Saturday, June 08, 2019

Prop Plaza, Universal Studios, September 1974

Today I have four fun photos from Universal Studios' Prop Plaza (1964 to the late 1980's).

In the distance is the city of Burbank, backed by the lovely Verdugo mountains. Here's one description of the plaza: Prop Plaza is a stopping point midway in the Glamor-Tram guided tour of the Studio. Here you get a close-up view of many famous film props, including the giant-sized telephone and books used in “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and in the “Land of the Giants” television series.

From here you can see the stagecoach that bounced and rocked back and forth while the background turns behind you. It's like being in the Old West, only you don't have to deal with smelly cattle.

A bouncing stagecoach with a background of moving scenery is one of the most popular spots at the Plaza, particularly for visitors who want to photograph a simulated movie sequence or stop-action scene. The children in the overland stage could be “headin’ for Dodge” or Tombstone, and the young man riding “shotgun” might well be Marshal Wyatt Earp!

 To the right of that is a photo opportunity - guests could look like they were behind bars.

As a kid, the things that made the biggest impression (no pun intended) were the giant props, like this humongous hand, or the King Kong-sized telephone (Kong made a lot of calls). Notice the striped tent where a caricaturist lurked. "So what are you into, tennis?" (draws me running in the direction of an arrow that says "girls" while carrying a tennis racket).

Sitting at an oversized table and chair does things to people. Terrible things. There's Kong's phone to the left! And his needle and thread to the right.

For big jobs, ya gotta have big tools. Needle-nose pliers, for instance. Part of a great big ballpoint pen is to our left.

I've got more Universal Studios for you, and am thinking of doing a mega-post of some from the 80's that are less wonderful, but still kind of fun.


Nanook said...


I remember it all too well. (And let's not forget the Warner Bros. [Burbank] Studios in the background).
Glamour-Trams, indeed.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

I loved Prop Plaza. Especially for the giant props. When I was a kid, I was a big fan of "Land of the giants" and the other three Irwin Allen productions on TV at that time so Prop Plaza was right up my alley.

Also love the whole simulated stagecoach/moving scenery thing. The 1970's were the best era for the Universal Studios Tour in my opinion. These pics are a great example of that. Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

Favorite detail: in the third photo, the kid climbing on the giant phone clearly labeled "please keep off."

To the left of the stagecoach in the first photo, just above the umbrellas, we get a glimpse of the back of the riverboat on Park Lake, and at the extreme left we can just see the apartment complex set built for 90 Bristol Court.

While I have clear memories of this place, I'd forgotten about the slide until seeing the second photo. My parents have a photo of my dad, my sister, and I in the jail and my sister and I at the giant table and chair, which look to me like they might have been intended to be doll furniture.

Ken, I wholeheartedly agree with you about the '70s being the "golden era" of the Universal tour. Sure, some of that assessment is probably rooted in fond childhood memories, but the fact that you and TM! and JG and others who are all several years older than me feel the same way tends to confirm my opinion. There's something about the tour in that era that made it seem more interactive, more intimate, and more interesting than today. I realize that with today's crowds there's no way they could continue running the tour in the same way, and of course the various fires over the years have wreaked havoc on the historic sets, but I think we lost something when you could just ride an escalator to the lower lot without having to board a tram.

Thanks again, Major!

stu29573 said...

Well, I'm glad they went with the big prop idea instead of shrinking the actors. That never would have worked anyway, because there are no small actors, only small parts...or...something...

"Lou and Sue" said...

In pic 2, why is that gal in the light blue suit carrying a wine goblet?! And why install a regular (somewhat regular) kid's slide, when Universal already had lots of unique things to see and do?! "Okay, little Bobby, now that we've travelled hundreds of miles and spent our life savings to get here, let's play on the slide."

Ken and Chuck, 1970's Universal was amazing! Remember how Frankenstein would sneak up on you? He was my favorite.


Chuck said...

Sue, that wine goblet is a puzzler. And she's eating something. Was it an ice cream glass, maybe?

She shows up again in the next photo, holding something to her lips, but her face obscured behind the giant chair. Her companion's shirt is distinctive in both pictures, though.

I remember Frankenstein, all right. I was scared to death of him. We have a cute photo of him holding my sister, who was four, and she's giving this sly look at the camera as if to say "can you believe my brother's scared of this guy?"

Also - was too busy to comment the other day, but thank you for sharing your dad's photos. I'm looking forward to seeing more!

JC Shannon said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the woman in the big chair doing her best Edith-Anne imitation? So many memories of Universal tours, but Chuck, I thought I was the only one who remembers 90 Bristol Court. Sue, maybe she needed a drink after Frankenstein's monster scared the pudding out of her.

Nanook said...

@ stu29573-

As you probably already know, Stanislavski's line is: "There are no small parts, only small actors". Personally, I like yours better.

And yes, Universal Studios Tour in the 1970's was the best - including the copious amount of tour guide "mis-speak" when both describing what guests were seeing, and giving credit to Universal Studios for just about every picture made in Hollywood-!

Andrew said...

I like how beat-up the giant phone looks. Lots of scratches and scuffs. "Please Keep Off," indeed!

Anonymous said...

Back in the 70s, a member of the audience would be selected and made up to look like Frankenstein. I was the lucky guy. The intimacy of that time just cannot be repeated. KS

K. Martinez said...

Sue, I noticed that there's part of a dining area next to where the woman with the wine goblet is walking. Perhaps she got it from a food concession that was part of the dining area? There's also a guy drinking a beverage in the same area who looks like a young Jameson Parker. And yes, I do remember Frankenstein. I loved those Universal Monsters.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Ok. Don't call me racist but the guy under the umbrella in pic #2 really looks like Jimmie JJ Walker. These pictures are Din-o-mite!

Nanook said...

@ Alonzo P Hawk-
I thought the exact same thing. (If that makes me a racist, well, so be it). It’s merely face association and nothing more.

Melissa said...

The first thing that grabbed my eye was the guy with the long Elvis hair in front of the giant hand. That's how my uncles wore their hair in my earliest memories.

I wonder if the studio tour was better because it was closer to the days when the big studios themselves meant a lot more to the general public than they do today. I want to go explore those soundstages in the background. Well, after my stagecoach ride. I kinda need to play Calamity Jane for a while.

TokyoMagic! said...

I loved Prop Plaza and I have pictures of me at that orange table and chair, as well as with the telephone......and in that jail!

Chuck, I had also forgotten about that treehouse and slide until seeing the photo! I remember in that general area, there were the "stocks" that you could put your head and hands through for a photo op.

Sue, that IS a clear plastic goblet! They sold beer (and maybe wine) at the Prop Plaza refreshment stand. The plastic was "etched" with the words "Universal Studios" and some other designs. I have one that I saved, after my dad drank the beer that came in it. I also have an "etched" plastic glass from Knott's and one from Disneyland, but they are just a regular "drinking glass" shape, rather than goblet shaped.

Melissa said...

I use my etched glass tankards from the Liberty Tree Tavern at WDW almost every day. Best Magic Kingdom souvenir.

stu29573 said...


"Lou and Sue" said...

Chuck and KS: Please post your Frankenstein pictures - I'd love to see them. (And, Chuck, I'll pass your message on to my dad, he'll appreciate it - he's happy that folks are enjoying his pictures.)

KS, I do remember seeing one of those shows where someone was made up to look like the monster, and they also explained how it took many hours for the original monster to be made up for the movies. You are so lucky to have been chosen! How old were you?

TM! I would love to see your pictures, too!


Anonymous said...

Ha, Frankenstein grabbed me on our visit, I mugged like I was being strangled and Mom got a great photo.

I wish I knew where the photo went, but it's gone.

But I have the memory. Chuck, you are right. Universal of the '70's was pretty cool.

I drove by recently and saw the huge towers of Potterworld. That might be worth a visit. Has anyone gone in?