Universal Studios Florida
NBC Universal / Comcast
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(4/8/15) New Garden of Allah Photos (MORE...)
(3/26/15) Universal Studios Florida Tested Metal Detectors On Rockit Coaster (MORE...)
(3/3/15) What's Next? (MORE...)
(3/2/15) Gringotts Reopen From 3 Day Closure (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Nothing is known to be planned at this point in time…
General Park News - (4/14/15) In more exciting news, a Screamscape source tells us that the Hog's Head Pub inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure and the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley started selling a new beverage item to guests of adult age. Blishen's FireWhisky, an alcoholic and beverage from the book series is apparently ready to jump off the pages as a real whisky, to be served to guests. I'm told it has a heavy cinnamon Fireball / Big Red / Aftershock style flavor to it, and according to plans, we can also look for it to be used as a major ingredient in new specialty cocktails in the near future, if they haven't already.
While we still don't know exactly what Universal has going on at the Garden of Allah renovation project, a reader has sent in some good pictures (see below) taken this week showing off the site as of this week.
(3/26/15) There was an interesting development at Universal Studios Florida on Wednesday as the park brought out a series of metal detector portals and portable wands and was subjecting all of the riders on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit to a run through the portal and again a quick wand scan before boarding the ride itself apparently. This is not the new standard procedure, but is said to simply be a test of higher security protocols.
We've seen Universal putting the riders to many of their coasters to various and odd test procedures over the past 6 months, and this seems to be the latest test. The thing most of these tests have in common is that they are almost always done on the Hulk and Hollywood Rockit coasters... the two coasters that also travel up and over guest pathways and areas.
While Universal's official line is that they are trying to really enforce the no loose articles policy to prevent the accidental loss of things like cell phones and keys from flying off in mid-ride... I do have to think there is possibly something more serious at work here. We all remember the whole reason that the Dragon Challenge coaster (formerly Dueling Dragons) at Islands of Adventure no longer "duels" anymore, is that riders in the front rows were being struck in mid-ride by unknown objects at high speeds. One theory was that these incidents may have been caused by a rider on the other train hurling objects in mid-flight at the other train on purpose. So... the coasters dueling came to an end... and so did the incidents.
But over the past years we've seen Universal testing new and crazy procedures on Hulk and Rockit designed to remove every single object that a rider could be carrying on their person. A few months ago employees were just very aggressively visually checking guests to remove any and all objects from their pockets for about a week, and now they've taken it up a notch to full blown metal detectors and security wands.
While safety is always a top concern... this appears more as if they are searching for something specific... something that made it through their previous efforts. If you refuse to undergo the new security inspection, the penalty may be "removal from the ride or expulsion from the park" according to the new temporary security signs now in place.
Now, I've also been sent one report claiming that they stopped using the metal detectors sometime after 1pm in the afternoon, it is interesting to note just how far they are willing to take these tests to stop objects from flying off the coasters.
No matter if it is on purpose, or just a careless guests losing objects from their pockets in mid-ride... it reminds me of the old saying... "This is why we can't have nice things..."
(3/3/15) With Kong all-but confirmed at this point for Islands of Adventure, many may be wondering what the future could hold for Universal Studios Florida. Certainly the rumor mill has churned out plenty of new ideas, as well as rumored existing attraction on the chopping block for new replacement ideas. Today I’ll add one more to the mix in the form of a Fast & Furious themed attraction.
The Hollywood park has been getting a lot of preview buzz for their new Fast & Furious: Turbocharged attraction that will open later this year, and according to Hollywood rumors the studio side of things intends to make up to three more films before retiring the franchise. So it stands to reason that the Orlando parks could very well get a F&F attraction in the next few years. Earlier rumors suggested that they could try to copy the basic idea being used for the Hollywood attraction, but I’m also hearing a new rumor suggesting that a new kind of 80-mph launched coaster concept ride could also be under consideration.
These are only rumors however, so nothing to get too excited about just yet, as USF also has a number of other rumored projects in limbo, waiting for approval as well like a revamp for the kiddie area, or an expansion to Diagon Alley.
(3/2/15) For anyone wondering, yes... Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts was closed this past week for about 3 days, but it has since reopened. There has been some odd rumors about what may have been behind the sudden closure of the ride, but given the troubled nature of the ride's early days that caused many a breakdown, I wouldn't want to ponder the cause too long. That said, there are reports out there claiming that hidden door panel that opens just before the launch near the end of the ride was either missing or stuck-open when the ride did reopen.
(2/25/15) The latest word from a Screamscape source regarding the work taking place in the Garden of Allah building is that the inside is being remodeled into series of conference and special event rooms. Each of the rooms is being equiped with several monitors mounted to the walls. So it doesn't sound like it will become any kind of public museum display for the park's Anniversary or HHN25 at this point in time.
Another quick note: Fieval’s Playland will close for a brief rehab from March 1 to March 12, 2015.
(2/13/15) The latest update to OrlandoParksNews takes us to Universal Studios Florida to check on the construction taking place all around the Garden of Allah Villas areas. They are hard at work on something in here, but no one knows what for sure. Previous rumors indicated that this site could be used for some kind of 25th Anniversary display for Universal Studios Florida itself, or possible put to use as a museum style display showcasing the history of Halloween Horror Nights for HHN 25 this fall.
(1/20/15) Large green construction walls have gone up around the "Garden of Allah" building, which is rumored to be put to use for some kind of 25th Anniversary history tour of the Universal Orlando resort which opened back in the summer of 1990.
(12/28/14) Ever wonder what it’s like to be a balloon pilot for the Macy’s Parade? Check out this great piece and video at the Universal Orlando Blog that show you what all goes into the job and what the experience is like. The parade will continue to run now through January 3rd at Universal Studios Florida.
(12/22/14) There have been a couple of fun stories to come out of Universal Studios this past week. For starters, I’m hearing it said that ET is once again saying guests names when they ride. I can verify first-hand that when I visited the park on December 7th, not only was ET not saying any names, but the entire system of computer terminals and employees normally there to take your name and had you an interplanetary passport card was empty. Just an series of empty desks and one single crew member there to direct everyone to simply walk on by and enter the indoor ride queue. Now I’m hearing that a new system may have possibly been put in place and is up and running again, but I haven’t been able to verify this for certain. If you have ridden the ET ride yourself between Dec. 8th and today and saw it back up and running, please do let me know. (UPDATE – Several readers have confirmed that while riding ET over the past week, the computer system so ET says your name is back up and running. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like there was any improvement to the actual clarity of the voice, but that was not expected anyway.)
In other news, MEGATRON is burning up the viral video lists this week, after a teenage girl attempted to take a Selfie with the former galactic overlord (see below). It seems Megatron is not a fan of Selfies, or ridiculous furred hoodies. I think Megatron missed his calling, as he offers some really great advice for our current “disappointing” generation who are obsessed with posting a collection of soon-to-be-forgotten photographs and status updates to social networks. Instead Megatron berates the girl and urges her to “use your mind, create new memories, interact!”
It seems Megatron’s dislike of selfies has been going on awhile, as during an appearance at the Hollywood park (see below) as the hulking metal behemoth quickly put his steel boot down and ended a man’s attempt to take a Selfie as well, stating that “There will be NO Selfies here!” He goes on to berate him wonderfully, reminding him that, “Only 14-year old girls do such nonsense!”
Really, I think Universal needs to take the ball and run with this one… as while Megatron’s plans for the galaxy might not include the best future for organic life forms, he does seem to have some great thoughts about the human condition, social commentary and everything that is wrong with “social media” today. I’d love to see a series of Megatron Knows Best videos from Universal about how we can all better ourselves. All hail Lord Megatron!
(11/26/14) Universal Orlando has been sending out invitations to take an online survey about possible new live entertainment shows they might consider adding to the park(s) in the future. Different concepts being asked about in different surveys but so far I’ve heard about the following:
1) A “Sprout TV” show for the kiddies
2) America’s Got Talent – a show concept that would assemble a collection of good acts seen previously on the hit reality show.
3) Another run of the Matt Hoffman extreme show
4) Wicked – A Universal version of the broadway musical, which was done previously at Universal Studios Japan.
5) An odd-ball sounding concept was mentioned that would create a horror/action/comedy show based on the low-budget direct to cable SyFy movie, Sharknado.
Given how poorly the same horror/action/comedy combo worked out for them in Hollywood with the Creature From The Black Lagoon musical, I’m not fond of the idea of trying to theme a show to one of the world’s worst movie concepts. Maybe we can just bring the Ghostbusters show back to fill that niche instead, ok?
(11/13/14) According to one Screamscape source, there are no plans to close Twister down in January. This doesn't mean it is safe… it just isn’t going to close as soon as we had initially had heard.
(11/12/14) It has been awhile since the rumors about the possible demise of Twister sprung up again late in the Summer, but they predicted that we could see Twister close down for good in early 2015, likely at the end of the busy Christmas holiday travel season. (Possibly the second week of January then…) Has anyone heard any more updates on this yet? You might want to hit the attraction up for one last spin on your next visit, just in case...
(9/30/14) A quick word of warning to any readers who may be planning on visiting the park with an external medical device such as an insulin pump, hearing aid, etc. According to one reader who had an insulin pump, when they went to ride the Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, they were told that they could no longer ride due to the device, and were told about a new list of about 20 such devices that were now banned from riding. I’m told that for those able to detach the device, they can still ride, for others however, that concept is a bit impractical. It is assumed that these items have now been deemed as potential “loose articles” that are at risk of flying away in mid-ride.
I’m told that Universal itself is not behind the changed, they were put into effect by the ride’s manufacture (Maurer-Sohne) as part of a safety update for those style coaster cars and will not affect anyone’s experience on any of the park’s other rides and attractions.
June 2014 - Wizarding World of Harry Potter - DIAGON ALLEY
Diagon Alley Media / VIP Preview Review!
Screamscape Previews Diagon Alley!! We’ve Got All The Details!
Screamscape Review Part II: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Screamscape Review Part III: The Hogwarts Express!
???? - KidZone Revamp - Rumor - (6/27/13) I’ve mentioned it before, but the most likely new project coming to Universal Studios Florida once Diagon Alley opens may be a complete renovation and/or re-branding of the kiddie areas of the park. Curious George and Barney the Dinosaur are likely to be retired… and most certainly Fieval’s Playland will get a complete makeover along with rumors of a replacement for the E.T. ride.
What could replace E.T. you may ask? Well in Hollywood they replaced it with their own version of Revenge of the Mummy and in Japan the ride was replaced by the Space Fantasy indoor spinning coaster. So while I would like to think that Universal might try to reuse the massive E.T. building in a similar fashion, the actual rumor going around is that Universal may be in talks with Sony about bringing The Smurfs to Universal Orlando. In fact, one of our own readers was asked to take a survey in the past week which pitched new ride concepts based on The Lorax (for Islands of Adventure) and a “flying” dark ride concept based on The Smurfs that sounded very much like a plan to reuse the E.T. ride system
According to our source, the concept pitch for The Smurfs ride in the survey even mentioned having Papa Smurf say goodbye to the riders by name at the end of the ride… just like E.T. does. Universal has partnered with Sony to build an attraction before (Men In Black) and the Smurf village theme would actually be a good fit as a replacement for Fieval’s Playland as well. All rumors, surveys and concept pitches for now… but as Diagon Alley gets closer to opening we should know more about what the future may hold.
(11/15/12) While Universal Creative has their hands full right now with Transformers and then the Potter expansion, the early rumors for what could be next are already coming down the pipe. According to the latest buzz, the general plan right now is to overhaul the KidZone area in either 2015/2016. Expect Woody Woodpecker to say, but Curious George, Barney and Fieval may be given their walking papers. With the E.T. Adventure right in the middle of it all, it too may be either replaced or given an extensive overhaul.
???? - Diagon Alley Expansion - Rumor - (8/12/14) About.com Theme Parks has posted a very interesting bit of speculation regarding what might come as the next possible expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Our good friend Arthur Levine went on a guided tour of the new London / Diagon Alley area with Alan Gimore (Art Director for many of the films and for Universal’s Wizarding World projects). Alan led him to the big red british phone booths sitting on the curb just outside Diagon Alley and instructed Arthur to dial 6-2-4-4-2 (M-A-G-I-C) on the phone and he was suddenly connected with a phone recording from the Ministry of Magic informing him that the office was not open that day. Alan went on to tease that perhaps taking Muggles on a trip into the Ministry of Magic might be Universal’s next Potter themed attraction.
This would make a good deal of sense, especially since the current Fear Factor: Live show stadium next door was being eyeballed by Universal Creative as the most likely place to expand Diagon Alley in the future. Of course this is only a tease and perhaps a glimmer of something once talked about in a Blue Sky meeting about future concepts. At this point anything can still happen, but it does give the Muggles something to think about for the next few years.