A little known fact about me is that I am a bit of a movie junkie. I absolutely love going to the movies and I basically live for Oscar season. For this reason, I was SO excited to go to LA and have the opportunity to tour the studios where magic happens. I had the opportunity to go on three different studio tours: Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, and Warner Brothers. I enjoyed each of these tours. Here’s the details and differences of each one:
Sony Pictures: This tour definitely takes a more historic approach, which I was very excited about as entertainment history is what I want to specialize in. The tour begins with a video and a stop to the Sony Pictures museum, which includes the Seinfeld set and various costumes and props used in movies like the Spiderman films. We learned about how this lot came to be Sony Pictures and the history of both MGM and Columbia Pictures. The lot is formerly MGM’s but unfortunately, the studio sold off many of its sets, props, and costumes when it hit financial difficulties and it is unknown where these items ended up. The lot does still have many small details that honor this past– the office buildings, which were once apartments for the stars, are named after the stars who lived in the buildings (my favorite to see was the Hepburn Building, named for Katharine Hepburn, who I am named after– my mom is also a huge movie fan). The next stop on the tour was the Jeopardy! Set. The set was much larger than I had ever imagined and I was able to take a picture at one of the previous podiums. Next, we visited the set of The Goldbergs. Seeing this set was so cool, as it is such a unique set and show, with much of the decorations being from the creator’s actual home. Finally, we walked the backlot and saw many of the cars used in films, including the cars from Ghostbusters. This studio felt the most like a working studio and if you’re lucky, you might even get a celebrity sighting! I would definitely recommend this tour, especially if you are interested in entertainment history and the old golden age of Hollywood.
NOTE: This is a 2-hour walking tour.
Universal Studios: This tour is located within the theme park Universal Studios: Hollywood and feels much more like a ride than the other two tours. You board a very large tour bus and begin to go through the backlot of Universal. We visited the streets of New York first before going into our first piece of immersion: a 3D King Kong experience meant to demonstrate the power of special effects. I was a bit disappointed here to find that this experience was simply a snippet of the King Kong ride located in Universal Studios in Orlando. We drove by some of the famous cars used in film, before going to Little Mexico where movie rain and flooding was demonstrated to us. We saw a set for Jaws, which was not used for Jaws but rather Murder, She Wrote, before seeing a backlot for a scene of Jurassic Park. We drove down the road where town scenes are filmed and continued to Whoville. The buildings in Whoville are actually made of styrofoam to get the weird shapes! We also saw the sets for Bates Motel and the destroyed plane in War of the Worlds. The ride ends with taking you through another 3D experience: the Fast and Furious ride (it is a replica of the Orlando version). This was the shortest tour we took, being an hour long, and was the most ride-like.
Warner Brothers: This tour is part walking and part driving cart, a combination of the other two we took. We started by seeing a cabin that has been used in True Blood and Hart of Dixie. I am a big Hart of Dixie fan and was amazed at how they transformed this cabin into the beloved Rammer Jammer. Next, we visited the part I was most excited for: Midwest. Midwest is used to represent any town and can famously be recognized as Bluebell in Hart of Dixie, Rosewood in Pretty Little Liars, and my personal favorite, Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls. We got to get off and walk around here, going into the inside of Lorelai Gilmore’s house (spoiler: it’s also Sookie’s house) and seeing how they used these houses to film. We also saw the house used for Fuller House here and the streets used for the Jersey scenes of Jersey Boys. Next, we visited the streets of New York followed by a prop museum. This museum held props from Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harry Potter, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. We also got to see the Batmobiles throughout the years. The guided tour ends and you enter an interactive area where you get to learn about filmmaking. Here, you can see costumes from the new A Star is Born, take a picture on the set of Friends, and hold an Oscar. This was the longest tour we took, clocking in at 3 hours. I really enjoyed this tour and would definitely recommend it, especially for younger girls, as many of the sets you see are aimed at this age group.
Overall, I enjoyed each of the tours. I would recommend trying to check them all out but if you are pressed for time, I would definitely do either the Sony or Warner Brothers tour. Both of these give great insight into the behind-the-scenes magic that occurs on the movies.