Thursday, July 3, 2014

Universal Studios Hollywood

Writing this on Thursday evening, as the last couple of days have been pretty busy.  Here on the shore of Lake Mead, outside Las Vegas, en route to St. George, Utah, where we'll visit with our friends Sue Ann and Jim for a few days before heading to Wyoming.  Anyway, driving through the desert in the middle of the day in early July is quite something--according to the RV dash info center the outside temps hovered between 113 and 116 for much of the day.  We've been here at the campsite for a over two hours now and the A/C's have been going full tilt and the inside temp is just now getting down to almost 80--much too hot!!  But the scenery across the lake is just beautiful!  So happy we're in a place with electricity, so the A/C can continue to cool things off--will try to get caught up over the next day or so, but back to the last few days in California--Tuesday we spent the day at Universal Studios Hollywood.  We had gone there once when our kids were little, and man has it changed since then!  My recollection of it was that there was just a studio tour and maybe an attraction or two, but nothing like the full blown amusement park it is today.  I loved the studio tram tour, getting to see the sets where so many movies and TV shows are made, and learning all about how they do things to make the scenes so realistic.  I remember some of this same feeling when we took the tour so many years ago, but with the advances in technology it's amazing what they can do.  While the previous day at Disney California Adventure had shown us some of this, particularly with the animation things, but, not surprisingly, the Universal tour showed much, much more.  They had a number of simulation rides, where you really don't move, except for the small, sometimes jerky movements of the seats, which, when combined with the 3D or 4D images on screen coming right at you give the sensation of speed and thrilling rides.  John loved these too--Shrek 4D, where you not only wear the 3D glasses, but you get spritzed with water, air, smells and other sensations that make you really believe the things on the screen are leaving the screen and coming for you right in your seat-especially the tickling sensation that comes around your ankles when a bunch of spiders seemingly are loose in the seats!!

Todd and Karen are longtime fans of all things Simpson, so the Simpson Ride was a big hit--we did it twice!  But just as we were coming out of the ride, the Simpson family characters were coming onto the set where you can have your pictures made with them, so I took a bunch of photos of John and Todd with them, on my camera and Todd's phone.  The characters were also pretty enamored with Todd, as he was wearing shorts, so all of his various Simpson tattoos on his legs were visible, and they were going nuts!  Trisha was disappointed, though, that, for some reason little Maggie and her pacifier were not there with the rest of the family.  She has always thought little Maggie to be quite cute--nicknaming her Little Suck Suck!  Then John wanted to play the games of chance in the carnival-style arcade.  John discovered that he was pretty darn good at shooting baskets--with much more success than with the knock-down-the-cans with the ball or other such games.  Anyway, he won  three stuffed Simpson characters and was quite happy!

One of the biggest treats was the Despicable Me, the Minion Ride, their newest attraction.  Not surprisingly the lines were longest for this ride, but we got an unexpected treat for this one.  We had taken Sophie with us, since Universal is about an hour's drive across LA from Anaheim, so we could not leave her in the RV to come home for lunch like we did when at Disneyland.  They have a kennel service at Universal, so we took her there.  The folks there are nice, but they don't do too much, just check on the pets to make sure they have water in their bowls.  So Trisha and I went back to the kennel right after lunch to take Sophie out for a walk--the woman who met us to unlock the kennel gate and let us get the dog was somewhat unsure of where the dog walking place outside the gates of the park was located, and we had to wait as she walked us around to several other folks, asking for directions.  Well, when we brought Sophie back in to the kennel so we could go back to meet Todd and John for some more rides, the staffer said she felt so bad about this so she gave us a "Go to the front of the line" pass for one ride.  So we got to use that for the Despicable Me ride, saving us about 45 minutes of standing in line in the hot afternoon sun--woohoo!!

At the end of the day we picked up Sophie and strolled down the promenade leading from the theme park to the parking lot--a place packed with shops and eateries.  We had dinner at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company--Todd and John had never eaten at one of these before, but Trisha and I have enjoyed several locations on our trip last year.  Although unlike the one in Monterey where we had such fun with the waiter who was trying to stump me with trivia questions about Forrest Gump, the staff here didn't do the trivia thing.  But they had outside tables so we could have Sophie with us and she was of course the big hit with all the wait staff, who kept stopping by for some puppy love time!  And, even though we didn't think we would make it at first, we got back to the RV park just as the Disneyland fireworks show was starting, so we got to see most of the show before bedtime!

Heading down the promenade to the Universal Studios theme park

 My all time favorite character--Curios George!!

 Waiting for the Shrek 4D Experience

 Videos to keep you entertained as you wound your way through the lines to the Simpsons Ride

 John and Todd at the arcade games
 Homer Simpson saying he couldn't believe Todd had so many Simpson tattoos!

 Couldn't resist this picture!

 On our way through the line for the studio tram tour--guess who we ran into!!  Marilyn was there posing for pictures with folks--she spotted me and called out "Hey Santa baby, remember I've been a very good girl!"  What a hoot!  John was saying "What was that, Pop?"
 A lot of these photos are probably meaningless to anyone who wasn't on the tour to hear the guide talk about which movies and TV shows are produced in each of these various sound stages, but being on the tour I was just fascinated!
 Looking through the open door into one of the sound stages, this is the back of some TV show set that most everyone knows, but now I can't remember which one!

 Facades of buildings and street scenes; they have generic outdoor sets for different types of shoots, and they  can customize these into just about anything with some different additions to the facades, like Little Europe, Little Mexico, Old West, etc.  Here there are some that are either set up for a large US city or London

 Couple of the rather fancy RV's/trailers for the actors

 some topiaries
 Heading into the 3D King Kong, Skull Island part of the tram tour, where it's a pretty realistic experience of dinosaurs overtaking the tram, ripping one car off, and then King Kong coming in to save the day

 Several "picture cares," cars that have been used in TV shows or movies, Kit, from Knight Rider, a Back to the Future deLorean

 The Flintstonemobile

 A gargoyle squirting water on us as we passed through a jungle
 Old Mexican village

 A flood coming down the road!

 Stock western town set
 This is a big open topped water tank where they film action scenes set in the ocean, a river, a lake, etc.
 Miniature ship from a movie
 We got to watch a crew filming a scene for a daytime TV show, in the backyard of a house that, unlike most of them, is a complete house, not just a facade, where they can shoot inside scenes as well as outside

 Snow on the roof of the house, for when they do winter scenes
 A subway crash simulation used for the Earthquake movies

 Amity Beach, where Jaws is about to devour a diver

 The gas dock blowing up at Amity Beach
 Houses on Wisteria Lane, from Desperate Housewives


 The Bates Motel, from Psycho

 Norman, bringing the body to the trunk of his car, then pulling out his knife and threatening us on the tram!

 The 747 crash scene from Spielberg's movie; apparently they bought an old retired 747, took it to the desert, blew it up, trashed it, then hauled it to the Universal back lot for the filming

 Couple of actors hanging out of second floor windows, interacting with people as you walked by--they got into quite a little dialogue with Santa and Mrs. Claus
 Taking Sophie for her midday walk
 John in his 3D glasses, preparing for the Transformers simulator ride
 John being presented with the basketball he won!
 Making a phone call on a London street, holding his Minion stuffed character he won at the arcade

 Very interesting special effects show, explaining how special effects have evolved from the mechanical to the digital--most of my photos were just not good, sitting too far away and too much movement to get a not blurry shot.  This is a man in a suit with these little glowing dots all over him, which they use as the basis for adding in computer assisted movements or costumes, against the green screen

 From the Animal Actors show--some birds and dogs, nearly all of whom have been rescue animals whom they then trained for use in movies.  It was quite interesting to learn how the animals can be trained to do what the script calls for, with the trainer off screen, giving just hand signals to have the animals respond appropriately for the script

 Looking across the way to the Warner Brothers studio lots

 John, with his special glass that lights up, with his frozen drink at Bubba Gump's
 A great day was had by all!

1 comment:

  1. So much fun! I have been there both in FL and LA and enjoyed more than Disney!