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Issue: Summer 2014

Universal Studios Hollywood

Karen Yin

Ground Zero for Minion Mania

Lately, a lot of yellow has been spotted at Universal Studios Hollywood. Minion Mania has taken over!

Inside the theme park, by the corner of Baker Street and Minion Way, is an elaborate re-creation of the colorful suburban neighborhood where three little girls came knocking on the door of Gru's purple and gray house. Nearby is Miss Hattie's Home for Girls, the orphanage where Margo, Edith, and Agnes lived before they were adopted by Gru. Yellow and purple Minions roam the theme park at large, up to something. And just like that, you have been plunged into the world of Despicable Me, where something or everything will delight guests of all ages.

The two latest attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood reflect its focus on more family-friendly entertainment: the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride begins with the recruitment of humans in Gru's Laboratory, and Super Silly Fun Land is the adjacent play zone. Both are based on Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's universally beloved Despicable Me franchise, which began in 2010 with the release of the first animated film, which grossed more than $540 million, becoming the tenth biggest animated film in the U.S. at the time. Three years later, the sequel became the highest-grossing film in Universal's history with earnings of $970 million as well as the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time worldwide.

"Walking into the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride is like walking into the movie," says Jon Corfino, the project director and executive show producer for Universal Creative (a division of Universal Parks & Resorts) who was responsible for the creative oversight of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. "Guests can have fun finding many of the iconic props from the animation recreated throughout Gru's entry and living room," he says. The items include the SR6 Shrink Ray, the antique Grecian urn emblazoned with dancing Egyptian Minions, mementos from Gru's childhood, and hand-drawn pictures by his girls.

The ride--a collaboration between Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment, and Universal Creative--took about two years to design and build. The 3D Ultra-HD digital animation--voiced by the original actors, including Steve Carell as Gru--took about a year.

The Despicable Me additions are part of a sweeping makeover of Universal Studios Hollywood, which began in 2012 with the award-winning Transformers mega-attraction and will end in 2016 with L.A.'s own The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. "We are in the midst of an exciting and epic transformation that will radically alter Universal Studios Hollywood's footprint," says Corfino of this five-year investment by Universal Studios Hollywood in immersive environments and next-gen thrill rides. For example, in 2015, Universal Studios Hollywood's fiftieth anniversary, the town of Springfield as seen on TV will surround the Simpsons ride. Moe's Tavern, anyone?

Once inside Gru's lab, guests of all ages are asked, "Do you have what it takes to be a Minion?" With Dr. Nefario's invention--3D "Minion Goggles," the most sophisticated, Minion-tested technology available--you will be prepped for a ride in a "Transformation" vehicle inside a theater equipped with the brightest stereoscopic, ultra high-definition projectors available before your journey to becoming a Minion begins.

"You literally feel like you are flying in the air," says Pei-Chi Chang, a local from Altadena who is spending the day at Universal Studios with out-of-town guests. "It's truly fun for the whole family. It was the only ride that we rode twice!"

As for rumors that humans are really being Minionized inside the lab, Corfino says, "I've been on Despicable Me Minion Mayhem countless times. I think I've actually been permanently transformed into a Minion."

Super Silly Fun Land, unique to Universal Studios Hollywood, is an outdoor Minion-themed play zone, the seaside carnival from the first film brought to life. "The ride's immersive environment gives guests of all ages a chance to escape into the Minion world, from the world's only Super Silly Space Killer arcade game to the Silly Swirly fun ride," says Corfino. "It's a true Minion world, and we just live in it."

One parent remarked, "This is really great for the kids. It lets them work off some energy and makes our visit here much more a family affair." It's up to you whether you want to get soaked by any of the eighty water-play features in the wet zone or climb, jump, and slide in the dry zone, but try to find all twenty-seven Minions hiding around the land, a fraction of Gru's army.

You could go home happy after experiencing the state-of-the-art ride simulator and the play zones. But, to borrow a phrase from Ron Popeil, wait, there's more!

Says Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, "Fans of the film can now have fun and interact with their favorite Despicable Me characters in a way they haven't been able to before."

Take a selfie with Gru or the other Despicable Me walkabout characters, including Margo, Edith, Agnes, the yellow Minions, or Kevin, a crazy-haired purple Minion.

Find the largest assortment of Minion-inspired merchandise at Super Silly Stuff, a Minion Mania headquarters for fans. And yes, the stuffed unicorns there are, as Agnes would say, "so fluffy!"

Famished from dodging sharks and dinosaurs on the famous Studio Tour? Grab some El Macho's Nachos at Gru's Lab Café or a banana-and-mango-flavored Freeze Ray Smoothie at the Despicable Delights snack stand. As with every element of this Despicable Me expansion, no detail has been overlooked in these fun custom menus created by Universal Studios Hollywood's award-winning executive chef, Eric Kopelow, with his team, along with Illumination Entertainment.

There's even more good news for those of you in the throes of Minion Mania. Next summer, be on the lookout for more Minions in the spinoff titled, what else, Minions, featuring a voice cast led by Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm. 

For more information about visiting the park and purchasing tickets, call 1-800-UNIVERSAL (1-800-864-8377) or visit UniversalStudiosHollywood.com