Daily Archives: November 25, 2015

Backstage Universal

Yesterday was quite a day.  A good friend works at Universal and was able to get us backstage onto the lot to wander around.  So after a healthy breakfast we headed off to the studio!

We parked by some production trailers and you could already see the building facades.  Weaving between the buildings we came out right in the middle of town square.  This is where the finale of Back to the Future was filmed!

Could we get it up to 88?
Not much runway to get up to 88mph
Wheres Doc Brown?
Where’s Doc Brown?

We were able to crawl all through the buildings and see the lights, facades, and props.  That city hall building has two facades – you can’t see it but the Back to the Future town hall facade is behind the one in the photo.

We walked around street after street of fake buildings – New York on this side of the street, London across over there, modern architecture just around the corner.  Any type of city street you’re looking for is only a few steps away.  I couldn’t take any photos though, they were shooting an episode of Agent Carter.  And you don’t take photos of shoots in progress.  There’s a lot of security, all designed to keep you from walking through a shot or leaking information.  So the iPhones stayed in our pockets.  We wouldn’t want Hulk to smash them.

I cannot tell you anything about the Agent Carter filming. Hulk would smash me.
Hulk says I cannot tell you anything about the Agent Carter filming.

After that it was on to Amityville, where we wandered around the docks watching the trams full of people go by the mechanical shark.  Quite fun to see things from the other side.

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My friend taught me one thing that was hugely entertaining.  He pointed out that the passengers on the trams are constantly looking for ‘famous people’.  So every so often when a tram would go by he’d tell me to pull my baseball cap down and quickly look away from the tram.  Sure enough, people would grab their phones and start snapping photos.

Watching the trams go by...
Watching the trams go by…

Next up was the taping of a tv show, which I’ll get into in another post.  But after the taping we were given the keys to the kingdom – access to a golf cart!  We were able to tour all around the lot quickly and without climbing any of those pesky hills.  Want to stop and see the houses on Wisteria Lane?  Sure! Or maybe snap a photo on the porch of 1313 Mockingbird Lane?  Of course!  We’d watch the trams cruise by as we enjoyed the various neighborhoods around the lot.

1313 Mockingbird Lane
The Munster’s House (cleaned up)

I even got to ding-dong ditch Norman Bates’ house!

Ding Dong Ditch the Psycho House!
Psycho House!

We toured ‘Little Europe’ as well, the area where all of the classic Universal monster movies were shot.  The village sets here were used in Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc etc.  As well as Pirates of the Caribbean.

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European Village Set
Captain Jack hid behind a statue in that alcove to the left.
Captain Jack hid behind a statue in that alcove to the left of the barn door
Frankenstein's Arch
Frankenstein’s Arch

My friend was especially excited to see that the ‘Frankenstein Arch’ has been opened again.  It had been boarded over during the production of Pirates, but is now once again as it was during the filming of Frankenstein.  Neat!

Sadly the replica of the Hunchback fountain has been disassembled and is slowly withering away in the hot California sun.  We found pieces of it behind the village.

Hunchback of Notre Dame's fountain is fading away...
Hunchback of Notre Dame’s fountain is fading away…
Hey, there's one extra lion...
Hey, there’s one extra lion…

We finished off the day with a visit to the prop warehouse on the lot.  This is a huge building where everything and anything needed for a shoot can be found.  It’s a bit like that giant warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Aisles after aisle, floor after floor of props.  An aisle here of stuffed taxidermy animals.  An aisle of nothing but toasters.  Another aisle full of old computer equipment (which looks a lot like my garage).  You name it, they’ve got an aisle for that.  Production designers roam the halls marking pull tags for the various objects they need to dress their sets.  You’ll see them all over – we saw a number of tags for the TV shows Scorpion and CSI Cyber.

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We wandered the floors for about an hour, and asked the guys working there what some of their favorite things were.  Here are a few:

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I was told this organ was from The Munsters.  It’s definitely old!

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And this iron maiden is definitely from The Addams Family:

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This is from one of the old Mummy movies:

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I was in hog heaven!  I could have wandered around that shop all day long.  What a day!  I was just sad that it had to end.  Thanks to everyone that made it such a fantastic trip!

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