Happy 50th, Universal Studios Hollywood

The park marks its half-century anniversary with a "Fast and Furious" ride, updated trams, more.

While we live in an age that frequently provides the nosy among us behind-the-scenes-y peeks into the movie industry, and how life is for stars on set, getting a glimpse behind the celluloid curtain was once something of a rarity.

Except at Universal Studios Hollywood, which was, and remains, at the forefront of showing fans how movie magic goes down (or up, in the case of the moment the "Jaws" shark pushes out of the water, much to the delight of tram guests, during the Studio Tour). 

And that magic will be much on display during the park's big 50th Anniversary year, a year which will see new attractions, fresh updates, and, yes, the continued approach of one Mr. Harry Potter.

Some of the reveals announced by Universal on Tuesday, Feb. 17? The 2015 opening of "Fast & Furious — Supercharged," which is described as "a pulse-pounding, adrenaline-filled thrill ride," a ride that peels out as "the new grand finale to the world-famous Studio Tour."

The 3D-HD extravaganza occupies a 65,000-square-foot building on the back lot.

Not so faraway from the fastness is the town of "Springfield," as in the Springfield from "The Simpsons," so prepare to wander the candy-hued burg, an attraction that contains several of the businesses seen on the long-running animated hit. (You betcha there's a Krusty Burger.)

A Nighttime Studio Tour is also on the soon-to-be-revealed slate, but you won't simply be tramming it through shadows. How those shadows and starlight and the darkness are employed to capture after-sunset scenes will be one of the themes of the on-the-roll cinema class.

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That's pretty Universal Studios Hollywood, though. Fans have been peeking into soundstages and makeup rooms for just about a century, making it the first studio to connect with the public on a large-scale, "this is how it is done" platform. 

It's a platform that continues through the park's 50th Anniversary year with both cine-speedy treats, like "Fast & Furious," and Universal-style Movie 101 knowledge to lend structure to the splashy stuff.

And speaking of splashy stuff, "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" trucks along, or rather whizzes along, like a boy on a broomstick. You can see it rising up, up, up, near the heart of the theme park, as it is busily readied for its 2016 hello. (Nope, the busy crews can't just wave wands in this case, to make it all happen at once.)

The theme park, which is nestled soundstage-by-attraction with Universal Studios, has the unique draw of being where films and TV is made, so it is nice to see it continuing to give lookie-loos a chance to see behind the screen. Wouldn't it be a bummer if a theme park was next to a movie studio and didn't do all of that cool stuff?

Thank goodness the park uses its studio-snug location so very well.

Comcast is the parent company of both NBCUniversal and NBC4.

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