Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Running Wild at Universal Studios in Hollywood

Before we head back to Walt Disney World, we stay in California. Today we met up with Ricky, our best friend that lives in Hollywood. As a matter of fact, I am standing in his kitchen while taking the photo below. Nice view, huh?

Well on this particular Labor Day we thought we would convert Ricky to becoming an AP at Universal Studios. After all, it's just over that hill you see there. Although we are part of the "jaded" population that has seen it all in Southern California, we still have a good time. I did forget how cool the Hollywood & Vine Subway station is. A hidden gem that is themed to film.

We encountered a weird character on the subway. But, why wouldn't we? After all this is Hollywood! A man was yelling at strangers while on the train. It was very annoying, and I looked forward to getting off at our stop. Even though I was annoyed at the moment, the subway ride made me miss NYC. I would like to go back. But, as Sophia would say on the Golden Girls, "I digress!"

After we exited and rode the tram to City Walk, we finally made it to what they call "The Entertainment Capitol of L.A." Didn't it use to be called "...of the World"? Does anyone else remember that? 

With a "beep" of the turnstile and the scan of your right index finger we were in the park! We quickly passed the credit card booths and people shouting to take our photo. I'll never get that sales pitch. "Hi just get together for a real quick photo!" Why? I am holding my camera!

Ricky had not been on the new Transformers attraction so that was our main goal. And as we moved through the crowd we came across these two dames. They had some fun banter as they went back and forth in a thick Brooklyn accent. I'll give it to the park that some of the atmosphere talent is quite entertaining. The "woman" on the left was a bitter character indeed. Hilarious!

I wish I had taken photos of the Shrek/Curious George/Flinstones/Western area because the lay out for this is just atrocious! Nothing goes together and it's very crowded. In order to get to the Lower Lot one has to find the way around the hanging Jaws, and Doc Brown's Chicken location. Those two spots almost create a dead end. Anyway, I don't think the average "first-timer" would notice. That person would be too excited.

We then found a photo spot that had significant relevance to today's pop culture...NOT! Does anyone recall the film Apollo 13 or whether it was a film that changed the face of cinema? Maybe to some people it does, but to the three of us it didn't. People sure loved to take a photo with the cut-outs. Ricky and I couldn't resist being so giddy to follow suit!

You do get great views of the Lower Lot as you make your way down five escalators. Even as a ten year old, my first trip there, I thought this escalator situation was odd. But, the land here is limited and what else are they going to do about it? What do you think of it? Any thoughts? In the end, it is not very likely that this will ever change, but we can still discuss it.

As we turned the corner of the renovated facades we could see the show building just ahead of us. We were prepared to wait any amount of time to board. Luckily the wait was maybe 45 minutes long. 

Eric and Ricky had a Gay old time playing with all the gadgets in the queue. The queue is impressive. As you wait in the room with the All Spark being kept in its capsule, the relic is radiating power and a vibration.
Then of course there is the attraction! The crew yells your safety orders at you, the recruits. Once your vehicle parks the "loaders" order you to hustle into the row and get all the way across. "RUN!" they shouted. Pretty cool theming if you ask me and a great way to get those guests in as fast as possible. No wonder the wait time was so short. 

Some of you may have read details of the show scenes, but I say experience that for yourselves. The technology that is being used here is really tricking the brain to feel sensations that convincingly put you in the action of it all. There are a few flying or falling sequences that put this ride over the top! Eric really wants to figure out how this all happens. I am not sure if I want to know.

So of course we had an excellent time! The three of us are also fans of stop motion animation and checked out a small exhibit for the new film ParaNorman. A boy can talk to the dead and he has to save his town from zombies and a witch's curse! Looking at the puppets and sets really show that a lot of detail is shown to really make the story as believable as possible. I really zoomed in on those documents, but they were so small from a normal distance.

It came up in conversation that Ricky had never seen the King Kong experience on the Tram Tour. This took us by a little surprise so we headed back up the escalators to the Tram Loading area. To reach the Tram Tour from the Lower Lot you must ride the five escalators up the hill. Then ride another one down the opposite side. One could say that this park experience takes place on so many levels!

 While in the queue we pondered whether we would join one of the non-English tours. Spanish or perhaps Cantonese?? We stayed in our section of the queue and pressed on. The queue here is usually in constant flow as the trams takes many tourists at once. We actually ended up riding in a tram full of people that were "eating it all up"! The shouts and the interacting wasn't lost on these people. We have ridden those trams where the narrator is met with those awkward silences. But, Eric and I are also to blame as we join in on the silence.

There wasn't any filming today so the route was actually a little different than a few weeks ago. And, we were able to see Jaws with the audio running. Last time filming was close by so as Jaws popped out of the water, there was no noise and no award winning music either.

We did get to see the exterior of the Dolly Parton hit, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! I have yet to see that film but people tell me it's a "not to be missed". I better get on that!

Like Apollo 13, Universal is hanging onto the sets of The Grinch that Stole Christmas. It just made the three of us laugh. Did anyone really enjoy that film? If you are out there please let us know why. I'm just curious. We laughed at the fact that the tour guide needed to point out that the little vehicle you see is in fact a converted golf cart. Thank you Lexy!

I'm sure there are those out there that feel I should let go of my respect for Hitchcock. The Psycho House and Bates Motel is pretty much my favorite part of the tour. I love the film so much and I think I will pop in the movie this afternoon.
"We all go a little mad sometimes."
Some folks might call Eric and I a little mad, but we have a great time!

 We were storming the shops as we tried to find merchandise from the ParaNorman film. We even tried to take this Vespa to make our search a little faster!

Ricky found some friends from the film, but they didn't know where to find the good stuff. As you can see, Eric doesn't believe a word of their lies! I would say we went to almost every gift shop in that Upper Lot section. Who knew you could find so many different magnets with the word "Hollywood" pressed onto it? Who knew?? Did you??

After all that we barely had enough time for Ricky to get a new hair style. "The works!" he demanded. I think they gave it to him, but does he look pleased?

The time at the park was a fun one. Sure we had a few items to throw critique at, but you can't please everyone. To take Universal's side, the park has changed a great deal since I was a kid. We look forward to the Wizarding World that is to be here in the next few years. We end the day with a look at a Hollywood icon as recognizable as the one captured earlier.  

Can you find it in the dark? Makes me want to go to Disney World!

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