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Universal Studios: Springfield, home of Simpsons, now officially open

By Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel

1:31 PM EDT, August 22, 2013

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It's official: Universal Studios says its Springfield area, home of characters from TV's "The Simpsons," is open to all theme-park guests as of Thursday.

There was no lavish ceremony or jets flying over, a la Transformers: The Ride -- 3D from earlier in the summer. It's just an acknowledgement that everything is in place in the area that formerly was a World Expo eatery and sidewalk.

The new, heavily themed area has opened in dribs and drabs, starting with a large food court and Moe's Tavern, which serves up Simpsons fare such as Duff Beer and the steaming Flaming Moe drinks.

The next stage included Bumblebee Man's taco truck, Duff Gardens overlooking the park's central lagoon and a Lard Lad donut outlet. The space was capped off by the opening of Kang and Kodo's Twirl 'n' Hurl, a spinning ride.

Springfield also is populated with camera-ready figures from the animated series, including Duffman, a large Lard Lad, Milhouse on a park bench and the Seven Little Duffs topiaries (Edgy, Remorseful, Dizzy, Tipsy, Surly, Queasy and Sleazy).

"Guests line up to get pictures with the chief," says Mike West, executive producer with Universal Creative. Chief Wiggum's figure is eating a pink-frosted doughnut and stands next to a squad car that has smashed into a fire hydrant, which sprays water.

Universal's Springfield was created in conjuction with "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and members of the show's writing staff, West says. They consulted on details such as the color of the buildings, the faces of the characters and the script that's heard on the ride.

"It's really been a collaborative effort," West says.

"The Simpsons" has a worldwide fan base that knows the characters well, he says.

"You have to make sure and meet their expectations," West says.

In the eating areas, Universal came up with 28 new menu items that are exclusive to the park, says Ric Florell, senior vice president and general manager of resort revenue operations.

"You have to come to Springfield to enjoy Duff Beer," he says.

Springfield also incorporates the Simpsons Ride, which opened in 2008 as an overhaul of a park original, Back to the Future -- the Ride.  That attraction, fronted by Krustyland signage and an enormous clown head, also has Simpsons-themed carny games that were added after the Amity village and Jaws ride were shuttered in early 2012.

Two Back to the Future props -- Doc's DeLorean and the locomotive from "Back to the Future 3" -- now stand on the outskirts of Springfield.