Universal is just as well known for its rides and theme park lands based on entertainment powerhouses like Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as for its blockbuster movies because of one iconic attraction — the world-famous Studio Tour.
Since opening the attraction in 1964, Universal Studios Hollywood has taken more than 200 million guests behind the scenes of real, working TV and film productions for an inside look at how movie magic is made.
The popular production spot, then Universal City Studios, invited guests to tour its film set on board “GlamorTrams.” In its inaugural year, the trams took guests on two-hour trips through the studio’s various film sets (the Bates’ house from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 movie “Psycho” was a popular stop). The tour also revealed moviemaking secrets with a special effects makeup demonstration, costume display and stunt performance. Universal continuously added staged events along the tour as it released new films and developed new special effects.
By the late 1970s, guests could experience the parting of the Red Sea from “The Ten Commandments,” an encounter with a runaway train and an attack from none other than Bruce, the shark from “Jaws.”
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UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
As the tour grew in size and popularity, Universal Studios Hollywood added new attractions, staking its claim as a full-fledged theme park. After debuting shows like the Star Trek Adventure and meet-and-greets with He-Man and the Transformers in the 1980s, Universal saw a major expansion in the early 1990s.
Universal Studios Hollywood opened its first traditional theme park ride in 1991, E.T. Adventure, and added more attractions like Jurassic Park — The Ride, play areas for kids and stunt shows based on “Waterworld” and “The Terminator” through the next decade.
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This period included the opening of Universal Studios Florida (now Universal Orlando Resort) in 1990. The Florida park drew inspiration from many staged effects in Hollywood’s Studio Tour, including stand-alone rides based on films like “Jaws” and “King Kong.”
Sixty years later, the Studio Tour takes guests on an hour-long tour through famous sets from movies like “Back to the Future” and “War of the Worlds” and alongside other iconic special effects demonstrations that have been thrilling guests for decades — including that freakishly realistic run-in with Bruce the shark. There are also moments inspired by newer films, like a high-speed car chase with the stars of “The Fast and the Furious” and, more recently, a visit to the Jupiter’s Claim set from “Nope.” Some days, you may even catch a glimpse of a live production.
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The Studio Tour has changed a great deal during its 60-year run, but at its core, it is still a unique and pioneering look into how movies are made. Learning some of these insider secrets, like how Universal can create an earthquake over and over again every day or make just a few buildings look like a New York City street, doesn’t make watching movies any less magical. In fact, it makes them more so when you can see the creativity and technical know-how that goes into building the sets and creating the effects you see on the screen.
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As the Studio Tour celebrates 60 years, this fan-favorite attraction that is practically synonymous with the park itself will host special entertainment during the spring and summer months to commemorate this milestone anniversary. Be on the lookout in the coming months for how you can join in the celebration. Universal is often touted as the theme park where you can “ride the movies,” and no ride embodies that sentiment more than Universal Studios Hollywood’s Studio Tour.