Myrna Aquitana_LighthouseIt’s been awhile since this author last joined the studio tours at the famous Univeral Studios Hollywood. But as luck would have it, my son and his family asked me to join them at the theme park, along with a season pass on Mother’s Day.

I wasn’t too surprised to see a lot of families doing the same thing on this special day. What amazed me were the awesome attractions added since we were last there sometime back.

My grandson opted to stay behind with my son and not go through the Backlot Studio Tour as he knew he might get “devoured by the Raptors” during the tour.

The tram ride offered something new, with TV talk show host, Jimmy Fallon welcoming all of us on an HD monitor and impressing us with his friendly narration, though there are still live tour guides who could be seen throughout the trams through video screens.

We went through the theme park’s backlot where numerous films were made including Skull Island, used in the film “Jaws” and the “Collapsing Bridge” now used for the new King Kong 3-D attraction, to the “Parting of the Sea” scene used during filming of “The Ten Commnadments”, to the “Spanish” area where there’s sudden flash floods, to the ‘New York” facade street where gangster movies were filmed on Courthouse Square and to the European area where films such as “Casablanca” were shot.

Further, we passed by various muscle cars used in the “Fast & Furious” movies and next, we were awed by the New England neigborhood setting of Wisteria Lane, which was depicted by the six (6) streets in the 8-year TV series of “The Desperate Housewives”  and where all the “houses” in the neighborhood were still surprisingly intact.

Next, we passed by the Bates Motel used in the movie “Psycho” which still stands uphill but an actor was added to represent the son who was trying to leave the scene, carrying the bloody knife.



Subsequently, our tram headed to the Environmental Systems Building where there were “Raptors ascending when lights are out and chaos unfolds around us, stalking their way with each motion and we ultimately have to escape from the towering T-Rex with an 85-ft. super plunge in total darkness down the simulated cliff.”

Finally, we were at the “airplane crash” scene which included a torn down Boeing 747.transported into pieces at the Universal Back Lot for Steven Speilberg’s “War of the Worlds.”

As soon as we  ‘got off the tram, my grandson finally joined us to see the Special Effects Stage where audience participants were encouraged in learning special effects in movies such as: CGI (application of computer graphics imagery as opposed to visual cinematography), stop motion, motion capture and 3-D technology.

As a person who has worked in broadcast production in the past, the Special Effects Stage was definitely one of the most interesting areas of the theme park for me.

However, my son and his family didn’t want to miss the amazing Waterworld attraction.. According to Universal’s Studio Tour information, this attraction started in “ “October,1994 during the production of Waterworld, the movie.” The attraction’s fact and figures includes: “set-up cost was $15 million and set cost was $1 million. The show opened in August, 1995 and the size of the show area is 40,000 sq. ft.; seating capacity of venue is 2,500 and the show’s water has 1.4 ,million gallons of recycled water in the pool with a cast of 5 professional actors and 8 industry stuntpeople; Atoll gate towers are 35 feet high; Main tower is 52 feet tall and entry tower is 32 feet tall.”

The legend unfolds with “Helen as the first explorer to return to the atoll. She comes bearing a pile of dirt which means that she found Dry Land.. However, Helen is pursued by evil Smokers led by Deacon. So, she races to the tower to defend the atoll against attack, while the other atoll dwellers prepare their water-based weapons. The evil Smokers arrive with a hail of machine-gun fire; leading to an explosion at the foot of Helen’s tower, causing her to plunge 20 feet into the water. Another Smoker arrives on a jetski, spraying all of the spectators with water. Thus, they made the atoll safe and they sigmal the Deacon to arrive. A sudden explosion ensues in the massive fuel tank, leading to the destruction of the atoll as Helen and the Mariner escape to start a new life. Finally, the Deacon’s threat is ended and civilisation started anew on Dry Land while the Mariner roams the four points of the compass on the many seas of Waterworld.”

Its amazing to hear the sound and music throughout the performance based on the theme of the film scored by James Newton Howard. As for pyrotechnics, there were a total of “63 pyrotechnic effects for each 20-minute Waterworld performance..

There were 50 stunts during the show, including the need for a wide range of skills from jetski jumps via high wire work to high falls into the water. A 40-feet long catapult launch was used for both jet ski and water ski stunts; a crane was used for the stuntman hung from his ankles and dropped into the pit; a 2,200 lb. seaplane was used during the show’s highlight which  was launched from a 30-ft. hydraulic launcher before flying through a breakaway wall.”

Overall, the Waterworld attraction alone, was well worth our special day at Universal and if you haven’t seen these attractions, I truly recommend that you find time to have a leisurely day bonding with your family or friends, and be mesmerized by the wide selection of attractions at the famous theme park.