ORLANDO, Fla. — Walking into Universal Orlando’s new themed area is a bit surreal. First, you hear familiar music. Then you spot the sign: “Greetings from SPRINGFIELD U.S.A.”
And then you get a faint whiff of doughnuts.
The hometown from the animated TV series The Simpsons has been brought to life in a theme park.
The full Springfield experience opened to the public in the park in August. Universal has slowly been adding to the area for years, building it around The Simpsons ride that opened in 2008.
With a new ride – the Kang and Kodos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl – and a food court that includes Moe’s Tavern, the show’s beloved watering hole, the area is now complete. Other attractions found in both the show and the park include the Krustyland carnival area and the Kwik-E-Mart, a convenience store on TV and a gift shop at Universal.
Park designers worked with the show’s creators and writers to build a richly detailed environment where visitors can spend hours eating and snapping selfies in front of a statue of Chief Wiggum and his police car.
The goal: to make people feel like they were stepping into the cartoon.
“We call it ‘authentic fiction,’ ” said Ric Florell, Universal’s senior vice president and general manager of resort revenue operations.
Though most of the details in Springfield mirror the TV show, there are a few tweaked concepts.
The Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, for instance. is based on the two aliens on the show, and riders experience a spinning saucer movement while different Simpsons characters crack jokes.
“There’s been no actual hurling, yet,” laughed Mike West, the executive producer at Universal Creative.
There’s also a new kiosk where visitors can have their photo taken on a replica of the Simpsons’ sofa.
Though the bold colors, funny signs in the queue of the Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, and brash Krusty the Clown character meet-and-greets are fun, the most impressive part is the food.
Universal executives said that food is almost another character in the show, and it was a natural to showcase that while telling the Simpsons story in the park.
“There’s a lot of food in the TV episodes,” said Florell. “We had to decide, what’s iconic?”
Steven Jayson, the executive chef at Universal Parks and Resorts, said that it took the better part of a year to create 28 new dishes for the area. All of the menu items can only be found in Springfield, and everything is made from scratch in Universal’s kitchens, he added.
Not unexpectedly, given Homer Simpson’s diet on the show, health consciousness hasn’t exactly arrived in Springfield (although there is a nod to Lisa Simpson’s love of salads in Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror, a self-serve area where folks can grab hummus, greens and pretzels).
The food is mostly concentrated in one building, called Fast Food Boulevard, and the mall-like storefronts are based on restaurants from the show.
All of the food is either named after something on the show or something that Bart Simpson could conceivably say in a snarky tone: Chicken Thumbs. Heat Lamp Dog. Meat Liker’s Pizza.