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Todd Regan

Universal Update

Universal Studios Hollywood announces free shuttle service from Disneyland area.

Here's some wonderful news for people who would like to visit both Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood...

Shuttle Service From Anaheim to the World's Largest Movie Studio and Theme Park - Fleet of Colorful, Comfortable Buses to Depart Several Times a Day From Convenient Anaheim Location

Universal Studios Hollywood has launched The Universal Studios Express to provide free round-trip luxury shuttle service from Anaheim to Universal City beginning Thursday, February 1.

Transportation will be provided on one of AirportBus' deluxe 50-passenger buses to each guest who purchases a full-price ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood from AirportBus. The buses, to be colorfully decorated with Universal Studios- themed images and icons, will feature video monitors displaying highlights of Southern California attractions, including current and archival material from the world's largest movie studio and theme park, Universal Studios Hollywood.

Tickets may be purchased in Anaheim at the Airport Bus Terminal conveniently located near Disneyland at 1415 Manchester Avenue.

The Universal Studios Express Bus to Universal Studios Hollywood will pick up guests from various Anaheim-area hotels several times per day and transport them to the Airport Bus Terminal, where they will board a Universal Studios Hollywood-bound bus for the 45-minute trip.

The buses will depart from Anaheim three times a day, with departure times tentatively scheduled at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Return trips from Universal Studios are tentatively scheduled at 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. with extended hours during peak season. For further information guests may call 1-800-Universal.

Admission to Universal Studios, including round-trip transportation is $43 for ages 12 and older; $32 for ages 3 to 11; children under 3 are free.

1/16/00 - Universal Press Release, Surviving the Crowd, Magic not just a memory, Coaster clarifications, Downtown Disney event, and more

Well, I've recovered from the holidays and am getting back into the swing of my every day travels. I have a few quick updates for you and an exciting report of last Friday's Downtown Disney event as well. But first...

Universal Studios Hollywood sent along the following press release:


Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Jaci Velasquez and Rebecca St. James Are Among the Stars Featured At Contemporary Christian Rock Fest

Universal City, CA (January 9, 2001) - Top-charting pop rock, alternative sounds and acoustic guitars will resonate throughout Universal Studios Hollywood as some of the biggest names in Christian rock take the stage for "Rock The Universe," a weekend-long Christian concert series on March 23 and March 24, 2001.

The two-night rock festival will feature dynamic stage performances from some of the industry’s most popular artists. Headliners for Friday, March 23, include veteran recording artists Newsboys, Grammy Award-winner Rebecca St. James, Latin recording phenomenon and 2000 Grammy-nominee Jaci Velásquez, Orange County-based rock-alternative band Pax 217 and others. Modern rock band Audio Adrenaline, 2000 Grammy-nominee and Dove-Award winner Jennifer Knapp, Grammy-nominated group 4HIM, boy band Jake, singer/songwriter Bebo Norman, pop-folk artist Justin McRoberts and other local Christian artists take the stage Saturday, March 24.

"Rock the Universe" marks the first private two-day concert for Universal Studios Hollywood. "Rock the Universe" will be held from 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night.

Blending positive messages with a musical menu of contemporary pop, rock, R&B and alternative sounds, "Rock the Universe" invites Christian and mainstream music fans to experience a weekend of spirited bands, life-changing contemporary music and energetic, soulful performances. With musical stages located throughout the park, guests can enjoy simultaneous concert shows while enjoying the theme park’s world-class movie-based attractions including "Jurassic Park-The Ride," "ET-The Adventure" and ""Back to the Future-The Ride."

Event hosts Survivor’s Dirk Been and The Real World Los Angeles’ Jon Brennan, as well as inspirational speakers Jay Strack and Joey Buran are also scheduled to appear throughout the event.

Advance tickets for "Rock the Universe" are $31.00 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster locations, Universal Studios Hollywood or online at www.ccauthority.com. A special advanced ticket offering admission for both nights is $57.00. Celebrity Annual Pass holders can purchase advance tickets for $26.00 (single) or $47.00 (weekend-long).

In my last update, I warned you to beware of the overcrowding at Disneyland.

NYE at Disneyland

In spite of my own warnings, I DID go to Disneyland for New Year's Eve. The conditions were indeed very crowded (to say the least), but the feeling in the park was not as oppressive as they were at Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, I'd have to say that Disney did an outstanding job of crowd control on this very busy day. Regular Christmas Fireworks, with a second midnight New Year's extravaganza really made the crowds bearable.

The only complaint I have was the overcrowding at the parking lot trams a situation which is not just reserved for the holidays I'm afraid.

Reader Dale writes with his own thoughts on the tram situation:

"Todd, we were worried about going to Disneyland after reading about your "Nightmare on Main Street." We made the trip anyway of course and found ourselves in several two and three hour waits. What we didn't find in the park was the pushing and shoving you experienced. Everyone seemed to handle themselves very politely. That is until we left the park and got in line with everyone else for the trams. We waited for over 20 minutes for a tram back to our car at the end of the night. As a result of the wait, we watched in shock as numerous safety concerns and a good deal of rushing and pushing took place.

Was this one of the areas that you had trouble as well?  Do they always have so few cast members? Why can't they put in gates or at least queue you up like they do on the rides?  I saw the trams pull off with people still getting on or off, too many people crammed into a row, and the worst of all a tram taking off before a little girl could get on with her parents. The girl was crying and the crowd had to yell at the cast members to get someone to help her. A security van finally pulled up to take her to meet up with her parents.  I'm not sure I feel safe having my family take those trams again. Is there any other way to get to the garage?

Thanks again for what you folks are doing to keep us all informed."

I'd like to thank Dale for writing in and can confirm first hand that there are often safety problems on and around the trams.

I've seen people jumping onto moving trams and see mass pushing and running when trams pull up at busy times. Clearly, this situation requires swift attention before someone is seriously hurt. With Downtown Disney and California Adventure now open, this situation will only get worse.

Luckily for Dale and anyone else who no longer feel safe on the trams, you can now walk all the way through Downtown Disney and then take a sidewalk all the way to the Mickey and Friends parking structure. I did this on Sunday and enjoyed not only the views of the new mall, but also the freedom of NOT being on those awful trams. Enough said!

Here's a funny little side note on a recent trip of mine to Knotts Berry Farm. While at the top of the Supreme Scream (a super tall freefall ride) I spied Mickey's head in the distance. Turns out that it was the Mickey headed loop on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure. From the dead on view, I just have to wonder if someone at Imagineering isn't laughing at this little in-joke as well. Who knows?

By the way, this is a terrible time of year to ride the Berry Farm's super duper tall drop you off a cliff into a wall of water ride, Perilous Plunge. You will end up soaked to the bone, and with as cold as it has been lately . . . don't say I didn't warn you.  :)

Shorty wrote to tell me more about the possible new coaster(s) at Universal Studios Hollywood:

I heard that Universal is in a deal with Setpoint to receive our own version of the Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator, but the deal will most likely not go through due to Paramount having some sort of contract stating that they own the rights to the ride, or something like that. 

I am also hearing from another source that both of the coasters will be from Vekoma, one will be a standard Vekoma kiddie coaster, and one will be a new prototype Junior Suspended Coaster, currently being developed by Vekoma. From my report, it will be just like the Super Saturator from Setpoint except there will be some differences so that lawsuits don't form. That's all I got this time, I hope that we get this prototype.  

I hope so too Shorty! For those of you wondering what a Super Soaker is, it is a coaster that runs through a course of water obstacles. The one that Universal may get might have water cannons or bombs that you can shoot at guests on the ground or other cars. Sounds like loads of fun. Of course, this is all still unconfirmed. 

On an even more perplexing note was this message from someone commenting on my Animal Actors Stage show update from my last update:

"The Animal Actor's update isn't the only thing coming to Universal soon.  We have some very interesting things in the works."

Um, OK. . . WHAT ARE THEY!?!? I mean, please write back with the details. Thanks!

Now, on to the really fun stuff. The Fabulous Disney Babe and I spent an incredible, if cold, evening on Thursday at the Grand Opening party of Downtown Disney. I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, all the wonderful food and drink at Orange County's newest playground, or spending the evening with the always funtastic Fabulous Disney Babe!  

In spite of a steady rain all morning, with the promise of even more during the event, the weather stayed dry throughout the premiere.  however, the night air was quite crisp. Fab filled you in on the details yesterday, but I do have a few thoughts and tidbits to share as well.  

First, a big warm thank you to our host Ginger for taking such good care of us all night long. I'm sure she had no idea what she was getting herself into when she was assigned to the the MousePlanet team. Thanks to Ginger we were front row for all the festivities and she clued us in on who all those Disney suits were.

Stallone and wife

Sylvester Stallone and Liz Smith, were almost the only celebrities walking the red carpet at the opening of the event, it would have been nice if someone would have clued us in to the paucity of excitement that we were in for. An hour later, I'm just cold, bored, and commenting on who I think all the non-celebrities look like.

Liz Smith
Liz Smith

Judging from the way they were kept away from us, the real stars of the evening must have been the Disney executives. Why? Well, they were the ones keep farthest from the crowds. Yes, even though hundreds were spent on a single ticket, Mike and Co. shuffled off immediately after the opening ceremony to a private dinner in the fancy new Downtown Disney restaurant, Catal. Too bad for me. My soul goal for the entire evening was to finally meet Michael Eisner. Oh well, I probably would have said something I'd regret about how he used to be my hero before he sold his soul to the devil and started letting things go to . . . That isn't to say that I didn't meet a heavy hitter or two that night, thanks mostly to Fab who never lets a celebrity pass her by (NEVER).

Hold on to your bazooka Al. While inspecting the highly kinetic and immensely entertaining ESPN Zone, Fab spied Paul Pressler and made introductions. This guy should be selling used cars. It is easy to see how he continues to get promoted, in spite of his short sighted vision for the parks, he is truly a handsome and charming man. Don't get a big head Paul, that wasn't a compliment. I'll change my mind when I see you start building real "E" tickets again that aren't just gussied up versions of off the self attractions.  

You'd be surprised how many Disney folks came up to Fab telling her to keep up the good work and thanking Mouse Planet for "keeping us on our toes." Amen to that.

Downtown Disney

Here's the long and short of it folks, Downtown Disney is a well designed upscale entertainment center. It is a prime spot to take in a movie and catch some dinner with a date or with the family.  Rainforest Cafe and House of Blues in particular offer impressive ambiance as well as fantastic food. Though I haven't tried it yet, Catal looks to be the finest of DD's new eateries. If the food here holds up to the level set by award winning sister restaurants Patina and Pinot, we will all be in for quite a treat (if not a much lighter wallet).  

Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen looks to be a fun spot as well. However, after spending time in the rockin' House of Blues with Fab for over an hour, I just didn't feel like walking into another loud Cajun restaurant right away. Speaking of the House of Blues, this place has bands scheduled every night of the week! Suddenly staying at or near Disneyland isn't such a boring nightlife option.

Naples Ristorante
Naples Ristorante

Two places really surprised me. First, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria blew my socks off with it's eclectic jester inspired decor. They offer truly unique wood fired pizza's as well as a full Italian menu. This will be one of my new favorite restaurants as soon as it opens to the general public in the next week or two (they had it open for the event).

La Brea Bakery
La Brea Bakery

The other restaurant that surpassed my expectations was the La Brea Bakery Cafe. With a name like that, you wouldn't expect anything fancy. Well, I've got news . . . This place is no bakery. Well, it has a bakery, but it also has a delightful and complex menu as well. From the plaza between Disneyland and DCA, La Brea Bakery is the first of Downtown Disney's establishments that you will encounter. As a result of this prime location, and a fantastic menu, I'm betting this place will be a huge hit.  

As the evening grew all too cold and late for a Thursday night, Fab and I headed back to her cozy little hotel room at the Grand Californian. I would have loved to have a martini with her in front of the grand fireplace, but alas as Fab pointed out yesterday I had to go home to Sachiko. Who is a male, but who is also a . . . dog. Gosh, you'd think this was a soap opera from the mail you folks send me!

If you'd like to know more about the establishments at Downtown Disney, please read Fab's report as well as Adrienne Phoenix's fantastic series of stories on this new and exciting shopping and entertainment destination.

Before I go, I just have to let you know something that has restored my faith in the Disneyland Resort. Just when I feared that the magic was gone, lost forever on the ledgers of the accountaneers, faith has been restored (sometimes I get so sappy).  

Last week, I took a little stroll through the new Grand Californian hotel. I hadn't planned on spending more than half an hour, but ended up wandering the awe inspiring great halls and passages for over three hours with a pal of mine. Everywhere we went, we encountered friendly and energetic cast members. Folks who were so proud of their new hotel and it's unsurpassed beauty that they were just beaming with pride.

What really restored my faith in the magic was really something quite small. Tucked in the back of the hotel, next to the pool and in the corner closest to Grizzly Peak, is Whitewater Snacks. This is just an inexpensive little grill but has fantastic views of DCA. The castmembers here were the best I have ever encountered in a Disney park. I'm not kidding, these kids were efficient, friendly, and as thoughtful as you can imagine. Of course, my expectations have fallen over the last few years. But I've never received such great service in a low price point establishment such as this before. On top of everything, the food was very good and the views of DCA were quite fun. I plan on making this a regular stop and hope that the service here remains top notch.  

That's it from this old traveler, may all your journeys be interesting and if you run in to Michael Eisner, please tell him the Dusty Traveler says hello!

You can e-mail the Dusty Traveler at dustytraveler@mouseplanet.com


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 Universal Quick News

Universal Studios Hollywood is now offering a free shuttle from the Disneyland Resort area with a ticket purchase. That's a terrific deal. As soon as we get some more details on this, we'll fill you in.

The huge Jurassic Park III set on the backlot which we had pictured here before is now gone - apparently filming has concluded.

Universal is offering a special 20% discount after 6 PM at Cafe Tu Tango in CityWalk - you need to show your ticket stub for the discount. The Cafe is located behind the Hard Rock.

Gaucho Grill (up on the second "food court" level) on CityWalk has closed its doors. No replacement has been scheduled for the space at this time.

You may also want to check out Mouse Tales' David Koenig's latest column, it's an update with more Universal Studios Hollywood news.


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