Universal Studios Makes ‘Unprecedented’ Investment in Hollywood Theme Park

New updates will include attractions and themed areas for "The Simpsons" ride, "Despicable Me" and "Fast & Furious"

Universal Studios Hollywood to add nighttime

After adding a few new attractions over the last several years, including Michael Bay’s “Transformers” ride and Peter Jackson’s update of King Kong, Universal is making what it calls an “unprecedented” investment in transforming its Hollywood theme park, ending with the opening of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” in 2016.

As part of a five-year investment, Universal Studios Hollywood will get a makeover with new themed environments and rides that will radically alter the footprint of the park, effecting 70% of the popular tourist destination, the company said Wednesday.

Universal said it’s the most significant undertaking in the theme park’s 50-year history, “representing the single largest investment ever made.” Financial details were not disclosed, but the additions are clearly meant to not only attract more guests but provide new incentives for them to stay in the parks longer and spend more on food and merchandise. They are also part of Universal’s overall $1.6 billion update of its studio lot and entertainment offerings.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land” will officially open April 12, based on Illumination Entertainment’s animated “Despicable Me” franchise. Attraction will be Universal Studios Hollywood’s first themed land and will include a re-creation of the seaside carnival seen in the first film, along with restaurant and store.

The park’s 50th anniversary, in 2015, will see “The Simpsons Ride” area expand with a Springfield section of stores and eateries like Mo’s Tavern, Duff’s Brewery, Luigi’s Pizza and Krusty Burger, as well as carnival games (those already are open) to better theme that part of the park. Universal’s Orlando resort already has added such an area to its “Simpsons” ride.

That summer, Universal will also debut “Fast & Furious—Supercharged,” based on the action series, as part of its studio tram tour (see first look below). Attraction will have the tram pull into a newly constructed 50,000 square foot building on the backlot and feature the franchise’s stars in an original “Fast & Furious” story with special effects and 3D-HD imagery projected onto the world’s longest and most expansive 360-degree screen spanning nearly 400 feet in length to encircle guests.

“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” inspired by J.K. Rowling and developed with Warner Bros., will open in 2016. The Hogwarts castle from the books and films will be the focal point of the themed land, similar to the version that opened in Orlando in 2010.

Universal Creative, the design and development division of Universal Parks & Resorts, developed the new attractions for Universal Studios Hollywood.

New additions also include two newly constructed parking structures, and the installation of Universal Plaza, a 37,000 square foot art deco styled piazza with a 70-foot tall tower. The tram tour will also add a nighttime look at filmmaking, taking them through the backlot’s New York Street, visit the “Psycho” house and the Bates Motel, and original sets featured in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Twenty-one locations on the route will be rigged with new lighting for the tour (see above).

“The Studio Tour has been our signature attraction for the past 50 years, taking millions of guests from around world on exciting behind-the-scenes excursions of an authentic movie and television studio,” said Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood. “In celebration of Universal Studios Hollywood 50th popular daytime experience as we continue to create unparalleled opportunities that showcase the various dimensions of Hollywood movie making magic for our guests.”

The park’s overall makeover actually started in 2012, with the opening of “Transformers: The Ride–3D.” The final addition as part of the new plan will end with the addition of “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” based on the same attraction in Orlando.

“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.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the investment should represent “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.”