Exploring Universal Studios Proper

Day 6 dawns with some of us wanting to sleep a bit more than others. Bean and I were up when the 7am alarm went off. Roxy and PumpkinGirl however wanted some more snooze time. So I called MEARS and reset their pick-up time for 10:25am and Bean and I went to the food court for breakfast and pin shopping.

The bus was a bit late so we said goodbye to POP just before 9am

Hello Harry!

The drive made up some time so we were driving past the US gate by 9:20am

I took a minute to take a couple of shots of the two themed miniature golf courses they have set up under the sky bridge. One side had the alien-themed course

And the other side was of course the monster-themed course with the Gru-like house

We headed past Citiwalk and on towards the Universal Studios entrance

After going through the turnstiles we headed straight for Minion Mayhem – it was pretty much walk-in when we got there. When you come in you are greeted by Gru and the girl’s living room. There are some really great touches in here from the movie.

The family tree

Family pics and Gru’s space helmet from when he was a kid

Looking down the length of the living room

The girl’s drawings

I thought it was odd that this was here, as it seems to be the bank president/AKA Vector’s dad

The shrink ray

I love that they brought this thing to life – lol

Gru and his original ‘kids’

You can see that Gru made this particular decoration a bit more kid-friendly

More family pics and a great mounted fish

The rhino chair

Gru and the girls

Once the group has finished filing in a video starts in front of us. Gru and the girls are up first

This is followed quickly by the testing process for designing the 3-D glasses we would wear. Several styles were tried before they settled on the one they would use

We pick up with Dr. Nefario and a minion still trying to find the right 3-D glasses

Once they settled on the glasses to use they had to go through rigorous quality assurance testing

Gru interjects something important about the glasses

Last of the quality assurance testing

Now Gru kicks back in, but is interrupted by the girls and talk of their first anniversary together as a family

Now we move into the next chamber where we have a larger screen setup. Gru explains the reason why we are all here – to be converted into Minions of course!

Gru explains his plan

Dr. Nefario spins up the machine

The first experiments had mixed results

Gru has to stop the orientation to make a command decision

A problem is found with someone in our group who apparently hadn’t bathed and set off the biohazard alarm 😀

Then the girls came in to attempt to derail the proceedings

We continue with the girls wanting to be part of the action and take over Gru’s plan for turning us all into minions

Gru starts to relent while minion start licking the glass for reasons that I cannot recall

He turns us over to the girls and soon enough we are sent shuffling into the theater/ride area. The ride is a lot of fun. It has kind of the motion feel of Star Tours without the enclosed feeling you get on it. Lots of things going on with the overriding plot of recovering Gru’s present. The end is very heartwarming.

When you finish you move into a dance/minion interaction area complete with minion helpers – you can see me snapping pics on the right and Bean in front as the crowd thins out

Bean then started dancing with the minion helper

We then moved on into the gift shop. Bean tried on some minion glasses but decided not to purchase

We then moved on across the street to Shrek – hardly any line there either

While in line I got a text from Roxy saying they were on the MEARS bus and on their way. I let them know what we had been up to and they said they’d be heading straight to Minion Mayhem as we did. After Shrek the ladies still weren’t here so we headed to Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-it roller coaster. I had not been looking forward to this one, looked like the whiplash express to me 😮

The cool thing about it is you sit down and when the safety bar comes down it has a touch screen that allows you to browse music by genre/artist and have a totally custom track playing for each user for the ride. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be but I’ll probably not ride it again.

When that was done we were hungry so we hit the Classic Monsters Café which was right across the street and was on our meal plan. We had a good lunch while Roxy and PumpkinGirl did Minion.

Afterwards we walked back across the street to Minion Mayhem

We met up with Roxy and PumpkinGirl at the exit area and I snapped pics of both girls with the Minions

They then wanted to do Shrek again, which I wasn’t really into it. So Bean went with them and I went around to the gift shop and did some browsing.

In there I found a set of reasonably priced cool looking dragon figures. Bean is a BIG dragon fan so as soon as they came out I pointed them out to her and she flipped. We ended up getting the full set for her (you’ll see pics of them a bit later in the TR as she sets them in the window of our room with her stuffies).

Now Roxy and PumpkinGirl were hungry so we went right across the street to the Monster Café again. It was funny, we had been there for 3hrs now and had spent all our time at one street intersection of the park 😀

Bean got another serving of fries on our meal plan and the ladies got lunch meals. I was still full so I walked around the restaurant and snapped pics of all of the cool monster movie memorabilia they had on display.

A brainy guy

Outfits from This Island Earth

The Creature from the Black Lagoon

Fossil hand prop from The Creature from the Black Lagoon

The Invisible Man props

A fez I believe worn by Lon Chaney.

Phantom of the Opera mask warn by Lon Chaney and poster from the movie

Lon Chaney mask

Munsters display

Bride of Frankenstein wig

Lab key from Frankenstein movie

Casting of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster

Original make-up kit and props from Bride of Frankenstein

Original script pages from same

Ray guns and helmet from misc. Sci-Fi films

While the ladies finished up I had a nice conversation with the manager. I think his name was Mike and he was a very nice guy and an attentive manager. He checked in on his customers to make sure they were having a good experience both in the restaurant and in the park itself. He also kept checking in on his staff, not in a micro-manager way but in a helpful way to make sure they weren’t getting in a bind. Kudos to him, he runs a great place!

A quick shot of the Monsters on the drink stand adjacent to the Café. The large construction wall in the background is part of the Transformers ride that is being built.

We gathered ourselves up and decided to head on down the street and check out Twister since the girls hadn’t seen it and we knew the lines would be short for it too. Thanks to Roxy’s ECV we were able to get right up next to the wall of props in the outer waiting room

Next we were let in first down the “house hallway” consisting of the actual destroyed house from a sequence in the movie

There be a car in the ceiling

Just no privacy at all!

After a quick film narrated by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt we headed into the main room. At first all was calm

Soon lights were dimming, the wind was picking up and sparks started to fly

Now mayhem really ensues!


More explosions and flames for the ending!

In the gift shop they had the drive-in movie theater prop from the movie itself

When we were done in there do you think we would move further into the park? NOPE! The girls wanted to ride the Rock-it coaster so we doubled back and off they went while Roxy and I found a good spot of shade.

The girls going up

And going down – you can only see their arms but they were in the first row

They came down off of the ride

..but Bean wanted to ride again so off she went!

Shes front row of course

Bean keeps zooming on Rockit

She actually saw me on this last one ..along with some guy with stellar mutton chops

We got off just as the Universal Super Star Parade was about to start so we wandered on down


Gru and family

You can see Vector getting down in the background there

The Lorax made an appearance

On came Gru and the crew

Hot on his tail was Vector

Behind them was Patrick Starfish and an empty boat, I assumed which was supposed to have Sandy on it

Dancing fish

Here comes SpongeBob’s Pineapple house on wheels

Of course we remember our last encounter with SpongeBob 10 years back

Following SpongeBob was Squidward

And then the commando bunnies from Hop

And then the Hop stars themselves

He was actually playing those drums!

I dont know who those guys were

A live band accompanying the rabbit

Nice rides  very Easter-ish

Bringing up the rear was Dora the Explorer

Overall it was a pretty cute parade. After they cleared out I got a shot of the girls by an old classic yellow cab

And then got a passer-by to take a shot of us in front of the big Christmas tree

Looking at this picture it made me realize I forgot a plot point of our little adventure. Even since our first park day at DHS I had been after an Indiana Jones hat, partially for style and partially for shade. I knew we wouldn’t be back at DHS until our second to last day so on our first Universal day (the day before this) I bought a Panama Jack hat in the Islands of Adventure marketplace as soon as we walked into the park.

There just weren’t any pictures with me wearing it up until now because the only pics I was in the day before I was soaked and the hat was in the basket of Roxy’s ECV. It was a great purchase in that it was a straw hat which breathed much better than the Indy hat would’ve, it was $20 cheaper, and it still looked good.

It was the brown safari style

And now back to our story

We strolled down the street, making a bee-line for The Mummy ride. Roxy decided to sit it out and window shop so the girls and I headed in. We made it to the last landing when the ride broke down. A bunch of people left until we were actually in the gates of the front row of the line. They kept sending cars through empty and were saying it would be back up any minute. We probably burned 15 minutes total before finally giving up.

They did give us the secret phrase to go through the fastlane line when we came back though, so that was good.

We came back out in time to catch part of The Blues Brothers Christmas show

Last trip I got out and danced with them

Not this time though, we were off to more adventures! We headed down the street with me taking shots along the way.

First looking back the way we had come from

Bean with the Cat in the Hat balloon

And PumpkinGirl in front of Christmas Scooby

Our next stop was “Disaster!” Looks dangerous!

Blown-up plane

Crazy cyborg shark from some German film

Once we got in we were near the front and I found myself volunteered by my caring family to play the part of the “Fearless Guy”

We went through some acting dynamics and then I was brought into the filming area. They had me get in a big dumpster full of green balls

..and I did a big “aaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!” on cue

What a ham I am

The production piece was fun and I loved that they had Christopher Walken as the director – he was a kick and I can now say I “worked” with him!

We went onto the ride part of it and experienced the explosions and water and such. In the “movie” on the ride I was shown as going down a raging river (sorry, we missed getting a shot of that).

We moved on out and checked times for stuff around us and saw that The Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue would be starting in less than a half hour. This was a must-see as it is Roxy’s favorite show and the girls had never seen it. We were in line early and got pretty good seats.

I handed the camera over to PumpkinGirl for this one as she was supposed to write reviews of the live shows she watched as part of her drama class. Now you can see my other daughter’s photography skills!

No big descriptions for individual shots here as it is hard to remember it from a sequence point of view. I can tell you that it is a fun show which takes some modern and some classic rock-n-roll songs and twists them in a way only Beetlejuice and a cast of monsters can.

They come out as classic monsters

Beetlejuice doesn’t like that and gives them a makeover

He is then joined by two Transylvania cheerleaders called Hip and Hop

Each monster gets to be lead in a song and the Wolf Man was up first

Next up was the Bride of Frankenstein

Beetlejuice was entertained

Now it was Drac’s turn

Go Drac!

Using his vampire mojo on Frank’s girl

Beetlejuice was very entertained now!

Eat your heart out Christian Bale – you don’t have cape moves like this guy!

Good doggie!

The cheerleaders get their moment

All together now

The group is rockin now!

He got a treat!

Beetlejuice then comes out into the audience with his guitar

Meanwhile theyre still belting it out on stage

Beetlejuice came back down front with the group

Jammin with Frank and Drac

Big Finale!

They all go to their spots and say goodbye

Great shots from PumpkinGirl, aye?

We left there and went back up the street to The Mummy ..and Garfield.

We used the code word scarabs to get into the fast lane. It is a fun ride, if a bit short. But what do you expect when it took over the space used by the King Kong attraction?

Now where to go? We had thoroughly covered the big “L” of going down the main street and taking a left. We decided to double back yet again and move on past the Beetlejuice theater and through what used to Amity village and is now a bunch of walls.

Roxy and I had been lucky enough to ride JAWS one last time when we were there in April of 2011. Here’s a panorama from that trip to commemorate what was

In a couple of years it will be the home of Diagon Alley and the long-awaited expansion of Harry Potter at Universal. Personally I’m looking forward to the Hogwarts Express train ride experience that is supposed to take you between the parks. The information that has been leaked makes it sound very cool.

Our next stop was Men in Black Alien Attack. It took us a good 15 minutes to get from the Mummy to it. Here we are coming up on the entrance area

The guys in the coffee room

The main floor with Agent J giving us our briefing

The last time we were in this area with the girls PumpkinGirl encountered these characters

The MiB arsenal

It was a fun ride as usual and I told the girls about hitting the light at the top of the competing car before we got in so in the two times we rode it we must have sent the other car spinning at least 10 times – the other ride vehicle had no idea what was going on!

From there it was on to The Simpsons Ride

Here are the girls in the queue watching Sideshow Bob on the screen plotting his revenge

And here are the ladies in the chamber right before getting on the ride vehicle

It was also a fun one; the girls had a blast on it.

When we came out the sun had finished setting, giving us a beautiful view across the lagoon

I was tempted to PhotoShop out those cranes, but how else would you know that the Harry Potter expansion was really happening. Along the walkway they had just plopped the train from Back to the Future III

And the Delorean

I hadn’t seen the car when we were there the year before, so the last time I had laid eyes on it was when it was parked next to the Back to the Future Ride (now Simpsons)

I felt kind of sad for it just sitting on a random slab now. Ah well, time and tastes march on, aye?

We continued up the walkway towards the front of the park to revisit a ride Bean rode more than any other when she was a wee little 3yr old. We were heading to E.T.

On the way we came across a Macys Bear balloon

And a SpongeBob themed gift shop

We found our destination just to the left of it

Only a 15 minute wait for it, but having rode it in 2011 I remembered how long the queuing areas were for the thing and decided to stay with the ECV while the ladies went in. About 35 minutes later they came out with Roxy and the girls both proclaiming how slow it was to get through the ride.

Ah well, I guess the sheer wonder Bean had when she was 3 had officially been replaced by the thrill-ride junkie that she is now.

We were ready for dinner by now so we continued towards the front of the park, passing a Horton balloon along the way

Our destination was Mels Drive-In

It provided us with wonderful burgers, fries, and shakes. We came out very satisfied indeed. It was approaching time for the lagoon show “Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories”

As we walked along the lagoon path I looked across and said hi to Grover

We moved down until we found spots on the rocks so we could sit reasonably comfortably for the show. I sat in a spot behind a trash can so I could set my camera on it for stability in catching the show.

A couple of test shots show there’s a reason why I don’t hold cameras for stuff like this

There we go

After another couple of minutes the show started. It starts with 3 water screens which can create some amazing imagery


Bride of Frankenstein


Then water sprays started up with movie shots projecting on them

Say “hello!…”

Next we had some fireworks kick in

The water screen also started having images projected on it

And last they added in fountains with color effects

And more fireworks

From there the show arced through different movie genres with effects to match each mood

Beautiful colors

The war sequence was especially stunning

Then they kicked up the lights a notch

Purdy lighting

Then we had multi-colored lasers in the mix

They kicked into a bigger volley of fireworks

Then they basically pulled out all of the stops

Nice touch with fireworks being projected along with the live ones

Loved the blue

Kind of like a Pink Floyd show with the lasers

Here comes the fireworks finale

When the show finished they left the colored fountains on, which were very pretty indeed

We headed out, stopping to look at this perspective thing that is supposed to make it look like you are looking at the Hollywood skyline

From there it was the long walk back to the front. The crowds were very light so I got some great shots of the architecture

We worked our way to the Mecca of Universal Merchandising and spent a good deal of time and money in there

Before getting too embroiled in there I took a few night shots of the attractions that we had started our day with

20 minutes later we came out with my wallet lighter but us in a good mood overall. We walked out past the Harry Potter poster, knowing we would be hitting that ride again in the morning

And of course I had to take more shots of the Universal globe

Ye ole sports bar on steroids

One more shot of the globe and the entrance

Not much going on at Citywalk as it was a sleepy Tuesday night

As an aside, we have crossed the 1500 mark in pictures with all of those Beetlejuice and fireworks show pics.

We got back to POP and did the obligatory stops at the food court for snacks and the gift shop for pin trading. We found a very cool Mulan pin for PumpkinGirl that she was very happy to get.

And Bean found yet another Stitch pin and bought an outfit for her Stitch stuffy. It was technically a Duffy outfit but a smart CM had dressed up a Stitch in an outfit and Bean flipped when she saw it and had to have it.

When we were done we packed it in and headed back to the room. It was a reasonably early day for us with us back to the room before 9pm.

We had our 3rd Universal day coming up. I asked the fam what time they wanted to leave for the park and they wanted to do the 8:25am bus so I set it up.

Tomorrow would be a mix of both Universal parks to hit anything we missed and re ride the stuff we wanted another go at. We did the evening routine and were all easily asleep by 10pm.