Sunday, February 16, 2014

Special Guest Photos - More Universal Studios, 1971

Here is part two of reader Chuck Hansen's family photos from a trip to Universal Studios in 1971. See part one HERE! As in the previous post, Chuck wrote his own great commentary so that I can spend more time playing mah-jong on my iPad.

Her's what Chuck said about this first picture: "While it wasn't as built up as it is today, there was still quite a bit to do in the Upper Lot in 1971, then known as the Visitor Entertainment Center. (The photo) shows the miniature submarine being perpetually chased by the miniature destroyer with what has to be the worst gun crew in the entire Lilliputian navy. The Dock Where It's Alway Raining is visible to the right".

This photo "…shows the reverse view from the Dock, with the tower from the 1965 Charlton Heston film 'The Warlord' in the background".

This one is a bit blurry, but it shows "… what was known as 'The Paramount House'. Built in 1955 for the Paramount film, 'The Desperate Hours' starring Humphrey Bogart and Frederic March, it later became familiar to a generation as the second Mayfield home of the Cleaver family in 'Leave it to Beaver'. By 1971 it had been significantly remodeled into home office of 'Marcus Welby, MD'. The Paramount House made the move to the new Colonial Street in 1981, but was moved to another part of the lot in 1988 or 89 to make way for the purpose-built Klopeck home  for the 1989 Tom Hanks film 'The 'Burbs'. While it's still standing, it's not in very good condition, as evidenced by these photos. The Cleaver home seen on the current Universal Tour was built for the 1986 'Leave it to Beaver' movie"

"Various shows have always been a staple in this area since the late 60. (The next two photos) are of the 'Screen Test' show that pulled audience members up on stage and put them into the action of a relatively current film while showing how films are made".  

"In this case the film showcased was 1970s 'Airport'".

The next three images were "…'Ma & Pa Kettle Farm/Ark Park' animal petting zoo and display areas". This first one "…shows a trainer (perhaps Ray Berwick, who trained the birds for Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds') presenting animals in a much smaller and more intimate venue than the larger Animal Actor's Stage".

Another one from the petting zoo. The turkey surprised me… who wants to pet a turkey?!

Awww, look at that little goat. Even 2 1/2 year-old Chuck towers over it!

A big thank you once again to Chuck for generously sharing his photos, and for all of the research that he did so that I could spend more time watching my telenovelas!


Nanook said...


Thanks again for sharing your images. The first two bring back several memories of dining in (whatever the restaurant was back then), while watching all the 'water action', including the "always raining dock".

And, BTW, that's quite the fashion look you're sporting with that classy sock/(belted) loafer ensemble-! Was that a Mom choice, or were you setting fashion trends on your own at a very early age-?

Thanks again.

K. Martinez said...

More awesome Universal pics! I remember that submarine and destroyer section. I haven't been to Universal since 1988, so it makes me wonder how much of the old stuff is still there.

Thanks again, Chuck. These are really a joy to see.

Omnispace said...

I have fond memories of visiting Universal in the 1970's -- it had a very "cool" vibe to it, (as evidenced by Chuck's mother's wardrobe). There was not quite as much to see in the Visitors Center to make it a full day visit but afterwards one could always drive up the freeway to Busch Gardens for the afternoon. :)

Our perceptions of outdoor sets are heavily influenced by the "illusion" we see coming through our televisions. They are not perfect in reality and are basically neglected until they are needed for another shoot in which they get a fresh coat of paint or are quickly modified to meet the studio's needs. On their Studio Tour, Universal has made things a bit too perfect in some cases. Perhaps if there were more bolted-down street lamps and green spray-painted foliage stuffed into leafless trees to turn winter into spring then visitors would get a better idea of the craft that takes places to turn these sets into what we see on film.

Chuck said...

Nanook - Thanks again for the kind words. These pictures are proof you're never too young to start sporting that old man chic.

Ken - I was last there in 1995, so my memories aren't that much newer. I know that a lot of what was there in '95 has been replaced or lost to fires, just as much of what you see in these 1971 photos was gone by 1995.

The backlot is still a working studio, and even moreso than a Dsney park changes have to happen to support that end of the business. Sometimes those changes are planned, like the relocation of Colonial Street, and other times they aren't, like the major fires that seem to happen every ten years or so. I guess it's because of all of those changes that it's nice to see an old familiar place in a program or film that's hung on all of these years. And we have pictures like these as well as countless TV shows and movies to preserve the memory of what was.

Omnispace - I hear you, and I wish there was more of the real craft accessible and on display. That's really what I'm interested in when I visit Universal, not a water ride through Jurassic Park.

I didn't visit Universal from '76 to '93, and when I went back and found the new "Upper Lot" entertainment area, something didn't quite seem right that I couldn't put my finger on.

At the end of the day it hit me - part of what had made visiting the backlot so magical was wanting to step into the make-believe spaces and explore, to see what was behind all of the fake doors and windows. You didn't know what was coming around the next turn, and the surprise of turning the corner on a suburban residential street and finding yourself in a town in France was a key part of the experience.

Wandering around the Upper Lot was like wandering around, well, just about any well-executed theme park. The theming was nice, and it changed around corners to evoke what was down the hill in the real backlot, but I don't think I ever wished the movie-set facades concealed gift shops packed with sunburned tourists.

I think this is essentially what was wrong with how Hollywood Land was originally executed in DCA. It was supposed to evoke a backlot, but it was full of shops and attractions, too, and was never used for TV or film production. I felt there were too many incongruous thematic shifts between the backlot, the Hollywood business district, and stuff that just didn't fit into either theme. I haven't been back since the park do-over, but I have heard that there are improvements and more potentially coming. I'm optimistic for my next visit.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I agree, if only I looked half so cool now as Chuck did at age 2 1/2!

K. Martinez, I don't think ANY of the old stuff is left at Universal. Even things that seem old (like the Psycho house) are probably not the originals.

Omnispace, visiting Universal back then (at least from the eyes of a child) was really neat - it was completely different from Knott's or Disneyland (or any other place), but I loved going there. Little details about movie making, whether true or not (did they really put cornflakes under fake snow so that it had that realistic "crunch"?) were magical to me.

Chuck, it is amazing how many major fires have destroyed that studio. As you say, every ten years or so. Haven't they heard of fire sprinklers? As I have said many times, I would love love love to be able to wander around the backlot - preferably unattended, or maybe with a knowledgeable personal guide. It'll never happen, but I can dream! Thanks again for your neat pictures.

Melissa said...

Thanks so much for sharing your memories, Chuck! Your parents were great vacation photographers.

That dock area is like the world's greatest bathtub.

I'd recognize Dr. Welby's house anywhere, even without Dr. Kiley's cool bike pulling up in front. I guess that renovation was pretty good; I don't recognize it as the Cleavers' second house at all.

I have pictures of several of my older cousins in clothes made out of the exact same fabric as those checked shorts! It must have been pretty popular for kids' clothes back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Lots of familiar things here. I really remember the naval battle and the rainy canopy.

I recognized the house immediately, but did not know what it was, just that it was familiar.

Thank you, Chuck, I appreciate it.