Friday, January 31, 2014
Today, Chuck Hansen comes to the rescue again by sharing his personal photos from a July 1971 visit to Universal Studios! Chuck has also provided some great info to accompany each picture, making my job easy.
First up is this awesome picture of Chuck and his mom (she's wearing a dress that she made) standing near three gigantic books featuring titles of recent movies (though "Slaughterhouse Five" wouldn't come out until 1972).
"The next slide takes a look at the back side of New York Street, which is located to the left of the previous photo. It looks completely different from the back side of water. In this picture, you can really see how the sets are little more than facades. The King Kong attraction will be built in 1986 on this side of the large facade in the center right of the photo. While the buildings are significantly different since a 2008 fire blazed through this area, you can still see the current street layout if you know what you're looking for."
This next one is a little bit blurry, but I wanted to include it anyway. Chuck says it is "…. a shot of the Colonial Mansion. Built for the 1927 silent version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," in 1971 it sat at the entrance to Colonial Street, which was then located behind the New York Street area along the northern edge of the property. It was moved (along with many of its neighbors) in 1981 to a cul de sac at the back end of a new Colonial Street, located farther south and east on the backlot where Laramie Street had previously been located. It was removed and destroyed in 2005 as part of an expansion of Wisteria Lane for the television program "Desperate Housewives".
"The location of (this next photo) is a bit of a mystery to me. I'm guessing that based on the background, the rest room signs, and this map (http://www.thestudiotour.com/ush/attractions/maandpakettlefarm.php) that it was probably taken near the tram boarding area near the entrance, but I really don't know. Regardless of its precise location, it's nice to see Woody Woodpecker represented in a theme park. And there's my mom's groovy dress again. It was one of several she made the previous year before meeting my dad in Hawaii for his mid-tour R&R while he was in Vietnam."
"The next photo should bring back memories. It's of me at Prop Plaza, holding a giant foam boulder. I don't remember this part of this particular trip (I was only two and a half, so the flash flood and the "Ironside" set stood out more to me), but I do remember later visits to this area."
"…It's a typically smoggy summer day in LA. The Warner Brothers' Studio and its iconic water tower, the later home of the Animaniacs, are visible in the distance acros the LA River Flood Control Channel. In the middle right, you can see the original Spartacus Square set from the 1960 Stanley Kubrick/Kirk Douglas film of the same name, with Little Europe to the left. The clay-tiled, orange-colored structures mark Mediterranean Square, built after the 1967 fire, and will serve as part of Tortuga in "POTC: Dead Man's Chest" in another 35 years. The castle in front of that is the Tower of London, built for the 1939 Boris Karloff/Basil Rathbone vehicle of the same name that marked Vincent Price's first role in a horror film. The long, curved Western set bordering the right side of Mediterranean Square and the Tower is Denver Street".
"Following the contour of Denver Street across the picture, we can see the tops of the sets for Six Points, Texas, so-called because the design was supposed to allow simultaneous production on six silent Westerns. Beyond Six Points is Park Lake, still containing the sternwheeler at this point in history. The bridge built for the 1968 musical "Sweet Charity" is visible across the entrance to the Black Lagoon, but the Red Sea tram crossing won't be added on this side of it for another two years. To the left of the sternwheeler you can see a portion of the apartments built for the short-lived NBC 1964-65 programing bloc "90 Bristol Court," which consisted of three separate sitcoms set in the same housing complex".
"In the extreme lower left you can catch a glimpse of Prop Plaza, which was a midway stopover on the tram tour with a few restaurants and a large collection of props set up on a large concrete platform with a great overview of the backlot (the photo of my mom and I and the giant books was shot here, not at the Upper Lot as I had previously assumed). Visible in this photo is a stagecoach and rolling backdrop. Dad could set up his Super 8 movie camera while you climbed up in the stagecoach and then a push of a button (or maybe a drop of a quarter) started the backdop moving, the wheels spinning, and the stagecoach rocking for your own bit of "backlot magic." Prop Plaza is no longer used as part of the tram tour, but the location is still used occasionally for shoots or as a "base camp" for productions; the "Desperate Housewives" cast and crew used it for this purpose until 2012".
MANY THANKS to Chuck for all of his research (it was more than I would have done on my own photos, that's for sure! I'm lazy) and for sharing these great pictures of Universal Studios. There will be a "part 2" coming up soon.