Universal Studios Hollywood

This morning we check out of the hotel again because tonight we are going towards Anaheim. First we visit Universal Studios Hollywood today. As with Universal Studios Orlando there are several garages for parking and then it's a steady walk through Universal City, quite an attraction in itself.

Arriving at park, we decide to do the Studio Tour first. The first part of the tour takes us past the many major recording studios such as the audio studio for the CSI series. A little further on we drive through the streets of a city. The interesting thing is that they can adapt to suit the sight of the houses by replacing the facades with other plastic plating. There are holes in the pavement where several lamp posts can be placed. This allows the same street to be used for recordings of any desired time period. One of the films that have been shot here is Back to the Future of which the courthouse square is clearly recognizable. Most of the buildings have no real interrior. There may be people walking behind the windows to make it seem inhabited.

During the second part of the tour some sets are shown outside of the city and we get to see some of the special effects, starting with a tunnel where 3D images of King Kong Skull Island are projected on a 60 metres large display and the tram in which we sit is shaken back and forth. At least, that was the intention but something goes wrong and before the show started we drive outside again through a side door, make a complete circle around the tunnel building and then just sit there for a while. Meantime they keep us entertained with pictures of historical film footage.

After about half an hour we still get to visit Skull Island and we can see the battle between King Kong and Venatosaurus who attack us. The added air and water effects make for a wonderful show. We drive further along a number of vehicles that have been used in famous movies and arrive at a demonstration for a scene from the movie Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift, complete with water, fire and smoke.

Through Jurassic Park we arrive at a Mexican village where flooding occurs due to the heavy rainfall in the street. This realistic effect is used in for instance Big Fat Liar and Fletch Lives. The next scene is an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale in a San Francisco subway station. A spectacular show here including a truck carrying liquid gas coming through the ceiling and a subway train derailing.

Leaving a complete western village behind, we reach Amity Island, well known from the Jaws movies. Again some special effects are shown, including of course a voracious shark.

Then we finally reach Wisteria Lane, the recording place for Desperate Housewives, which Hellen so badly wanted to see. We see all the houses of the ladies and the great thing is that we hear that many of these houses are or have been used in other productions too. There is even a working production so we have to keep quiet.

We are still not done. At the Bates Motel we just see Norman come out carrying a corpse in his arms. When he sees the tram he runs towards us with a large knife in his hand. We can only just get out and we drive straight onto the set of War of the Worlds. Here a Boeing 747 has crashed and a huge area is littered with smoking debris. The devastation is overwhelming.

Finally we drive into the tomb of Imothep from the movie The Mummy. In there we are trapped in a revolving sandstorm and can only just escape.

The Studio Tour is very extensive and is very well organized. It is actually the main attraction of the park. It's a pity that so many things went wrong with malfunctioning parts of the ride. To compensate, everyone on the trams receives a one-time Front of the Line pass for an attraction of your choice. That's so considerate! And we will make good use of them. Eventually the queues turn out not to be too bad, there are mainly shows at Universal and they can accomodate quite a lot of people at once.

One of those shows is Waterworld, a great spectacle with live stunts. Before the real show starts entertainers keep the audience engaged with 'assignments'. Error are punished with a full bucket of water thrown into the audience. Fortunately we gush that dance. Fortunately we did not deserve that treatment. The show itself is literally on fire. And with lots of water of course. One of the highlights is when a seaplane is shot from the sky and whilst burning makes a crash landing on the water just in front of the public.

After Waterworld we go to see Shrek 4D (in Ogre Vision). This 3D movie with some additional effects is identical to the one in Orlando, including the same pre-show. Kind of fun if you are a fan of the Shrek movies.

Universal's Animal Actor shows how animals are trained to be able to play their role in the films. Nice to see how the dogs understand commands even if that's just a voice or, even more clever, only a gesture. Besides dogs we also see trained cats, chickens, geese, a raccoon, a parrot and a lot of other animals occur. The show keeps a really good pace and is never dulll.

For lunch we exit the Universal Park for a moment and walk back to the Hard Rock Cafe in Universal City. This Hard Rock fits very nicely in the style of the area, with an insanely large guitar sitting outside next to the building. The chicken breast burger tastes excellent.

Back at Universal Studios we go to the Lower Lot where the indoor roller coaster Revenge of the Mummy (#806) is located. Here the Front of the Line card comes in handy. Also in this park bags etc. should be left behind in a locker. Just like in Florida the use of a locker is for free and works with a fingerprint recognition system. A very nice system but it takes some visitors a long time before they manage to get their locker to open or close. Revenge of the Mummy is nice roller coaster that mainly works because of all the special effects. But therein they masterfully succeeded because the ride is packed with plenty of action from start to finish.

We go straight to the next attraction: we get into a boat at Jurassic Park. What begins as a leisurely ride between the peaceful dinosaurs quickly turns into panic as it appears that the boats are being attacked by a less friendly kind. We sail through a building with rampaging dinosaurs while the alarm goes off everywhere. Then we escape by slipping off a slope and arrive with a splash down.

For Transformers the Ride there is a queue of at least 45 minutes and Hellen does not fancy this attraction anyway. Through the single riders entrance I only have to wait for about 10 minutes for my turn. As a new recruits for Optimus Prime, we must help to protect the PrimeSpark against the Decepticons. The 3D effects are excellent and along with the movements of the car we are in it gives the ride a fantastic experience as if we were indeed in the middle of battle. The attraction is very similar to that of Spiderman at Universal Orlando but then a completely updated theme.

Back at the Upper Lot we go to The Simpsons Ride, a complete wacky simulation with the Simpsons in the lead. After we have survived a roller coaster ride in which there is a giant steel ball rolling behind us and then then being attacked by malicious pandas we make a splash landing in the middle of a lake with Homer and Marge. Hilarious are the words of Homer: "Alone at last" which Margin responds with "Shut Homer, they have the kids". Homer: "Ooh, it just gets better and better". There is another inimitable wild ride but everything ends well eventually. What a great simulator again.

We leave the park on time again because we still want to see the Hollywood Sign and visit the other Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood. For the Hollywood Sign we read a valuable tip as to where to park the car for a good view without having to deal with too much of a crowd. Then we drive on through the Hollywood Hills and reach the city centre. We arrive at the Hollywood Boulevard where we park the car valet for $10. We look at some of the stars on the Walk of Fame and take a look inside the Hard Rock Cafe. There are many intrusive individuals around these streets and we don't stay very long.

Finally we drive another couple of miles to our beautiful hotel with all the luxury. The Anaheim Mariott. We park valet for $24 a day, immediately helped by the bellboy with our luggage and really get a whopper of a luxury room. We eat just around the corner in another hotel because it is quite late already and everything else is closed. Tomorrow we will go to San Diego.

Arrival at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Many restaurants in Universal City. Also here a Bubba Gump.

The Universal Globe.

Very nice decoration throughout the park. Everything is right.

En route to the Studio Tour on the film set.

Everything stalls with the malfunction at Skull Island.

At the second attempt we drive into Skull Island.

Vehicles in movie history. Here's the beautiful car of Biff from Back to the Future. Manure ...

Two of the racing cars from the Fast and Furious movies.

Action scene from Tokyo Drift with water and fire effects.

Scene from Jurassic Park.

With a lot of violence the devastating water comes raging into the street.

Huge ship? No, it's about 60 cm long.

Peaceful Amity Village.

Arrived at Wisteria Lane, or rather Colonial Street. Here the House of Bob Hunter and Lee McDermott.

The House of Lynette and Tom Scavo with their children.

Norman has spotted us from the Bates Motel and walks towards the tram.

Planecrash site. Havoc from War of the Worlds.

Bad guy in the show Waterworld.

Lots of explosions and fire in this show.

A plane plunges down just in front of the audience.

Nice piece of film with Shrek.

Animal Actors including this parrot that fetches a dollar from the hand of a spectator, and returns it later.

Marley from the movie Marley and Me plays the role of a sick dog.

Very beautiful facade of the Hard Rock Cafe Universal City.

Also looks good on the inside.

Also in Universal City, this Ben & Jerry's scoupeshop.

Taking a picture with Vin Diesel.

Overview of the Lower Lot.

Revenge of the Mummy is a roller coaster with maximum theming. Very well made.

From Upper to Lower Lot you can take the Starway escalators.

Jurassic Park the Ride.

Transformers the Ride 3D is a superb simulator.

Posing with a Decepticon that frightfully waves his arms and delivers snappy comments. "Get off my platform boy or I'll rip your leg off."

The Simpsons Ride is great. What great humor is compressed in one attraction here.

Having our picture taken with Homer and Marge.

Simulator coach.

For the children, a playground with water in Curious George style.

The famous Hollywood Sign in the hills.

On Hollywood Boulevard a few hundred tiles with hand and footprints of big stars. This one of Sophia Loren.

And Arnold "I'll be back" Schwarzenegger.

The Walk of Fame.

Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood.

The last hotel this holiday. Another 5 nights of luxury.

I don't know where we owe to this upgrade. It's a huge room. We're very pleased with it.