10 fun film facts we learned while on the world-famous Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood

OCRegister 4 months ago

The Studio Tour has always been the heart of Universal Studios Hollywood. The tram experience, which has been active now for 54 years and lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to just over an hour, transports theme park guests down to the famous Universal back lot and allows them to experience real, working movie and television sound stages and film sets.

Depending on the day, or sometimes the hour, the back lot filming schedule and the tram tour guide, each trip on the Studio Tour can be its own unique experience and really an education in the entertainment industry. Tour guides are trained to be loaded up with facts about the history of the back lot and Universal films as well as former and current NBC television series. They also have access to more than 200 short clips that they can call up with a push of the button to play on the screens located throughout the tram to share some interesting knowledge with their passengers.

Here are 10 fun facts we learned on our latest tour with veteran guide Will Simons on the world-famous Studio Tour.

1. At the age of 27, director Steven Spielberg used Sound Stage 21, the oldest stage on the Universal Backlot, to test out the three mechanical sharks for what would become the first summer blockbuster, 1975’s “Jaws.” The mechanical sharks, named Bruce, tested well in fresh water, but once they got into the salt water in the Atlantic Ocean, the salt ruined the mechanics and all the sharks stopped working on the first day of shooting. Spielberg is also one of the most cited celebrities walking the back lot during the Studio Tour.

2. For his 2005 “War of the Worlds” remake, Spielberg purchased an actual Boeing 747 airplane from an airplane junk yard in the Mojave Desert for an estimated $50,000 in one piece. They spent months chopping it up and situating it on the back lot so that the films’ stars Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning could run around it on screen for a total of about four minutes and 30 seconds.

3. As the tram rolls through Picture Car Row, an area dedicated to famous vehicles used in television and film, one of the stand-outs is the Ferrari 308 GTS from the ’80s TV series, “Magnum, P.I.” However, the car is a stunt car that a driver rode around Hawaii with for actor Tom Selleck and it’s actually a VW Beetle with a Ferrari shell on top. The tram itself has been used as a picture car and was featured in numerous films and TV shows, including the very first episode of the 1980s series, “The A-Team.”

An actor portraying Norman Bates from the movie “Psycho” carries a body from a motel to a car during the studio tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

An actor portraying Norman Bates from the movie “Psycho” carries a body from a motel to a car during the studio tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

An actor portraying Norman Bates from the movie “Psycho” chases the studio tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

An actor portraying Norman Bates from the movie “Psycho” chases the studio tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The studio tram tour passes an old tram as it enters King Kong 360 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The studio tram tour passes an old tram as it enters King Kong 360 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The studio tram enters King Kong 360 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The studio tram enters King Kong 360 3-D at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Wreckage of the Boeing 747 from Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” sits in the Backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood during the studio tram tour in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Wreckage of the Boeing 747 from Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” sits in the Backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood during the studio tram tour in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The studio tram tour visits Bruce the shark from “Jaws” at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram tour visits Bruce the shark from “Jaws” at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram tour travels through the set for “The Good Place” television show at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram tour travels through the set for “The Good Place” television show at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram tour passes movie set cars at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram tour passes movie set cars at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram enters Fast & Furious – Supercharged! at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram enters Fast & Furious – Supercharged! at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram starts it journey during the backlot tour at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The studio tram starts it journey during the backlot tour at Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A tram drives down a section of the New York Backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood. (Los Angeles Daily News file photo)

    A tram drives down a section of the New York Backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood. (Los Angeles Daily News file photo)

    Hop on The World-Famous Studio Tour for a relaxing and shaded ride through Universal Studios Hollywood’s famed backlot and as the tram takes guests through the King Kong 360 3-D, Fast & Furious – Supercharged! attractions and more. (Photo by Dan Krauss, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Hop on The World-Famous Studio Tour for a relaxing and shaded ride through Universal Studios Hollywood’s famed backlot and as the tram takes guests through the King Kong 360 3-D, Fast & Furious – Supercharged! attractions and more. (Photo by Dan Krauss, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Wreckage of the Boeing 747 from Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” sits in the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood during the studio tram tour in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Wreckage of the Boeing 747 from Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” sits in the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood during the studio tram tour in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The cabin from “The Great Outdoors” with John Candy and Dan Ackroyd sits in the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood during the studio tram tour in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The cabin from “The Great Outdoors” with John Candy and Dan Ackroyd sits in the backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood during the studio tram tour in Universal City on Monday, Feb 12, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    4. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 psychological thriller “Psycho” is still very much celebrated on the Studio Tour. Guests get to take a look at the infamous Bates Motel set as well as the original “Psycho” house. Hitchcock had a rough time getting a lot of things by the censors back then, however, “Psycho” is the first American film to feature a flushing toilet. The tram also cruises by Hitchcock’s personal office, Bungalow 5195, which still features the famous director’s silhouette.

    5. Sound Stage 12 on the Backlot was built in 1928 and has been used for a slew of big-name feature films and television shows. It’s currently where NBC’s hit singing competition show “The Voice” is filmed, but has been used for everything from scenes in the 1931 monster films “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” to parts of Stanley Kurbick’s 1960 film “Spartacus” and Tony Montana’s mansion in the 1983 crime drama, “Scarface.” It was also the space used for the 2008 film “Tropic Thunder” and the 2009 Will Ferrell comedy, “Land of the Lost.”

    6. The house set used for the ’60s television series “The Munsters,” famously located at 1313 Mocking Bird Lane, is still standing and still a part of the Studio Tour. The house has been used to film movies such as the 1989 comedy “The ‘Burbs” starring Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher; episodes of the hit crime drama “Murder, She Wrote,” starring Angela Landsbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher; and the house was given a new address, 4351 Wisteria Lane, for the ’00s ABC series “Desperate Housewives.”

    7. The Chicken Ranch House on Colonial Street is another tour highlight. The set was used for the 1982 Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds comedy/musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” It also served as the Firefly household in horror rocker turned director Rob Zombie’s first feature film, “House of 1000 Corpses,” which was released in 2003 and a house used for the Jennifer Love Hewitt-led CBS drama, “Ghost Whisperer.”

    8. For the 1997 film, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” starring Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn, the green mobile lab that was being dangled off of a cliff in Costa Rica by a hangry T-Rex, was, in reality, just being hung off one of the parking structures at Universal Studios Hollywood.

    9. The Old Mexico area of the back lot has been used for feature films like “Three Amigos” and “Nacho Libre” and TV series such as “The O.C.,” “Monk” and “Without a Trace,” but it has also been used by famous recording artists to film their music videos including Lady Gaga’s “Judas,” Janet Jackson’s “Escapade” and Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos.”

    10. Back in the days of filming a ton of Westerns in the Six Points Texas area of the back lot, the buildings were created with smaller-than-usual windows and doorways simply to make the typically shorter cowboy actors look bigger and more intimidating than they actually were in real life. It’s all part of the illusion.

    Universal Studios Hollywood

    Where: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

    When: Open daily; Hours vary by date

    Tickets: $105-$116 single-day general admission; $179-$259 Universal Express; $329 and up for the VIP Experience; $129-$159 two-day general admission at 866-258-6546 or UniversalStudiosHollywood.com

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