News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 2 to 3 p.m.

Universal love: Theme parks balance innovation with nostalgia




An exterior view of Hogwarts is seen during the 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opening' press preview at Universal Studios Hollywood in Studio City, California, on April 6, 2016.
 / AFP / VALERIE MACON        (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
An exterior view of Hogwarts is seen during the 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opening' press preview at Universal Studios Hollywood in Studio City, California, on April 6, 2016. / AFP / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images
An exterior view of Hogwarts is seen during the 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opening' press preview at Universal Studios Hollywood in Studio City, California, on April 6, 2016.
 / AFP / VALERIE MACON        (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
Trolls were introduced in 1972 as the official mascots for Six Flags Magic Mountain. Near the main entrance was a statue of one of the trolls riding a horse, with a caption near the base that said “Our Founder.” In 1985, the park swapped out the trolls for the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters, which it had the licensing rights to use. The troll was chiseled off the horse and replaced with Bugs Bunny. Photo Courtesy of The Coaster Guy at thecoasterguy.com
An exterior view of Hogwarts is seen during the 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter Opening' press preview at Universal Studios Hollywood in Studio City, California, on April 6, 2016.
 / AFP / VALERIE MACON        (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
Superman statue that once ‘stood’ sideways on top of the Superman: The Escape tower. Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy at thecoasterguy.com


Listen to story

07:11
Download this story 10MB

The first week of 2017 has been a landmark week for Southern California's amusement parks.

On Wednesday, Disneyland hit capacity for the first time this holiday season. At California Adventure, Monday marked the final checkout for the famed attraction Tower of Terror, which is closing to make way for a new "Guardians of the Galaxy" makeover. 

And at Universal Studios Hollywood, where attractions based on other popular movies, like Minions and Harry Potter prevail, a new attendance record was broken — people were turned away at the gates for the first time in the park's history. 

For more on all this, Take Two's Alex Cohen spoke with Robert Niles from Theme Park Insider.

It's really what Universal's been working towards for the past several years. If you haven't been to Universal Studios in the past three or four years, the park looks completely different than the last time you were there. They've spent hundred of millions of dollars transforming that park. The big centerpiece of it all is the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter which opened last spring. This was the first Christmas season that the Harry Potter land was opened. I know I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. Visiting Hogsmeade over the holidays, I think, was an irresistible draw for a lot of people. They've put a lot of money into improving that park to make it a more attractive draw for people in Southern California and it really seems to be paying off this holiday season.

On what's coming down the line for Universal Studios Hollywood

"The big news is that there will be an entire land devoted to Nintendo coming down within the next few years. It's going to be something that's obviously very interactive. You think about rides like the Buzz Lightyear ride or the Toy Story ride at Disneyland and California Adventure... There's a lot that's happening with interactivity these days so this is an opportunity for Universal to take it up to the next level to give us the opportunity to drive a Mario Kart in real life."


Disney's replacing the Tower of Terror. How do they maintain the nostalgia while keeping current?

Disney is a master of playing with nostalgia. They just dropped a commercial promoting the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade which we all thought had glowed away forever twenty-some years ago. Well, it's back! It's coming back for a limited-time run this spring at Disneyland park.

You never know. If at some point "Guardians of the Galaxy" falls out of favor, maybe twenty years from now, they say, 'Hey look! The Twilight Zone is back!' Disney never truly throws stuff away because their fanbase is so attuned to nostalgia. In one form or another, things come back, whether in full form like the Main Street Electrical Parade or some type of tribute or nod or reference to it that we'll see at the park in some form in the future.

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue media player above.