Saturday, August 18, 2012

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

So, yesterday morning, I thought it would be a good day to explore the film-making side of Los Angeles and take a trip to Hollywood and Burbank, where the films and TV shows are made (it took me a while to remember this, but the Truman Show's star's surname is....). I was contemplating taking a bus tour which left from the Youth Hostel, but it was hard to get excited about seeing movie star homes and other Hollywood venues I had barely heard of. What I really wanted to see, was the inside of a studio, and see how films are actually made.

So, at 10:30, I booked myself on the 13:00 tour of Warner Brothers studios. Called the 'VIP' tour (because that's who it was originally for), it is widely regarded as being a closely kept secret and is much more intimate than the other studios - for example, Universal Studios which is on trams and is part of the theme park. I thought that 2.5 hours would be easily enough time to get to the other end of the city (building on my experience of yesterday - see, I am learning!) so I set off on the buses... However, the one I wanted to take only came hourly, and to cut a long story short, despite running a good couple of miles in 37 degree heat, I missed the tour!

Upon arrival, however, it seemed simple enough for me to be transferred to a later tour, so all was not lost! We were shown a film of WB's foundation and accomplishments (I had no idea how many awesome films the studios produced, including The Matrix, Batman, Spiderman, Friends, Harry Potter of course) and then went off around the studio in 14-seat golf buggies (!). What I really liked about the whole tour was the easy interaction with the guide (who I sat next to up front) and the fact that nothing had really been laid on for us. We were wandering around genuine sets being set up for filming that afternoon, avoiding the guys laying cables and moving props. I asked way more questions than anyone else! It was a feast for the eyes and here were some highlights:

First glimpse of the famous water tower. If anyone disagreed with Jack Warner, he would take them here and ask them who's name was on the tower.... then tell them they're fired! Also this is where the Animaniacs live of course.
On the left... famous scene of dinosaur chasing. Behind is a small pond which has been, among other things, the Pacific Ocean, a BMX track, a drainage ditch, anything you want it to be...
On the right... a typical suburban street where various TV shows are filmed, including certain segments of The Muppets. Each house is actually an office where the script writers and production team do their work! The cars you see in most of these sorts of scenes in the movies simply belong to WB employees or extras.

The car room was a definite highlight for me! In here was the Shaguar, the car from Dukes of Hazard, Trinity's bike and the car in which Neo gets the bug removed from his bellybutton from the Matrix, the Batmobile, the Mystery Machine, Arthur Weasley's car, the scary bikes from AI, lots of things to recognise!!

Some TV show set.

Does anyone recognise these scenes? The one on the left is just the studios, but I recognise from the movie Bolt about the actor dog. Here's the water tower again and our massive golf buggies. Electric, of course - quietness around the sets is vital and even the studio fire brigade cannot sound sirens until outside the lot!

Just a New York residential back street. But does it look familiar? On the right, next to the steps is where Spiderman kisses Mary-Jane while hanging upside down. Sure, it was a romantic moment in the movie, but not quite so romantic when Spidey hung upside down for 8 hours solid in the pouring 'rain' (actually 5x bigger than normal raindrops), with nostils completely sealed with wax to prevent him drowning...

There were loads more things I saw in the tour that haven't made it into the blog. But suffice to say it was a great day out, much more interesting (and cheaper) than the bus tour, it was clearly time well invested learning the public transport system!!

Then I had to wait 40 minutes to get back to Hollywood, on the irregularbus, where co-incidentally I met a girl who was on the same tour as me at the studios (though a different golf buggy). Turns out she's an aviation enthusiast travelling alone from Australia, in the US studying to teach maths, but unfortunately wasn't interested in going for a bite to eat!!! Never mind...
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