From minions to wizards and from street racers to "The Simpsons," Universal Studios Hollywood officials unveiled details today of the theme park's planned dramatic rebirth, featuring new attractions, eateries and parking structures.
"This is a pivotal time in the history of Universal Studios Hollywood as we build upon our extraordinary success and expand our vision for the future of our world-class destination," said Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood. "This broad investment in our five-year transformation will further strengthen Universal Studios Hollywood as an economic leader, significantly contributing to long-term employment opportunities and tourism throughout L.A."
The park's renovation efforts actually began in 2012 with the introduction of "Transformers: The Ride -- 3D," and it will take a big step forward Saturday with the opening of "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem" ride and accompanying "Super Silly Fun Land." A media event celebrating the new attractions is scheduled for Friday.
Universal officials said the "Despicable Me" attractions will represent a new effort to immerse park visitors in the environment of the film -- in this case including Gru's neighborhood, Miss Hattie's Home for Girls and the seaside carnival featured in the movie.
That effort will continue next year -- the park's 50th anniversary -- with the opening of "Springfield," which will surround "The Simpsons Ride" and put visitors into the neighborhood of the long-running animated series. The neighborhood will include regular "Simpsons" attractions such as Krusty Burger and Luigi's Pizza, along with Phineas Q. Butterfat's 5600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor, Moe's Tavern and the Duff Brewery.
Universal officials said the park's 50th anniversary year will also include the addition of "Fast & Furious -- Supercharged," a thrill ride based on the popular street-racing film series that will be added to the end of the park's popular backlot studio tram tour. The attraction will be housed in a new 50,000-square-foot building on the Universal backlot and will feature 3D images on a 360-degree, nearly 400-foot screen.
Likely to be the crown jewel of the park's renovation will come in 2016 with the opening of "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," which will place visitors into the realm of the renowned book and film series. It will mirror the attraction that opened in 2010 at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida.
Universal officials said they also plan to add two parking garages that will be completed by the end of 2015.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last year approved the park's $1.6 billion expansion plans. The Los Angeles City Council also signed off on the plan, since a portion of the park is within the city limits.
"This amazing investment by Universal Studios Hollywood represents a dramatic boost for Los Angeles tourism, creating new world-class entertainment that will add new jobs, stimulate hospitality revenues and contribute to the economic prosperity of our city," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
--City News Service