Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates 60 years of taking fans behind the scenes

a truck with a large whale coming out of the water
Universal Studios Hollywood's famous tour is 60Universal

Universal Studios Hollywood is full of rollercoasters that fling you around at breakneck speeds, but this year the park is celebrating the anniversary of a slightly less adrenaline-inducing attraction.

The Hollywood Studios Tour Tram, which sees guests explore a working movie studio backlot, doesn't have corkscrews or require 3D glasses but remains one of Universal's most beloved elements. And the way it takes you behind the scenes makes it just as exciting for any movie buff.

The tour opened its doors way back in 1964, inviting fans to get a sneak peek into the magical world of movie-making.

Guests hop on one of the famous Glamor Trams, redesigned this year to feature their original iconic red and white candy stripes, and drive around live studio lots. They can glimpse a new show or film being produced, drive through recognisable locations from their favourite shows, or get the chance to walk around a preserved set if they're part of a VIP tour.

a red bus parked on the side of a road
Ali Griffiths

The whole experience, which is included as part of your Universal Studios Hollywood park ticket, is made even better by the tour's brilliant guides and drivers, who are positively brimming with a million pieces of trivia suited to every interest.

If that level of detail and insight sounds appealing, we'd definitely recommend looking into the VIP version of the tour, which is included in a Universal Studios Hollywood VIP package. One of the main benefits of this version of the tour is the ability to actually get off the bus and explore the sets and locations on foot.

Guests can take a wander down Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane, poke around the plaza at the center of The Good Place, and drive through the nearly-destroyed Jupiter's Claim from Nope. Even without the hop-off element though, seeing these amazing sets up close is undeniably special.

The tour also includes some moments designed to show off other aspects of the movie-making process. At one point a short drive through a town in Mexico is interrupted by a sudden flash flood, and guests can see how physical special effects can be employed at the drop of a hat before being immediately reset.

a truck with a large whale coming out of the water

To celebrate 60 years of the attraction, Universal Studios has also added or brought back some fan-favourite elements from the tour's history such as the "Earthquake—The Big One" attraction which debuted on the Studio Tour in 1989. Visitors can also hop off during the tour for some memorable photo opportunities with a giant King Kong backdrop and the theme park’s original hanging Jaws shark.

There are also some slightly sillier aspects of the tour, such as a Fast and Furious-inspired "ride" which features some slightly ropey CGI (and ropier performances from la familia). It's a bit of a shame because a) it takes you away from the unique appeal of the attraction, and b) Universal Studios has nailed this sort of ride in different formats elsewhere (i.e. King Kong 360).

The tour also features some amazing recreations of classic movie scenes and sets. Without spoiling too much, a short drive through Amity Bay takes an alarming detour – and a quick visit to the Bates Motel will make you very appreciative of your own Hollywood accommodation.

universal studios hollywood tram tour
Ali Griffiths

A slightly less flashy element of the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Studios Tour is a visit to an extensive prop warehouse. It might not sound like the most exciting place in a theme park, but it's cool for a very specific reason.

Full of chairs and tables and suits of armor and all the things that make up the fictional worlds of TV and movies, the warehouse is a reminder of the sheer amount of work that goes into making the things we watch and love.

On top of that, it reminds us that real people make movies. There's an entire community of people who work on every element of the entertainment we all enjoy and the Studio Tour brings that to life in a really exciting way.

That might seem like an obvious thing to say but it feels kind of important to point out in 2024, as we stare down the barrel of a somewhat dystopian potential future for the entertainment industry.

universal studios hollywood studio tour tram

Despite the wins made by SAG-AFTRA after last year's strikes, conversations around artificial intelligence, and the ways it can "streamline" the production process, still abound.

It's concerning not just because AI is fundamentally anti-art, lacking the creative impulse required to make interesting and engaging entertainment, but because it takes the people out of an industry that was built on the backs of hundreds of professions and skills and trades.

At the end of the day, people make movies. They sweat over the smallest details and that's what makes art and entertainment special – and the Studio Tour gives you a glimpse of that. When you see, for instance, a hundred coffee tables all slightly different lined up, all meticulously logged and preserved and chosen for specific purposes, it's a little overwhelming.

The Studio Tour turns 60 on the same year that Hollywood sign turns 100. As the entertainment industry looks ahead to the future, encouraging moviegoers to think about how things used to be done and reminding them of how much love and craft goes into them can only be a good thing. Plus, it's a great time.

Universal Studios Hollywood Buy a Day, Get a 2nd Day Free Special Offer Ticket costs from £92 / €102 per person, booking through AttractionTickets.com. Tickets are gate-ready offering instant entry to the park, bypassing the ticket and voucher lines. The second visit to Universal Studios Hollywood can be taken any time within six days of the first visit. To book visit www.attractiontickets.com

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