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Changes Ahead for the New Year and Beyond at Universal Studios Hollywood
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Change is in the air for 2019 and beyond at Universal Studios Hollywood, which started with the park’s new 2018/2019 New Year’s Eve celebration, EVE. Extended theme park hours ran until 2:00 a.m., and the event was included in the price of theme park admission. The plan was for guests to spend the day and night at the park; a park-wide party started at 9 p.m. with DJs, live music, and countdown plus fireworks display at midnight. The park also offered an Ultimate EVE package, with admission starting at 6 p.m., private lounges, buffet dining, private cash bars, a complimentary champagne toast at midnight, party favors, and unlimited Universal Express access to all attractions. Also available with this package are VIP reserved viewing areas for the fireworks. Party hubs at Simpsons Plaza, Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride, and in Universal Plaza, three themed music and dance celebrations. In addition, park-goers could experience a new nightly snowfall for the season in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

EVE may be the kick-off, but the big celebration of 2019 is likely to be the reimagined Jurassic Park attraction. Including elements from the original Jurassic Park – The Ride, which closed over Labor Day weekend following a Countdown to the Extinction event, Jurassic World Ride will be a complete makeover. Planned to open Memorial Day, major upgrades will include new blue and grey color themes for the ride’s boats, and a new pre-ride video to be viewed while waiting to board. The new version will introduce never-before-seen dinosaurs, along with the new color themes; and embrace both enhanced storytelling and state-of-the-art technology. The line area and overall structure of the ride will remain the same.

A new event will also kick off – or run off – at Universal Studios Hollywood in May of 2019. That would be the first Running Universal event, the Minion Run, an Inaugural 5K race that will feature Minions characters. The run will begin at the park’s front gates, passing through theme park areas and attractions, the studio’s backlot, and toward a finish line at City Walks 5 Towers outdoor concert stage. The course will be 3.1 miles, and participants will see entertainment en- route, performed by Universal Studios Hollywood characters including the Minions themselves. At the finish line, music, food, and swag will be offered. A package that combines race participation with an all-day stay at the theme park will also be offered. 

The debut of the Jurassic World Ride will be followed in 2020 with a brand-new attraction, The Secret Life of Pets. The project was originally planned to be a lower-lot attraction, but has been moved to the location of what was the Globe Theater on the upper lot. Scheduling of the project is subject to change, but the family-oriented attraction is planned as a strong balance to the many thrill rides now at the park. An omni-mover style vehicle is in the works for riders, with animatronic figures crafted of Max, Duke, and Gidget. Using these physical manifestations rather than a 3-D screen attraction, the ride will have a different look and possibly a different, more visceral appeal to other current family attractions at the park. 

Immersive and interaction Nintendo projects are also in the works for Universal – from Hollywood to Japan. While a Nintendo land is moving toward completion already at Universal Studios Japan, at Universal Hollywood’s location, Nintendo Mario Kart/Donkey Kong construction has also begun. The project is highly secretive. A Mario Kart ride will allow racers to visit Mario locations along a race course and compete as if enacting their favorite video game. Projected elements of the ride will include augmented reality combined with a physical riding experience; a tunnel featuring immersive projections to simulate a variety of locations or speeds; and elements that will interact with Nintendo products. A Donkey Kong roller coaster is also in the works, and being planned for positioning behind the new Jurassic World: The Ride. The coaster will be family friendly.

Overall, NintendoLand will be similar in its world-creation to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, serving as a destination location within the park in and of itself. While the project details are hush-hush, all the same some details have begun to leak out. In Japan, where a Super Nintendo World will open first, a Mario Kart ride, Yoshi’s Island, the Mushroom Kingdom, Donkey Kong Country, Mario’s Gold Mine, and Luigi’s Mansion are on the table. The Japanese location is scheduled to open in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. While the Japanese Universal Studios NintendoLand is likely to be far larger than the Hollywood location, many of the same attractions appear to be considered by Universal. 

The air of mystery surrounding the Nintendo themed attraction carries over to a teaser video that features Mario entering a tunnel to get into the park; images of Princess Peach’s Castle, Bowser’s Castle, and an ice world are also included in the teaser. Universal also filed a patent for an amusement park tunnel, described as “a vehicle-ride path in the tunnel” and “a system to project images onto the one or more walls of the tunnel.” This type of attraction iteration is not unfamiliar at Universal Studios, which has used immersive tunnel technology in the past at King Kong attractions both at the Hollywood and Orlando parks.  Here, a larger surface for projection and a longer tunnel along with elevated tunnel sections are also described. 

Nintendo will see a large licensing fee, as well as what should be a boost in game sales from parkgoers enjoying and recognizing Nintendo games like Mario Kart and wanting to play them at home. In short, the project should be a win/win for both Nintendo and in creating a whole new range of fan-fervor at Universal Studios.

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