“Springfield” no longer only lives in the animated world of The Simpsons, where it’s been made famous for 26 seasons, but it’s now been brought to life in the real world, as part of a new immersive environment surrounding “The Simpsons Ride” at Universal Studios Hollywood. To bring the comic spirit of the much loved Fox series to life, project director Jon Corfino worked in collaboration with Gracie Films, creator/executive producer Matt Groening and executive producer James L. Brooks so that park goers could experience many of the iconic landmarks of the city, including Mr. Burn’s Nuclear Power Plant, Springfield Elementary School, Comic Book Guy’s Android’s Dungeon, Springfield Police Headquarters, Duff Brewery and Beer Garden, and the Kwik-E-Mart. You can also explore Springfield’s culinary offerings in dining venues that are detailed replicas with signature dishes.
As Universal Studios Hollywood makes a concentrated effort to introduce more themed environments to park-goers, with areas dedicated to Despicable Me, The Simpsons and Harry Potter (due to open in 2016), the park will continue to be transformed to give guests an immersive experience like no other. Back in March, Collider was invited to take a hard hat tour and learn about the area directly from Corfino, and then come back to check it all out, in its shiny, finished glory, and the experience was a ton of fun. Along with a full photo gallery, we’ve compiled 10 things you should know about the Springfield experience at Universal Studios Hollywood. (All photos via Christina Radish)
- A couple of years ago, the theme park decided to make a conscious effort to explore the concept of including more lands as entertainment. Despicable Me is a complete area, and not just a ride, and Harry Potter will be the same way. Working with an IP as rich and popular as The Simpsons, it made sense to expand the area around The Simpsons Ride to include the city of Springfield.
- They worked with Matt Groening and many of the people behind The Simpsons, on a daily basis, in creating and building the look of the area. It’s their brand, so it’s an extremely collaborative process.
- From the time that they initial steel went up, it was 14 months until completion, after a year of design work. To make the magic happen, there were several hundred people working on the Springfield project, at any one time.
- The biggest challenge of building and opening something like this is always about whether they’re doing everything as good as possible, but everybody is very happy with the final outcome.
- When you’re in this portion of the park, it is a totally immersive experience that makes you feel like you’re in Springfield and not just Universal Studios. As you come off of the tram tour, you’ll be led back into Springfield. All roads lead through Springfield.
- Because there are so many recognizable things within the show, they decided not just to create restaurants, but also familiar building facades. There is a certain style guide that needs to be met, but when you’re bringing an animated series to dimensionality, it’s all interpretive. That process leads to constant communication, so that they can get the look and texture right.
- Theme parks can get very crowded, so they wanted to create a hosted environment with someone on the ground level on a radio to someone upstairs. When you’re in Krusty Burger, after you get your food and your condiments and your hands are full, they can direct you to where there is a table available, so that you don’t have to wander around between levels.
- To add to the experience, the Krusty’s Commissary eating area contains a 10 foot tall Krusty head that talks. Because Krusty is so self-centered, the place is filled with artwork and props (i.e. his motorcycle jacket, his fireman’s cap, his very first set of clown shoes) in tribute to him. The artists from the show even did some art for the walls. It’s modeled after a place like Sardy’s or The Palm.
- You can get a “genuine clown-endorsed meal” at Krusty Burger, a slice at Luigi’s Pizza, a “taco fresho” at Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, fried chicken at Cletus’ Chicken Shack, beer is served at Moe’s Tavern, along with the non-alcoholic Flaming Moe, donuts are available at Lard Lad, or ice cream at Phineas Q. Butterfat’s Ice Cream Parlor.
- There are a lot of little detailed touches, like Sideshow Bob trying to escape from prison and Chief Wiggum has just run into a lightpost. The nuclear plant, Mr. Burns’ Nuclear Power Plant, blows up once every hour, with steam coming out of it for effect.