This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Universal Studios Hollywood! A few years ago in this fine blog series we looked at Reasons a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder MUST Visit Disneyland. The Universal Orlando Resort also has a sister theme park out in California, and like WDW/DL they share several of the same attractions including Transformers: The Ride 3-D, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and Revenge of the Mummy. However, Universal Studios Hollywood is unlike any other theme park in the world, as it is still a fully operational movie studio filled with theme park rides and attractions. Today we are going to look at the major differences between the Universal parks we have in Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood, starting with…
# 6 – Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash
I think over the past several years the Universal Orlando Resort here in Florida has made some incredibly great moves, including the introduction of the VelociCoaster, Bourne Stuntacular, and a complete overhaul of CityWalk. However I have never understood why they haven’t taken advantage of The Secret Life of Pets (SLoP) brand. One of the biggest arguments against Universal in general is there is not enough for kids, and SLoP is the perfect brand from the younger set. What kid doesn’t like animals? It also comes built in with a gigantic merchandise component. For whatever reason, outside of a parade float in the Superstar Parade (which “rumors and innuendo” say isn’t long for this world,) the SLoP brand is basically non-existent.
At Universal Studios Hollywood (USH), SLoP has its own attraction with The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash. The façade work for Off the Leash is absolutely fantastic.
The queue for Off the Leash is just wonderful, and a brilliant use of screens along with cute animatronics. The storyline is that you are walking through an apartment building.
There are great details throughout the queue.
When walking through the hallways, guests can peek through the mail slots and get to experience a bit of #story. Very clever use of the queue to give guests waiting, something to keep their attention along with some fun surprises.
The various rooms you pass through feature well known characters from SLoP, including Buddy below.
During the queue we find out from Max that we are actually dogs ourselves. In fact, we are puppies without collars and in need of home. The good news is that today is Adoption Day at the local pet store and the characters will help get us to the event and find us loving homes.
The ride itself is also filled with screens and animatronics.
Like the queue, the actual Off The Leash attraction is loaded with gags that will probably take several ride-throughs to catch them all.
Off the Leash’s queue and actual ride experience are brilliant. The ride definitely joins our #BeFairToFlorida movement from TPEI.
Off the Leash’s gift shop is indeed a “Pet Store” allowing guests the chance to adopt a pet (along with many other accessories.)
There is even an interactive meet-and-greet with Snowball. One of our favorite Meet-and Greets in Florida is with Donkey from Shrek, and Snowball has similar fun interactions with guests that you normally wouldn’t get from your average theme park meet.
# 5 – Super Silly Fun Land
Another mega popular brand Universal has for kids is Despicable Me and its lovable Minions. In the very first Despicable Me movie, the girls and Gru visit Super Silly Fun Land. USH has a version of Super Silly Fun Land and uses it as an elaborately themed play area for kids. It sounds crazy in a theme park filled with E-Ticket attractions which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to create, but when we take the kiddos to the Florida parks, they can spend hours in play areas like Camp Jurassic, If I Ran The Zoo, and Me Ship, the Olive. Super Silly Fun Land is filled with water-play features and a dry area for kids to expel all their energy. Like in the movie Despicable Me, there’s even a Super Silly Space Killer skill game where kids can win a stuffed unicorn (“It’s so fluffy!!!”) One of the Theme Park Hills We’ll Die On is well constructed in-universe skill games at the theme parks, and Super Silly Fun Land nails it.
Super Silly Fun Land is also home to a spinner attraction called the Silly Swirly.
This aerial by Bio shows that the entire Despicable Me and SLoP themed areas at USH were built ON TOP OF A PARKING GARAGE Now that is what we call maximizing space!
Speaking of things that make you wonder “How can this NOT be in Florida?!” Right outside Super Silly Fun Land is the Minion Cafe. How the Universal Orlando Resort doesn’t have a Minion-themed quick service restaurant is a question for ages. We don’t even have a Minion-themed snack cart!
# 4 – Springfield USA
As a HUGE fan of The Simpsons, I love what Universal Orlando has done with Springfield, but USH has even more references to “side characters” and various locales from the show.
The Springfields at USH and Universal Orlando have several of the same elements, but even those are presented entirely differently, such as Lard Lad Donuts.
USH does have The Simpsons Ride.
This may be my favorite name for any quick service in the history of theme parks.
In our Artist Spotlight for Sam Carter, we covered some of the work has done for Universal. One of those projects included artwork for Klub Krusty. Unlike Florida, the Krusty Burger at USH is two stories, so it needed an extra element of theming.
# 3 – WaterWorld
It seems hard to believe that Kevin Costner’s WaterWorld would be the basis for one of the all time best stunt shows in theme park history, but I would have said the same thing for The Bourne Identity and yet its stunt show may be my favorite thing to do in all of Universal Studios Florida. WaterWorld is a Can’t Miss attraction at USH and we are truly lucky to have it in our lives. Filled with action, humor, and jet skis, it’s like as if the Indiana Jones Stunt Show and Kite Tails had a baby and the baby grows up to tell you the next level bonkers story of Kevin Costner’s WaterWorld. Highest possible recommendation doesn’t even begin to explain how great this show is and if Universal wants to bring this over to Florida for EPIC Universe I’ll be the first to sign the petition.
Here’s a @bioreconstruct-view looking down at the WaterWorld area. Area is pointing to a plane…
…which comes out during the show!
# 2 – Jurassic World
We have Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure, and USH has Jurassic World. The two lands share many of the same show elements, but they are presented wildly different.
The Raptor Encounter allows guests a completely different interaction with the raptor. Generally speaking, the crowds visiting USH are very different than the tourists we have in Florida, which allow interactions to be more personal. We saw this in Disneyland with their use of walkaround characters. That approach doesn’t work as well in Florida as the characters would quickly be swamped with people asking for pictures and autographs.
USH even has a walkaround Triceratops!
Me, a Floridian, seeing one of my all time favorite dinosaurs as a walk around character in park…
In Florida, we have the Jurassic Park River Adventure, which is very good. Over at USH they have the similar-but-different Jurassic World – The Ride, which is GREAT. It’s everything you like about the JPRA raft ride in Florida, updated with great new effects and a better storyline.
One of the key additions to Jurassic World – The Ride was the inclusion of the humongous Indominus Rex at the end of the ride. Granted, like Smuggler’s Run Hondo Ohnaka A.A., this giant animatronic has had some issues performing properly, but when it’s working be prepared to have your jaw hit the floor.
There is no Thunder Falls Terrace or Pizza Predattoria in USH, but they do have the Jurassic Cafe.
Of course they also have Isla Nu-Bar, something we have been clamoring for in Florida for years.
# 1 – Studio Tram Tour
We’ve seen a lot of cool stuff so far, but by far the biggest reason YOU need to visit Universal Studios Hollywood is to experience their world famous Studio Tour. Both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios Florida have tried their own “poor man” versions of a studio tram tour, but both of those couldn’t hold a candle to what you experience in USH.
The Studio Tour can last upwards of an hour, but because you are inside a working Hollywood production studio, often times areas will be closed off when a movie or television show is being filmed in a certain location.
We love Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure, and that attraction originated as an add-on element for the Studio Tour. So did Fast & Furious: Supercharged, but hey, you can’t win them all. Speaking of Fast & Furious, you’ll see plenty of cars from this franchise – and many other cars from movie history, while on the Studio Tour.
The Studio Tour makes its way through a whole bunch of filming locales, giving guests a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create movies and television shows.
With Jaws being one of my all time favorite movies, the section dedicated to Amity is very appreciated. Much of the very first incarnation of Universal Studios Florida back in the early 1990s was based on taking elements of the Studio Tour and making them separate attractions, like Jaws and Earthquake.
HONORABLE MENTION – Super Nintendo World is coming…
We in Florida will be getting our first taste of Super Nintendo World in 2025 with the opening of EPIC Universe, but Universal Studios Hollywood is opening their Super Nintendo World NEXT YEAR.
Super Nintendo World merchandise has recently become available, and similar to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal just found a new way to print money. I’m already planning on the stuff I know I’m going to buy once the land opens here!
So there you have it: Reasons YOU Need To Experience UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.