Universal studios – Hollywood’s backstage

When you have just two days to spend in Los Angeles, there’s a lot you’ll have to miss out on. I’m just so pleased that, that didn’t include Universal...
Universal Studios

When you have just two days to spend in Los Angeles, there’s a lot you’ll have to miss out on. I’m just so pleased that, that didn’t include Universal Studios.

When I let me rewind to the day we spent there, what I recall most of all is the 2-hour Studio Tour, that almost blew my mind. I loved how it all started at a slow pace with a drive around the studios where sitcoms are created on a day to day basis. If you have VIP passes, you’d be allowed to watch them shoot. However, if you don’t have one of those coveted passes, it’s fine because there’s still so much in store for you. If you haven’t really heard about or read about what happens in the Studio Tour, well and good. The surprises are all worth it. Just stop reading this and go plan your trip.

If you absolutely cannot make it, go ahead with this post and let me transport you to some Universal experience, which I admit, I will not be able to do full justice to.

Coming back to Universal’s Studio Tour, after we spent a few minutes driving around those recording studios that seemed like nothing more than big grey blocks, we saw a few famous houses that featured in movies and television shows before we entered into the city blocks with its high rises, shops, restaurants and even a hospital and a gas station. Realistically built, the attention to detail was so obvious. It could be seen in the backlanes of those skyscrapers and the artwork that defined the different styles of architecture that make up what is said to be the ‘largest set construction in studio history.’ Our guide for the day told us that these facades had been constructed exactly like certain real streets and that many New York and London-based stories were shot out of here. She went on to say that several movie makers’ outputs also did go into the making of these remarkable sets at Universal Studios.

Universal Studios

Later on we passed several of what they call ‘Picture Cars,’ some famous vehicles  that starred in many Hollywood flicks. There was also a surprise, that sprung out of those bushes behind the picture cars — some of those creatures like the ones you saw in Jurassic Park. Yes! Then came one of the first few secrets of Hollywood films. First, we made a little stop to watch some man-made rainfall. What happened next almost made my jaws drop. It was a surprise flash-flood. We then saw on the monitor in tour tram, a replay from a flood scene shot at the very spot.

Universal Studios
Man-made flash flood

We then moved on to a very Japanese set of Fast and Furious where we experienced an explosion and a car go up in the air and towards our tram. There was the fire, the heat and all. It took a moment for me to see that it was a car-lift like thing that raised the four wheeler and almost hurled it in our direction. There another secret was revealed.

There was also something out of Jaws — the mechanical shark that once terrified all who watched the movie. You get some action there too. Another point on the tour that exhibited Spielberg-brilliance was a plane crash from War of the Worlds.

Universal Studios

Another highlight on this tour at Universal Studios, was the King Kong leg of the tour. Here the tram goes right into a cave and once the gates close, you’re in a moving vehicle that’s struggling through a jungle road and out of thicket jump out dinosaurs and King Kong himself and then there’s a fierce fight. You experience what it would be like if a creature that huge were to jump on top of the vehicle. If you have small kids to whom you cannot explain the concept of what the studio calls ‘the world’s largest and most intense 3-D experience,’ you might want to hold their little hands and tell them it’s just a little game, like we did. A little later, we went into another cave, for some dark, horrifying MUMMY experience.

The studio tour also had stops at the very pretty Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, Bates Motel and Old Mexico among others. Another thing that cannot go without mention is the studio which recreated a scene from Bones. Yet another intense adventure that was. Here we experienced a man-made earthquake. Tremours are not strange to us Californians but this was the simulation of a quake of  8.1 in magnitude. The roof comes down, there’s an electrical fire, a truck (a tanker to be precise) comes hurtling forward and a train comes and rams against it. Phew!

Universal Studios
Bates Motel

After the overwhelming studio tour, we thought we owed it to our toddler to watch the Animal Character show which literally showed off some superbly trained birds and animals. The cats and dogs and rodents were very entertaining, not to mention the conductor who I thought scored big for the way he connected with the audience and made sure that people of all ages were drawn into the show. Don’t let the name of the show deceive you and make you think that this one is for kids alone.

Universal Studios seemed to me, like a whole world by itself. It is true that it screams Hollywood but it’s got something for everybody. For little ones, there are places to play and things to do. For them there’s nothing more exciting than getting to see some of their favourite cartoon characters come to life. My little one absolutely loved his interaction with Spongebob, the great big hug from Curious George and even shaking hands with Dora.

For the foodies, the stalls at here have everything from hot dogs to Mexican food and from Ice cream to pop corn and Italian food. Believe me when I say there’s something for everybody. There are a whole lot of whole lot of photo opportunities, too. Don’t forget to step into Water World and watch some pirates, some extreme stunts on water along with lots of gunfire, firework and whole lot of drama. You might even witness a plane crash onto the watery stage. Let your fascination get the better of you at Univeral Studios.

Universal Studios

Tips for visitors to Universal Studios

– If you have small children in your group, you might want to start with the Shrek 4D show. It makes it easier for them to take in the extreme experiences that follow.
-If it is a holiday weekend and you are accompanied by little kids or older people, I suggest you take the Front of Line pass, which might be more expensive than the regular tickets but will let you bypass the serpentine queues at some rides.

Also from Destination Los AngelesHip and Happening Hollywood Boulevard

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15 Comments on this post.
  • Dee……..
    31 January 2012 at 9:00 am

    Thanks for sharing the snaps 🙂 have to visit it 🙂
    now or sometime later i will 🙂

    • dNambiar
      11 November 2014 at 2:38 pm

      Deepak, you should. 🙂

  • magiceye
    1 February 2012 at 1:55 am

    Thank you for the fascinating virtual tour!!

  • dNambiar
    1 February 2012 at 11:50 pm

    It's my pleasure, guys. 🙂

  • Rajesh
    2 February 2012 at 4:21 am

    Wonderful. This reminds me of my trip to the place.

    • dNambiar
      2 February 2012 at 7:53 pm

      I'm sure you had fun. Did you get to see all of it?

  • Deepu George V
    2 February 2012 at 7:29 am

    Really great narration, I missed this place on my last visit since my friends had already visited the Universal Studio and lacked interest for another visit.

    • dNambiar
      2 February 2012 at 7:55 pm

      Oh, that's so sad. You should do it the next time you come this side.

  • Harsha Chittar
    9 February 2012 at 7:31 am

    Sounds like so much fun, after reading your post I just hope I can go to Universal Studios one day, but thanks to you for taking us on the tour with your post:)

    • dNambiar
      9 February 2012 at 11:16 pm

      It is fun, Harsha. You must.
      You're welcome. Writing it was a pleasure.
      Hey and welcome to Tipsy from the Trip 🙂

  • yearful-of-sundays.com
    11 November 2014 at 7:18 am

    Well narrated! 🙂 I've heard so many fun stories and seen so many awesome pics (including here) of Universal Studios that I can't not visit it whenever I go to LA next! I was in LA for only a few days early this summer, and there were too many other things on the agenda. :-/

    • dNambiar
      11 November 2014 at 2:36 pm

      There's so much to do there. It's a lot of fun. More than that, some things are so, so fascinating — Ah! the minds behind these.

      Go have fun.
      Visit again, ok. 🙂

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