Whenever surveys are taken by theme parks, one of the top rated and requested activities is seeing and meeting characters. This is especially true for children visiting the parks. That’s why I was happy to see the area that previously housed “A Day in the Park with Barney” in Universal Studios Florida being transformed into a new space for kids featuring DreamWorks characters. DreamWorks Destination hasn’t officially opened yet, but it got me thinking about how Universal Studios Hollywood could and should do something similar.
If you’re unfamiliar with DreamWorks Destination, it’s essentially a dedicated location for people to see various DreamWorks icons (including characters from “Trolls,” “Madagascar,” “Shrek” and more) with a dance party-style atmosphere and photo opportunities. I imagine in the future it will eventually include meet & greets as well. It’s a simple yet effective concept, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a fairly inexpensive form of new entertainment for a theme park.
I would love to see something similar created at Universal Studios Hollywood, but instead of a DreamWorks Destination, perhaps an Illumination Destination. With the opening of The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!, in addition to the various Minion offerings on the Upper Lot, a bit of an Illumination neighborhood has been created. So, putting a dance party and meet & greet area nearby full of Illumination characters would make a lot of sense.
The most obvious location to put something like this would be Universal Plaza, which is right near the Illumination neighborhood. Universal Plaza is a large piece of real estate right in the middle of the Upper Lot that primarily features dancing fountains. It’s also used for some special events throughout the year, but the biggest of these events is Grinchmas — and guess who made the most recent Grinch animated movie? That’s right, Illumination. It could be interesting to see an updated Grinchmas in Hollywood featuring the most recent version of the character (instead of an interpretation from over 20 years ago) in a location dedicated to the studio that made it.
Another location that might make sense is the adjacent French Street. My gut is telling me that with the removal of Baker Street to create Pets Place, French Street probably has demolition in its near future. I think it would be fun to see yet another Illumination property represented here to continue the neighborhood. Immediately next to that is the Universal’s Animal Actors show, which “The Secret Life of Pets” could be heavily tied into if they wanted to continue the neighborhood even further.
Just imagine, if Illumination were to make such a big footprint on the Upper Lot, in addition to the already-existing DreamWorks Theatre, The Simpsons Ride and Springfield, Universal Studios Hollywood’s Upper Lot could feature a lot of animation. That would be making quite a statement to its biggest competitor, Disneyland.
The fact is that guests love to see and meet their favorite characters. Since Universal Studios Hollywood has a fairly small footprint overall, I feel like I run into characters constantly while walking through the park. Having a dedicated space for Illumination characters could plus what Universal already does well and help enhance the new (and I believe eventually expanding) Illumination neighborhood.
Do you like to see dedicated character spaces like this concept, or do you prefer to see them roaming in the parks instead? If there were to be an Illumination Destination for characters, which characters would you want to see there?
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.