jaws, Twister, ET, etc. are all OLD movies, but when it comes to the theme park experience.....guest will still ride it if they can.

So even if Potter is 15-20 years old, unless UNIVERSAL closes it down, people will still ride whatever is there.

If it's on that theme park map under "attractions", & guest have paid to get into the park, they're going to try & do everything they can, regardless of the franchise.

I'm sure there are people who ride ToT who have never watched Twilight Zone or people who visit Carsland who haven't seen the movie.

Popular franchises are helpful, but not essential in getting people to ride anything, people will ride whatever is there.

October 4, 2012 at 6:41 PM · I've had an annual pass to Universal Studios Hollywood for a little over a year. The price and the one mile location from my home made it easy to justify the purchase. Transformers has expanded the park to a point where it's easy to recommend a visit to friends and family. However, on an uncrowded day you can ride the major attractions in 3-4 hours, which makes the $65+ per ticket cost hard to justify. Most of the attractions don't contain reasons to ride them over and over again (Except for Transformers and the Studio Tram Tour).

The park needs more attractions and a much friendlier layout. If money was no object I would suggest:

1. Replace the escalators with a quicker transportation tool to get to the lower lot. This would be a very expensive addition, but it would make the park a more cohesive experience. An alternative to this would be adding a parking garage that lets out into the lower lot or adding an additional tram station that allows visitors to exit to the lower lot.

2. Refresh Jurassic Park with new animatronics and a better queue. When I rode it last Sunday only one of the animatronics worked and the falling car didn't work. The ride needs some loves.

3. Split the upper lot into 3 lands: an animation land, a monster themed land (I've seen this suggested several times in the comments) and of course Harry Potter. Universal has such a great library of monsters to draw from and they haven't exploited them much lately.

4. Animation Land would include the Madagascar Crate Adventure ride from Singapore, an updated version of the Simpsons ride with Transformers quality Christie projectors (The current picture is so blurry), and a How to Train Your Dragon KUKA arm dark ride where you ride on the back of a dragon (Similar to a combination between Soarin Over California and The Forbidden Journey).

5. Monster Land would include Universal's House of Horrors (With more actors), Dracula's Transylvania dark ride, and a Scooby Doo dark ride. I would love a Young Frankenstein stage show, but after the disastrous Creature from the Black Lagoon show I'm not sure if that's a good idea. In a perfect world the Revenge of the Mummy ride would be moved to this area too.

6. Add a Fast and the Furious ride that uses a test track ride system combined with a KUKA robotic arm to the lower lot

7. Refresh the studio tour by incorporating parts of the Special Effects Stage Show into the tour and a drive through attraction for kids that incorporates some great Dreamworks Animation and Warner Bros cartoon characters. A limited budget attraction for kids could be accomplished by just bringing the Grinch props into a stage, adding some painted backgrounds, some singing Whos, a Grinch, and some falling snow.

October 4, 2012 at 6:11 PM · I like all your ideas Brad. Make it so. And when they move Mummy to its new spot, they should expand it and make it more like the Orlando version - except even better!

As for Potter/Transformers attractions, it doesn't matter that the popularity of both franchises will wane in the years ahead because the rides themselves transcend the limitations of their source material. Besides, Universal is really good at retro fitting old attractions with new themes. Not a problem.

October 4, 2012 at 8:11 PM · Holy fanboys, Batman....
October 5, 2012 at 6:31 AM · Yes, I agree that the quality of the attractions and the immersive themed areas are the most important aspects of continued success. I'm one of those people that really had little interest in the Harry Potter books or the movies. I've probably watched 45 minutes of the movies before I lost interest. But, I'm very impressed with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at IOA and the new leaked Potter plans for the rest of the Universal Resort. The Harry Potter Hogwart's attraction queue and ride are amazing. And the Hogsmeade Village completely immerses you in a world of adventure. When something is done right, and Universal did do this about as well as anyone could expect, it will stand the test of time. Just as POC and Haunted Mansion have remained classics, the Wizarding World will also assume that status over time. The Wizarding World is my favorite themed area in any theme park. And as I said previously, this comes from someone who was not a fan of Potter books or movies. Harry Pottter, though probably smaller at Universal Hollywood, should help that park.
October 5, 2012 at 6:44 AM · The silhouette of USH looks like the united states
October 5, 2012 at 8:04 AM · I'm sorry - they charge AP holders to park? I'm rather sure that is not the case here in Orlando.
October 8, 2012 at 4:50 AM · Don't be so narrow. This is an absurd argument about Harry Potter. The Potter movies, rides and lands came from extremely popular and enduring BOOKS, which children will be reading/listening to for generations to come.

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