Monday, September 7, 2015

Gotta See! Universal Studios Hollywood

Labor Day Weekend! For those not in the service industry, it's a three day weekend to celebrate the working men and women with a national tribute to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. On Saturday we headed over to Universal City to visit the park. It's been a while since we've hit Universal Studios, the last time being when The Simpsons took over Back to the Future. Since then, The Terminator stage and 3D show has been replaced by Minions, Backdraft made room for Transformers but the Waterworld show is still going strong. Harry Potter land is nearly complete with crews able to work 24 hours a day due to the lack of residential neighbors. The park didn't seem too crowded on this Saturday morning as we headed straight for the Tour before it got too jammed. Between line queues there are giant, bus stop style poster displays and way back when you could spot leading guys and gals from Universal flicks, most notably a mulleted Jean-Claude Van Damme from Timecop. Now there are large displays for prominent titles like Jaws, Spartacus, Meet the Parents and Apollo 13. Ron Howard is no longer your voice on the tour, replaced by Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. At just under an hour, the tour is still the best attraction in the park, showcasing the dozens of classic titles produced, the city size studio and behind the scenes movie magic. Also, every other street is named Kirk Douglas Dr., which is cool.

Peter Jackson's King Kong 3D portion is a highlight where you watch the giant ape duke it out with pissed off dinosaurs. Towards the end you get another 3D showcase with the Fast and the Furious where you take off on a chase with Vin Diesel, The Rock and company. It's pretty cool because the tram platform moves up and down, wind blows in your face so you feel like you're moving but all of the action and actors look very CGI and video game like. From there we discovered the secret of Universal's lower lot, Single Rider Lines! Seriously, we avoided 35, 45 and 55 minute wait times on Jurassic Park, The Mummy and Transformers by simply riding solo and still ended up in the same cars. Outside JP is a cool new attraction, a raptor pen! A guy in an animatronic suit whips, slashes and hisses at you in a very cool character meet and greet. It's been a while since we've ridden JP, or basically a scarier version of Pirates of the Caribbean with a giant T-Rex coming to get you while you get soaked by spitting dinos and a waterfall. The Mummy is like their version of Indiana Jones and was a lot more fun than I remember it being the first time I rode it. Still short though. Transformers is a cool attraction as you tear around a studio, driving and flying in a jeep fighting giant robots. After conquering 4 awesome attractions and lunch by noon, we really had nowhere else to go as lines for The Simpsons and other attractions were pushing the 60 minute mark. I figure when Harry Potter land opens, we'll opt for some season passes and Front of the Line upgrades to really take advantage since we've already experienced everything else in the park.

It was interesting to see so many non-Universal attractions like Shrek, Transformers and The Simpsons accounting for so much real estate. Once upon a time they had theme park rights to Marvel characters but I believe those recently expired, just in time for Disney to utilize the brands at their parks and resorts. I was surprised Back to the Future didn't have much of a presence there beyond a Doc Brown character walking around and some Delorean models for sale in the shops. You'd think they'd have a picture car just hanging out for photos and nostalgia. I mean come on, they had a frigging Mustang from the new Knight Rider show on the tour, not even the old, badass Trans Am one!

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