Travel@HamHamFarm - The World, Here We Come!
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USA
(West Coast)
(27 Jul 2012 - 19 Aug 2012)

Day 20

(Part 1/2)

Los Angeles (15 Aug 2012)

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Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Good Morning LA! We woke up really early today as we’re visiting the renowned Universal Studios Hollywood!

Having breakfast at Starbucks near Ralph at 5AM… I was barely able to make my eyes wide opened… Why are we so early this morning? Becos we are heading to Universal Studios Hollywood and would be pampering ourselves to the exclusive VIP experience (which cost US$299 per person). Being typical kiasu Singaporeans (plus the fact that this VIP experience is really pricey), we decided to make our money worth by taking the first VIP slot scheduled at 7.30AM. In return, we would be able to maximise our time at Universal Studios Hollywood till the park closes (at 7PM). For those interested, children must be at least 5 years old to experience the VIP treatment.

On our way to Universal Studios Hollywood now, which is just 3 stops away from our hotel located near Hollywood/Western station.

Universal Studio Hollywood is easily accessible via public transport. Take the metro to Universal City Station (on the red line) and cross the road. Free shuttle buses take you straight to the theme park.

The Universal City shuttle bus departs every 15 mins and operates from 7AM – 9PM on Mon-Fri, 7.30AM – 12AM on Sat-Sun. If you choose to walk to the theme park  it would take you about 10 mins on an uphill slope. So if you are not prepared to walk, wait for the shuttle bus.

Here comes the Universal City shuttle bus.

After checking in, we were taken to a special guest lounge and delicious breakfast spread awaits us….There’s coffee, tea, orange juice, fresh fruit salad and pastries while waiting for all VIP guests in the group to arrive. The group size is also kept relatively small (Less than 15 person) . Aiyo, we shouldn’t have taken the Starbucks breakfast :P I’m too full to have anything now :(

VIP Studio Tour

After breakfast, we were then taken on an exclusive tour of the studios, onto real sets and backlot. We’re touring Universal Studio Hollywood in this special trolley, where one can disembark to explore areas not open to the general public. We were taken behind the scenes into prop departments and other areas that aren’t included in the basic tour (FYI, the basic studio tour is a mere 45 mins tram tour and guests have to watch things from afar on the tram). Whereas we spent at least 2 hours in this exclusive tour.

Each walking tour would be unique because production schedules (see above) are always changing.

We visited one of the active set (Stage 44 – The interior of Zeek and Camile’s house from the show) where TV series Parenthood Season 3 (an American comedy-drama television series) was filmed.

This is one of the actual studios used for Parenthood and this huge door is known as the “Elephant Door” which is one of the distinctive aspects of a real sound stage. We understand from our tour guide (Tony) that such doors must be large enough to allow really massive items to pass through (hence the naming).

Mr Security Guard went beyond his usual work scope and explained to us that even the trees are changed as the seasons (in the drama) changes. We’re really impressed by his professionalism :)

Our next stop was a walk-through of some of the workshops responsible for set construction and prop design. It’s equivalent to seeing the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a movie production.

 

 

 

All types of walls are available here. You name it, they have it.

Fooling around with the props…. Look how strong I am
[P/S : I'm lifting a rubber-molded anvil :P ]

Backlot containing permanent exterior buildings for outdoor scenes for ease of filming. Imagine blocking off an entire street (and pissing off the residents and the traffic users) and applying for various permits for each filming. Unlike the TV/movies production from Asia and Europe regions with limited land and spaces to be used in the studios, most of the TV series and movies from the U.S. are filmed with the setup props in their studios or production houses. To understand and experience in the studio sets, you should take this opportunity to visit any of these studio tours at Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Paramount or Sony Pictures in Los Angeles, California (We visited Paramount Studios on Day 21 – So stay tuned for the updates).

The other way would be to use CG and green screen (See above video). By using virtual locations, there are more flexibility for the shooting schedule.

Tony explained that for such buildings, there are usually 2 doors, one for the short actor and the other for the tall actress (so that the actor doesn’t look that short on the camera).
[P/S : I thought of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman at that very moment!]

Tips : If you see this building (above) in the regular tram tour, here’s a secret. There’s clean restrooms inside :)

Props from Back to the Future and Fast & Furious!

King Kong 360 3-D

King Kong 360 3-D is an attraction which is included in the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Using two curved screens, this two and half minute film (based on 2005 award-winning blockbuster) will make your heart pound wildly. Be prepared to be caught in the middle of a terrifying struggle between a 35-foot T-Rex and King Kong. The effects are so realistic, totally beyond imaginations! King Kong rocks!

Next, we visited Universal Studios’ award-winning sound department and enormous prop warehouse. We wandered down various aisles to gawk at everything from E.T. to chairs to Statue of Liberty. This is a crazy warehouse with collections of almost anything that you can imagine (I suppose that they have a really powerful stock take system for accounting of their inventories). Understand that everything seen on the shelves is available for rental to any production. It’s a truly behind-the-scenes experience not to be missed!

Does the above looks familiar?

It’s actually the Wisteria Lane set from ABC’s hit series Desperate Housewives. Vance’s going crazy over here!

Actual Airline crash set from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, it’s unbelievably realistic!

Sets from How the Grinch Stole Christmas….

Universal Studios is usually famous for its thrilling rides and shows but in my opinion, the prime reason why you should visit Universal Studios Hollywood (and not the rest) is mainly because of this star attraction, Studio Tour, which is only available here and not in other Universal Studios. Having visited both Universal Studios Osaka (USJ) [See our visit to USJ here] and Universal Studios Singapore (USS), we’re thrilled and fascinated by Universal Studios Hollywood because of this unique Studio Tour. Since the bulk of the Universal Studio Hollywood is taken up with sound stages, studios, sets, props etc, there are fewer rides as compared to other Universal Studios. So if you have gone to Universal Studio Orlando first, you may be disappointed here (if your main focus is on rides). BTW, the studio tour ends earlier than other rides and shows thus, it’s recommended to get to the studio tour once you arrive here.



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Travel@HamHamFarm - The World, Here We Come!