Flash Flood on the Studio Tour
The Early Park
Even though Universal's backlot tour didn't officially open until 1964, fact is that the studio allowed the public to tour the studio long before that. Curious visitors could peer at movie sets and even walk through the dressing rooms of the stars. As the years went on, the tours began to get a bit more elaborate. Instead of a guided walking tour, for example, a pink-and-white striped tram was added - dubbed the GlamTram, complete with a witty guide who could expound a mountain of knowledge about the studio and its most famous stars, adding comical anecdotes along the way. (Incidentally, the modern-day tram tour was added as a way to sell more lunches at the studio commissary!)
Universal's backlot tour remained pretty much the same until 1977, with all attractions being reached via the tram ride. In the late 1970s, however, the studio began to add separate shows and attractions, like Screen Test Comedy Theater and the Animal Actors stage, bringing visitors to the studio's Upper Lot, where more attractions would be added to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park through the decades.
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, on the Studio Tour
The Studio Tour Evolves
Since Universal first opened its doors to the public, an estimated 100 million visitors have gotten a glimpse at the magic of movie making. The first tours took about 90 minutes and included visits to sets, dressing rooms, and a make-up show. Soon, the Prop Plaza was added, which would be the site of the first Western Stunt Show. Endeavoring to keep up with parks like nearby Disneyland, the creative minds at Universal added fun attractions like The Parting of the Red Sea (from The Ten Commandments), The Flash Flood, and the Collapsing Bridge. Jaws, King Kong, and Earthquake soon followed.
These days, the tour takes just under and hour to complete and guests explore about 415 acres of prime Universal property, where they can see sets from some of the world's most successful movies and television shows. Many of the old attractions still elicit screams of excitement from guests - including all of the above. Others have come and gone, like The Ice Tunnel and The Avalanche. Recently, the trams have added new video screens that allow riders to view scenes from movies filmed at locations they will see on the tour.
As an added bonus, a ride on the GlamTram ride may place you face-to-face with someone famous! The trams travel different routes each day, according to what is currently filming, and those actors who are particularly friendly with the public have been known to come out and chat, sign autographs, and pose for pictures.
Even if you're not star-struck, however, the studio tour should be on everyone's to-do list while visiting Universal. Unfortunately, many guests overlook it in favor of a day spent doing the thrill rides in the other portion of the studio lot. Too bad! This is Hollywood at its best and viewing the magic behind the movies provides an unforgettable experience!
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