Universal Studios Hollywood reopens with new animals
Be scared. Two angry dinosaurs are battling a few feet above you.
And that’s before you go screaming in a big boat down a waterfall!
You can experience that thrill at Universal Studios Hollywood, which reopened in April to large but socially distanced, mask-wearing crowds.
Among the popular attractions are Jurassic World, an upgraded version of the Jurassic Park water ride with a new dinosaur: the Indominus rex, who’s fighting the Tyrannosaurus rex.
If you prefer less aggressive critters, try the new Secret Lives of Pets: Off the Leash, a dark ride with technologically advanced animals from the animated movies. As lines show, it’s proving popular.
But if you’re craving action, go on the lower lot, where you’ll fall — literally — for Jurassic World.
There, the Indominus rex stands more than 22 feet high and is made realistic with subtle blinking of the eyes, flexing of her arms and claws, and clenching of her jaws.
“She’s big, and she moves really quickly,” Jon Corfino Sr., director and executive producer of Universal Creative, told the News-Press this week by phone from Universal Studios Hollywood. “We’re very pleased with the way it came out.”
Mr. Corfino has visited the ride to see guests’ reaction, which he said has been positive.
“It’s really fun to see how blown away they are,” Mr. Corfino said. “I get a lot of emails and read blogs. People are having the reaction you would hope they would. You’re on this ride, and within four feet above your head is the Tyrannosaurus rex. It’s spectacular.
“I get a tremendous thrill because when you come up with these ideas, you’re seeing them in your head and you’re planning. You’re seeing how real it can hopefully be, and to see it executed that well is really cool,” Mr. Corfino said. “You go to that place where you have that suspension of disbelief. You see these two creatures engage.”
Mr. Corfino said he and his team worked closely with Frank Marshall, executive producer of the “Jurassic World” movies, and Colin Trevorrow, director of the first “Jurassic World” (2015), on the ride. Besides the dinosaurs, the attraction features (without giving away too much) stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Mr. Corfino noted he is a fan of the first “Jurassic Park” movie (1993). “There’s that moment in the first film when they land on the island and see their first dinosaur. It touches the dream inside all of us.”
Mr. Corfino worked with another kind of dream on the Secret Lives of Pets: Off the Leash ride, which involves 64 technologically advanced animated figures, including the movie franchise’s characters Max, Snowball, Gidget, Chloe and Duke. Their eyes blink, their eyebrows move, their heads tilt, and best of all, some of the animals like to talk. Go say hi to Max and Duke in the queue line!
“It was a tremendous team effort, along with our friends and partners at Illumination (the studio behind the movies),” Mr. Corfino said. “We tried to think for ourselves: How do we go inside that environment, inside that world?”
The attraction answers that question with a non-traditional queue line in which guests go upstairs and through rooms (kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, etc.) and see the animals.
On the ride itself, passengers see that they’re puppies and end up meeting their permanent family.
“That is the best day in the life of a pet or a pet owner,” Mr. Corfino said. “It has that nice, emotional heart string.”
Fantasy continues to thrive elsewhere at Universal Studios Hollywood, where you ride with magical friends on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (or simply have a butterbeer) at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (You can see the Hogwarts castle from Highway 101.)
Or you can ride with the crazy animated family on the Simpsons ride.
The Studio Tour takes you through the world’s largest movie and TV studio and through a backlot with settings that continue to be used frequently. For example, the house from “The Great Outdoors” (1988), which starred Dan Aykroyd and John Candy, was recently used as Will Riker and Deanna Troi’s home on “Star Trek: Picard.”
Thanks to the current COVID-19 rules, you and your friends will get a row to yourself on the Studio Tour trams, which makes it easier to get photos from both sides of the vehicle as you travel past everything from Cabot Cove in “Murder, She Wrote” to the “Psycho” house. The tour continues to feature its King Kong 360 3-D, Fast & Furious — Supercharged, Jaws and earthquake attractions.
There’s more to come. Next to Transformers: The Ride 3-D, a sign promises an upcoming attraction: Super Nintendo World. (Universal isn’t releasing further details at this time, but stay tuned.)