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.
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.
|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.
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!
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 Studio 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 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.
Tips for visitors
- 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.
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