Saturday, February 22, 2020


I'll be honest - I'm sort of "unloading" a whole bunch of not-very-exceptional scans of slide from Universal Studios (Hollywood) today, circa June 1987; I have a decent number of USH slides, but a lot of them are kind of "meh". Still... worth a look, I hope.

This looks like the "Court of Miracles" area of "Little Europe". It's easy to imagine an angry mob of torch-bearing peasants chasing after Frankenstein's monster, isn't it? The original sets that were used in those 1930's Universal monster movies burned in a 1967 fire, so these are recreations. Still, one of my favorite parts of the tour.

OK, I admit it; I'm going to need some help on some of these! You guys (and gals) are so smart. And good-looking. Our Glamour Tram passed this spaceship, I wonder if it had anything to do with Battlestar Galactica (which is generally agreed to be the Greatest Movie Ever)? In case you are wondering what those mysterious cylindrical shapes are to the right...

... we see that it is a a selection of aircraft noses. Place them in front of a blue backdrop, bounce them up and down a little, and voila - MOVIE MAGIC. It's hard to tell from this strangely murky photo, but it appears that we are headed toward a quaint little town.

Why, it's a ramshackle village, located on what was formerly called "Singapore Lake", but it was changed to "Jaws Lake". I'm sure there's no significance to that name. (Parts of this town represented "Cabot Cove" from "Murder, She Wrote", which is almost as good as "Matlock").

I think I see the fin of a largemouth bass! Much to the shock of everybody, the fisherman in that small boat would be dragged underwater, and a fountain of bright pink blood would spew forth. I wonder what they used as "blood", since they repeated that effect over and over and the lake remained a soupy green?

Aieeeee! Hold me, grandma! Look at those rows of razor sharp teeth. 

I threw a nearby kid overboard, so I think we're safe for now. Young Napoleon Dynamite is looking to me with gratitude.

Here's one last look at Jaws Lake. Next year we are going to Godzilla Lake instead. No sharks there, or so I've heard.

A long-lived feature of the tram tour is a stop in a sleepy Mexican village that is plagued with flash floods every few minutes. Why, I just saw it a few months ago! Instead of posting four boring individual photos, I decided to try to make a sequential animated gif, which came out OK in spite of its imperfections.

Here endeth Part One! I hope you enjoyed your visit to Universal Studios.


Nanook said...

"You guys (and gals) are so smart. And good-looking. Golly...Thanks. (Blushing). We always love USH. And we especially love "Jaws Lake" and Cabot Cove. I think a gnarly-toothed shark is just what the doctor ordered to 'beef-up' Disneyland's Jungle Cruise-! Just think of all those new opportunities for Skipper jokes-!

Thanks, Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Wow! Love the ‘you are there’ flood scene!!
Thank you, Major!

K. Martinez said...

There's nothing meh about the "Little Europe" backlot scene here. It's the stuff Universal Monster dreams are made of.

If it's Universal, it's a classic! Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

That "young Napoleon Dynamite" photo clearly shows us how the tram used to tilt towards the water, once a piece of the pier was yanked off by "Bruce." A few years back, they cemented the pier in place, so it no longer tilts. They ruin everything, don't they?

Major, I thoroughly enjoyed this 1987 visit to Universal Studios! And thanks for the cool gif!

JC Shannon said...

Major, Major, everyone knows Howard the Duck is the greatest movie ever. The last time I took the Universal Tour, Airport was the featured movie. Dang, I'm gettin' old. These are some gems, though. I wonder if they checked little Napoleon for tots before he boarded? Hey, maybe if I ever leave the wilds of Montana, you and I can attend a Bowery Boys film festival. That Huntz Hall was a smoothie, wasn't he? Thanks Major.

Budblade said...

Sorry major, that ship isn’t from Battlestar Galactica. But it was a starfighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th century staring Gil Gerard.
Not quite as impressive as the vipers from Galavtica, but it could hold two people so buck could get cozy with Erin Grey. Thats not so bad....

stu29573 said...

I've actually never been to Universal Hollywood, but I've always wanted to go. Universal Orlando? I haven't been either and couldn't care less. Thanks for the mini-tour! (Not minotaur)

Chuck said...

Agree with Budblade on the Buck Rogers Starfighter identification. Obviously intended to be used in a soundstage, it does not appear to have weathered well outdoors.

The lineup of aircraft noses are (from left to right) either a B-24J Liberator or a PB4Y-2 Privateer, a North American Sabreliner (possibly an ex-military T-39), a PBY Catalina flying boat (used in the 1976 version of Midway), a couple of random pieces of engine cowling and fuselage chunks, a DC-3/C-47, Buck Rogers' Ranger 3/Randolph Mantooth's Lunar Avion from the Battlestar Galactica episode "Greetings From Earth" (they both used the same prop), a Stearman 75/PT-17, and maybe the nose section of a B-29 or B-50.

Wish I'd had a chance to see this era of Universal. This is the closest I'll get. Thanks, Major!

Andrew said...

Those trams weren't the original "Glamour Trams" by then, but that doesn't mean you can't still call them that!

Long live the Jaws scene and especially the Flash Flood. Those two have seen so many other large Universal "disaster" attractions come and go, yet they are the originals! Thanks - I always like the Saturday change of pace.

zach said...

USH? It must be Saturday. I, too, like the change of pace.

The flood gif was special, thanks for your efforts! I've actually been there and enjoyed it. If I paid more attention to the movies I've seen it might be even more enjoyable.


Irene said...

A couple of years ago I had a one year pass to USH and much to my surprise really enjoyed everything there! I had planned to get one again this year but my current health situation has pushed that off into the distant future (I hope). Yup, the flash flood and Jaws are still there. Most the time when I took the tram tour the tram did not go what they call Wisteria Lane because they also seem to be filming something there! Ah - Cabot Cove. For some reason I never watched that show first one but in the last year I watched the whole thing thanks to ME TV and really loved it. I also loved Diagnoses Murder and Matlock. Those I did watch first run. And yes, I did go to USH during the time frame these photos were taken. I don't remember being over impressed and it was just a fun place to go once every 5 years or so. I even got picked from the audience to be in some kind of movie magic show they did. I have the small reel of film but I never watched it and now have to way to see it!!!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I know that Florida lost their “Jaws” attraction (which looked considerably more fancy than the one in Hollywood), I’m always waiting to hear that Bruce the shark is going to be evicted. But as of last summer he was still there!

Lou and Sue, thanks, it was fun to make!

K. Martinez, such a shame that so many of the original historic sets have burned down - it’s kind of astonishing how many devastating fires have swept through that backlot. But I suppose it gives them the opportunity to rebuild, bigger and better.

TokyoMagic!, oh I didn’t remember the tilting effect, such a shame, why would they get rid of that?? The last tram tour I did, they sat us way up front, which kind of sucked, we could barely see the effects that the people in the middle were able to enjoy. The flash flood was so far to our left that we on saw a little spray.

Jonathan, I’ve never seen “Howard the Duck”, but I’ve seen clips, and that was enough! Remember when the studio wanted you to believe that Howard was an animatronic, and not a small person in a suit? I always thought the idea of keeping greasy tater tots in your pocket was so gross, maybe that was the point. The girl I took to that movie didn’t like it, and I think that was the end of that relationship.

Budblade, “Battlestar Galactica” was just a guess, since they had that section where the tram was attacked by Cylons. Buck Rogers was a show I didn’t watch for some reason, but I did like Erin Grey.

stu29573, I would actually love to go to the Universal Studios parks in Orlando, especially to see their versions of the Harry Potter lands. I like the one in Hollywood, but it looks like Orlando really got the primo versions. We just don’t have the room here in SoCal.

Chuck, it kills me to see how movie props are often left out in the elements to slowly rot. On one hand I’m glad I got to see it, on the other I wonder why they don’t sell it to a rich collector. Very impressive that you can ID those aircraft just by the noses! That photo turned a weird dark green for some reason, and I couldn’t seem to do much with it as far as restoration.

Andrew, I realize that I keep using the term “Glamour Trams”, but I don’t know when they stopped; I’m sure they’ve gone through a number of different trams over the years, think of all the abuse they take day after day after day. Now I want to go back just for a tram tour!

dzacher, I have a lot of Universal Studios slides, but most of them are pretty dull. Still, you’ll see plenty of them!

Major Pepperidge said...

Irene, for a long time an annual pass for Universal Studios Hollywood was so cheap, and I lived really close, I wish I’d just taken the leap and gotten one. But… as usual I waited too long and now the place raises their prices as soon as Disney does. If you have the chance you should take the tour of Warner Bros. Studio. I still have to do Paramount, too! You can probably have your film converted to a digital format, just take it to Target or Walmart or even your local drugstore, they’ll mail it off. The color is probably faded to red, but it might be fun to see.

Irene said...

Actually I have done the Warner Bros. tour with a group of seniors a couple of years ago - really enjoyed it. Have yet to do Paramount. At certain times you can actually get what is called a good neighbors pass and if you live in the So. Cal. zip code ara you can get a one year pass pretty cheap. But they limit the days you can go big time but it didn't bother me. I wanted to go on off days anyway - less crowded. I was able to get one at Costco back at the end of Summer 2019 for only $100 and it was for 18 months, not 12 months!!! Would have been a great deal but then I got my diagnoses and decided this really wasn't the right time to go so was able to get my money back because I had not activated it. I can take the film to Costco and look into converting it :) I don't think it was all that great and I don't really remember much of it at all.

Irene said...

By the way - in rereading what I wrote the good neighbor pass is for USH. I realize I put that after Paramount and wanted to clear it up.

Melissa said...

At first glance, that doesn't look like anything I remember from Battlestar Galactica. But there were lots of different ships in the ragtag fleet, so maybe!

When I was little, I sent a bunch of box tops in for a cardboard cutout replica of a Colonial viper cockpit. I set it up in the woodbox and had all kinds of space battles with the Cylons.

Major Pepperidge said...

Irene, the Warner Bros. tour was one of the last things I did with my dad before he passed, so I have bittersweet memories of it. Of course I’m very glad that I did it! We took my niece and nephew who were visiting for Spring Break, and we took them to Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake, which they loved. I saw your followup email, so I now realize that you did not mean a “good neighbor pass” for Paramount Studio! I thought, “How many times would I actually want to go there in a year? The Warner Bros. tour was a little frustrating because our tram guide talked NON STOP, I had questions and there was never a break to ask them. I finally asked her what the oldest part of the studio was, and she pointed out dressing rooms that had belonged to stars such as Bette Davis. I understand not wanting to convert the film, for one thing it is very expensive.

Melissa, yeah, I don’t have vivid memories of Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers… as Budblade said, that spaceship is from Buck Rogers. I used to think that the chrome Cylons were cool, but the mechanical versions in Universal Studios were not so cool. There was one that was supposedly hit by a laser beam, and it split in two in the most ridiculous way.

Melissa said...

Oops, didn't see your comment, Budblade!