The Simpsons USA – Universal Studios Hollywood
In mid-2012, Universal Creative had assigned me with the “blue-sky” concept development of The Simpsons expansion for Universal Studios Hollywood. This was while I was wrapping up the concept work on The Simpsons expansion at Universal Studios Orlando and producing The Simpsons Games area. Having just completed my participation in the concept master plan for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for Hollywood and Japan, the updated project master plan for Universal Studios Hollywood was utilized to begin development.
As the creative lead in conceptualizing and developing this expansion, I started with the drawings that I was involved with previously on Harry Potter Hollywood, primarily focusing the work around facility drawing for the Three Broomsticks restaurant and associated structures in park master plan. The approach at Universal Creative was to utilize the same building to enable the use of the kitchen, storage, and supporting provisions and utilized a shared back-of-house service area. We had the programming developed to define the capacity requirements and the understanding that the Universal Studios Hollywood property had many limitations with available square footage. The obvious decision in the development process was to develop an upstairs dining area while keeping the F&B service at the ground level. This was also decided because of the need to widen the main path for the anticipated increase of guests when the park renovation phase opens The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area in 2016.
The process of work included many resulting variations during this concept phase. Periodic reviews with the President and SVP of Universal Creative were presented showing the area developed in plan views in AutoCAD as well as rendered views of the model that was produced in Sketch-Up software. The reviews of the work would be evaluated based on what we could do within a reasonable budget allowance for this area in relation to our overall work on the Universal Studios Hollywood renovation. These meetings would include discussions with the core Universal Studios Hollywood operations team to evaluate and determine best integration for the property. Some of the original scope was minimized, reducing a larger presence that was developed with more immersion within the Simpsons environment. While producing the model of the entire area, I had established key POVs that represented the approach points, circulation, dining queue lines and service and purchase counter areas and critical impacts to sight-lines that were adjacent to other existing structures and the forthcoming Harry Potter facilities. These POVs would reviewed in print form as well as real-time 3D model walk-throughs with the executive team. Deliverables for the project included the research accumulated on the Simpsons IP. These references were included and shown within the development process as means to establish the key featured elements to represent the expansion, placement and composition of the two-story structure for reveal points as I did on the Simpsons previous expansion at Universal studios Orlando.
After my aggressive scope of work was completed, it was passed from blue-sky phase for executive approval and then to the project team, which included contracted support members including the architectural and scenic vendors, the construction firm and various individuals hired for the project based in Hollywood.
The first phase of the site work was produced in AutoCAD to determine the scope boundary, develop the various plans for the two floors of the facility, with 3D modeling then performed to determine the sight-lines and mass of the structure. As the work progressed, I would assemble routine updates of the site plan, facility plans and model renderings for the core Universal Creative executive team to review, all under an aggressive schedule to finalize for approvals so we could advance to the schematic and build phase and assemble the project team to take the to the field for Twentieth Century Fox and Gracie Films’ review and participation to complete the remaining scope of work where additional IP opportunities were available.
As a means to develop a more interesting structure and provide for more surfaces for an overlay of identifiable elements from The Simpsons universe, I had established a creative strategy to have the second floor slightly set back from the ground level marquees to introduce a foreshortened scale of buildings for the second floor facades. This was also developed to provide for staggered reveals and separations of the facades, giving way to what appears are random buildings of Springfield, but intentionally disguising the second floor dining area from the guests passing by below. This also established a platform to systematically block various views of the chimneys of Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter area to be built later. With the back-of-house service area between, this gave some work room to work out the site-lines to the best ability to minimize the views of the different IPs while in each land.
Starting with the ground floor, we had first taken steps to develop a food-court style service area within like the Orlando location. With the kitchen equipment, exits, service counter areas, POS stations and queue space defined in the drawings for the first floor, stairs and elevators were then worked into the plan, with seating areas then being determined in the layout.
I developed the second floor with openings to view the floor below to the Krusty Burger and Cletus’ Chicken Shack queue areas. Placement for the stairs, elevator, service stations and exits as they related to the lower floor were then determined in the plan. After initial approvals on the layouts, I commenced on the 3D modeling stage to mass out the facility and determine the sight-line conditions in scale as it would relate to the existing structures and forthcoming Harry Potter expansion.
As the project evolved, we made many changes to the ground floor plan, primarily due to the desire to change course and eliminate the food-court style service operation. In the early development process the second floor actually had a central Simpsons gift store and activity area while the ground floor had a drive-thru area with Homer at the wheel of his car at the Krusty Burger window. As the plans were revised, the model was then modified to apply the changes. After the facility concept was completed and in review, I then started the Duff gardens area. The Duff Gardens area was developed keeping the details of the Duff brewery as depicted in the television series as authentic as possible while working with the existing facility that would be modified for the area. Many of the elements from the Orlando location were incorporated in this area, such as topiaries, brewing tanks, and the taco van. In the early concept work the special effects stage also had a Simpons-based facade as an overlay to complete the immersive envelope of the expansion but was eliminated in the value-engineering process.
My office wall at Universal Creative in 2012 during the process of developing The Simpsons properties in Hollywood and Orlando. Right, the view from above the service counter at Krusty Burger shows the opening to the dining area above as developed in the concept phase.
Please check back on this project article, there will be more details about the work and images of the property added shortly.