The Iconic Attraction was the Genesis of Universal Studios Hollywood and Set the Stage for the Development of Universal Destinations & Experiences Global Theme Parks
Universal City, California, January 23, 2024 – In 1964, Universal Studios Hollywood, originally referred to as Universal City Studios, rolled out its fleet of Glamor Trams, inviting tourists to “see film rushes of current productions, both feature and television, being made at Universal City,” according to the attraction’s original press release issued on July 4, 1964.
It was a novel concept to invite the public to be a fly on the wall of movie and television production. After all, no one else had ever conceived of the idea. The iconic red and white Glamor Trams, with their ruffled awnings, were staged five times a day, each lasting just over two hours, Monday through Friday.
2024 celebrates the Studio Tour’s milestone 60 years, the more than 200 million guests who have experienced this attraction and, ultimately, Universal Studios Hollywood’s storied history. More information will be shared soon highlighting the exciting program planned for spring and summer in support of the Studio Tour’s 60th anniversary.
During its inaugural year, behind-the-scenes special effects featured a brief make-up demonstration, a display of costumes by renowned costume designer Edith Head, an energetic two-man stunt performance and a tour of picturesque outdoor film sets. The following year, Universal expanded its scope of entertainment to feature a series of live entertainment that included a stunt show, animal show and screen test comedy theatre—all a precursor to what would eventually lead to the development of the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.
The point of entry for visiting guests at that time was at The Tourist Center, located at the Universal Commissary Building, where make-up artist demonstrations, trick photography and special props were on display.
That was 60 years ago, and while much has transpired in six decades, the Studio Tour has remained true to its roots of immersing guests in the awe-inspiring world of movie-making magic and providing remarkable access to production sets on a real studio lot. The once celebrated Glamor Trams are long gone and have been replaced with a contemporary 60-minute experience, infused with advanced technology that enlightens and entertains millions of film buffs, theme park fans and tourists alike visiting from across the globe. With its sights on the future, the Studio Tour is in the midst of converting its fleet of 21 diesel-hydraulic engines to electric trams to help reduce carbon emissions and improve the guest experience by reducing noise associated with the diesel-hydraulic engine.
And yet, aspects of the Glamor Tram have remained constant over this astonishing six decade span.
Studio Tour Guides were central to the operations of the Glamor Tram tours then and remain vital to the success of the Studio Tour today. Numerous times a day, professionally trained Studio Tour Guides interact with guests, educating them on the inner workings of the movie and television lot, armed with insider information and first-hand accounts, and entertain them with tours in both English and Spanish.
The role of a Studio Tour Guide has become a highly sought-after position in recent years with candidates auditioning from around the globe for a coveted spot – and for good reason. Studio Tour Guides have evolved over time into a Hollywood “apprenticeship.” Future filmmakers, budding actors and executives in-the-making are empowered to take advantage of a variety of opportunities and Hollywood-insider perks, that may include intimate group symposiums with prestigious industry professionals, free acting classes, participation in an actor’s showcase with top industry casting directors and chances for job placement positions within the company.
Dozens of producers, directors, performers, movie and TV professionals as well as industry executives began their careers as Studio Tour Guides, and to this day, rank among the leaders shepherding the Studio Tour and Universal Studios Hollywood into the future.
The Studio Tour of today continues to build on its rich history and like many great blockbuster films, creates a foundation for the next big sequel…and therein lies the origins of Universal Studios Hollywood.
From ushering guests past iconic sets from the renowned film Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock – one of the very first film sets accessible for visitors to see up close and personal in 1964 – to the evolution of Universal Studios Hollywood, immersing guests in innovative, groundbreaking rides and attractions themed to compelling film and television properties, Studio Tour was “act one” in the development of the notable Universal Destinations & Experiences (UDX) portfolio of global theme parks.
As the landmark Studio Tour turns a milestone 60, the juxtaposition of then and now shines a spotlight on its evolution to the theme park of today.
Beginning with the modern day, SUPER NINTENDO WORLD™—touted as a revolutionary addition to Universal Studios Hollywood when it expanded its scope of movie and television themed attractions to include the popular Super Mario™ video game property—celebrates its one-year anniversary.
This collaboration with Nintendo was a placemaking endeavor for the global entertainment destination when it debuted the first SUPER NINTENDO WORLD in the United States. From the moment guests pass through the signature giant green pipe, they are transported into the Mushroom Kingdom to become a part of its exhilarating universe.
SUPER NINTENDO WORLD is a visually spectacular land, filled with vibrancy of colors and architectural ingenuity and where guests can gather to experience the groundbreaking “Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge.” This technologically advanced ride, inspired by the popular Mario Kart™ video game series, seamlessly fuses cutting-edge augmented reality with projection mapping technology and actual set pieces along a moving ride track. With its broad cross generational appeal, SUPER NINTENO WORLD envelops guests in its unique world complete with interactive activities, Toadstool Cafe™ signature restaurant, 1-UP Factory™ store and walk-about characters: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad.
In partnership with Universal Creative, the visionary design and development division of Universal Destinations & Experiences, Universal Studios Hollywood has crafted an ambitious blueprint for its future. The historic journey is nothing short of remarkable and the evolution of breakthrough, next-generation thrill rides has continued to revolutionize Universal Studios Hollywood, renowned for its innovative collaborations with influential Hollywood filmmakers and creatives, including Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Michael Bay, Chris Meledandri, Jordan Peele and Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo’s creative team, whose credibility reinforce Universal Studios Hollywood’s authenticity.
Over the past 60 years, many rides have opened, and others were bid a fond farewell. For a walk down memory lane, here’s look back at some of the many milestone rides and attractions that have helped to shape the destination:
Bygone, nostalgic Studio Tour attractions included the Parting of the Red Sea (1973), which demonstrated an early special effect technique, and the spinning Ice Tunnel (1975) which demonstrated the effects of a severe snowstorm and forced perspective, as well as a dynamic hillside rockslide of tumbling faux boulders and a near miss collision with the infamous Runaway Train.
In 1971, Flash Flood showered guests with a unique behind-the-scenes look at movie weather effects. All these years later, the popular attraction continues to be a staple on the Studio Tour.
“Jaws Lake” took a bite out of the studio backlot in 1976, a year after Academy Award® winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s movie debuted, which has withstood the test of time as one of today’s premier Studio Tour attractions.
In 1989, “Earthquake” had guests clinging for their lives with its fabricated but eerily realistic 8.3 magnitude quake. All these years later, Earthquake, which continues to shake things up on the Studio Tour, will debut anew with updated and contemporary technology and aesthetics.
The progressive additions to the Studio Tour took a future forward leap in 1991 towards what was to come at Universal Studios Hollywood. It was a gradual process that began with the debut of the “Animal Actors’ Stage” in 1970, an attraction that remained until recently when the space was reimagined for the theme park’s upcoming Fast & Furious themed roller coaster.
In 1991, “The E.T Adventure” paved the way for the arrival of such iconic rides as “Back to the Future—The Ride” in 1993 and “Jurassic Park—The Ride” in 1996, which was singularly revered as a game changer for the fledgling theme park.
In 2005, an original movie set from Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, War of the Worlds landed onto the backlot as a sprawling addition to the Studio Tour, in which trams traverse a key scene depicting a small town devastated by an elaborately choreographed 747 jetliner crash and surrounded by wreckage and debris.
When the 1986 King Kong attraction was destroyed in the 2008 backlot fire, the behemoth primate reemerged in 2010 as “King Kong 360-3D,” a signature attraction on the Studio Tour, inspired by filmmaker Peter Jackson’s Oscar®-winning film.
“TRANSFORMERS: The Ride—3D,” under license by leading toy and game company Hasbro, set the stage for the theme park’s epic transformation that began in 2012, raising the bar for immersive, technologically advanced entertainment. Inspired by the franchise’s signature theme of action and adventure, the attraction infused an adrenalized multi-level ride-track and visceral special effects with one of the most elaborate flight simulation ride systems ever created.
In 2014, “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land” brought Universal Pictures and Illumination’s Academy Award® and Golden Globe Award-nominated film franchise to life with the same sweet and subversive humor and beloved characters that catapulted the franchise to international blockbuster fame.
2015 saw the introduction of two major theme park additions. This included “Springfield, U.S.A,” a vibrant land surrounding “The Simpsons Ride™,” which opened in 2008, to create an immersive portal into the exciting and colorful world made famous with “The Simpsons” incredible 35 seasons, and “Fast & Furious—Supercharged,” a gripping, high speed, 3D-HD thrill ride inspired by Universal Pictures’ most successful film franchise of all time and featuring the films’ cast members.
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™” was transformative for Universal Studios Hollywood when the elaborately themed land opened in 2016, inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters that were brought to life in the Warner Bros. Pictures films, and is a masterful recreation, faithful to the visual landscape of the fiction and films, including as its iconic focal point, Hogwarts™ Castle. Cobblestones pave the way along Hogsmeade™ Village welcoming guests to the land’s signature thrill ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” and “Flight of the Hippogriff™” outdoor coaster.
In 2019, “Jurassic World—The Ride” replaced “Jurassic Park—The Ride,” bringing to life Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment’s JURASSIC WORLD blockbuster films with the addition of technologically advanced mechanical and special effects dinosaurs from the movie, including the colossal Indominus rex and the magnificent aquatic Mosasaurus.
In 2021, Illumination’s global blockbuster film franchise, The Secret Life of Pets, came to life in the groundbreaking ride, “The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash.” The state-of-the-art ride combined sophisticated facial recognition with enhanced gesture tracking, helping to identify each guest as a unique stray puppy on the ultimate quest to find their forever homes.
The original Jupiter’s Claim set from Jordan Peele’s expansive horror epic, NOPE, became the latest addition to the Studio Tour in 2022. The elaborate set was carefully disassembled post-production and transported to Universal Studios Hollywood where it was meticulously reconstructed on site, complete with original props and details from the film for Studio Tour fans to enjoy.
These just touch on the spectrum of adventure at Universal Studios Hollywood as the entertainment options are inclusive of daily theme park operations and acclaimed seasonal and special events. From its engaging character interactions, popular Halloween Horror Nights and Grinchmas™ celebrations to the VIP Experience, a premium off-shoot of the iconic Studio Tour with enhanced behind-the-scenes access, there is so much to see and do at Universal Studios Hollywood…with much more on the way.