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Ride / Studio Tour

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The Studio Tour (previously known as the Universal Studios Tour) is the main attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, and also the very first Universal Studios attraction in history. As its title suggests, the ride takes guests on a tour of Universal's backlot, and features both educational elements about the studio and its history and moments of pure entertainment.

The tour's origins goes all the way back to 1915, just three years after the founding of Universal Pictures. The "tour" at this time cost just 25 cents, and allowed the public to explore the Universal City studio lot and watch films being shot up-close. This version of the tour was successful, but closed down in 1930 when the Rise of the Talkies suddenly meant that rowdy crowds of spectators were no longer welcome on film sets. The tram tour as we mostly know it today was introduced in 1964 under the name "GlamorTrams". Since then, the tour has constantly evolved with both the times and changes the backlot has undergone over the years.

Due to the sheer size of Universal's backlot, the tour consists of many sections, varying between the studio's sets and props and numerous detours through sequences dedicated to the studio's films. The tour is hosted by both a live host and by a celebrity via video footage. Celebrities that have hosted the ride include Whoopi Goldberg and currently Jimmy Fallon.

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    Current sequences on the tour: 
  • Metropolitan Area: The studio's big city sets, which includes the Clock Tower from Back to the Future.
  • King Kong 360 3-D: A motion simulation attraction that puts guests in the middle of a battle between Kong and the inhabitants of Skull Island. Later became the inspiration for the Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride at Universal Orlando.
  • Collapsing Bridge: A severely unstable bridge that the tram just barely manages to travel over. Was once a recurring part of the tour, but nowadays is only run when King Kong 360 is under refurbishment.
  • Jurassic Park Sets: A showcasing of some of the props and sets from the famous franchise, with a Dilophosaurus encounter happening along the way.
  • Flash Flood: In the backlot's Mexican Street sets, guests find themselves in the middle of a sudden flood.
  • Denver Street: The backlot's western-themed sets.
  • Little Europe: Town sets where many of Universal's Europe-based films have been shot, including Frankenstein (1931)
  • Earthquake: The Big One: Based off of Earthquake, a trip through a San Francisco subway station that soon turns catastrophic when an earthquake strikes. Later served as the inspiration for the former ride of the same name at Universal Studios Florida.
  • Jaws: A quick visit to the town as seen in the famous film, which includes an appearance from the menacing shark. Was eventually expanded into the Jaws attraction for the Universal parks in Florida and Japan.
  • Colonial Street: The backlot's neighborhood-themed sets.
  • Psycho House: The Bates Motel and Bates Mansion set from Psycho, where Norman Bates himself will occasionally make an appearance.
  • War of the Worlds: The destroyed neighborhood sets from the 2005 film.
  • Jupiter's Claim: The Western-inspired theme park sets from Nope.
  • Fast & Furious: Supercharged: Another 3-D simulation experience, this time themed around The Fast and the Furious movies. Like many other experiences on the tour, it was eventually made into its own attraction at Universal Studios Florida.

    Former sequences on the tour: 
  • King Kong Encounter: Based on the 1976 version of King Kong, this scene put guests right up against the giant ape during his rampage through New York. The sequence and its entire building burned down in a huge backlot fire that occurred in 2008. The sequence was not rebuilt, and its site was instead used to expand the city sets, though in 2010 it received a Spiritual Successor called King Kong 360, which is located in a different part of the backlot, though very close to where the original King Kong Encounter was located. The original Encounter served as the inspiration for Kongfrontation at Universal Studios Florida, which has also since gone defunct.
  • Rockslide: A very short-lived bit of the tour that put guests into the middle of a rockslide. Due to how unreliable the effects were for it, it was replaced with Battle of Galactica.
  • Battle of Galactica: A laser battle sequence set in the world of Battlestar Galactica, and notably the very first non-Disney themed entertainment attraction to use animatronics. Was demolished to make way for Back to the Future: The Ride.
  • Burning House: A house facade that was used to demonstrate fire effects in movies. Its location would eventually become the site of Jurassic Park: The Ride.
  • The Ice Tunnel: The original finale of the tour, depicting a trip through a very avalanche-prone glacier. Later rethemed into Dante's Peak Volcano.
  • Dante's Peak Volcano: Similar to the Ice Tunnel, but instead set in a volcanic mine shaft. It was eventually rethemed again into Curse of the Mummy's Tomb.
  • Curse of the Mummy's Tomb: Based directly off of The Mummy Trilogy, this finale once again reused the special effects in the Ice Tunnel, but this time themed to Imhotep's cursed tomb. The attraction was completely demolished in the '2010s and replaced with Fast and Furious: Supercharged.
  • The Fast & The Furious: Extreme Close-Up: A brief demonstration of the car effects used in the film series. It was closed in preparation for Supercharged, and currently sits unused to this day.
  • The Red Sea: One of the several lakes on the backlot, which for a time was used to demonstrate a "Parting of the Red Sea" effect and later to showcase the miniature sets used in King Kong (2005). The lake was removed entirely in the '2010s to allow for the relocation of several of the studios' soundstages.
  • Whoville: The sets from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). Removed in 2020 after years of deterioration in the California sun.

Tropes that appear in the Studio Tour include:

  • Abandoned Area: The tram takes a brief detour through the set of Jurassic Park's Site B, where it soon turns out that it's not quite as abandoned as it seems when two Dilophosauruses pop out at the riders.
  • Alien Abduction: Battle of Galactica centered around the Cylons and their Imperious Leader capturing the tram and its passengers.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: King Kong 360 begins with a pack of Venatosauruses chasing the ride vehicle, only for one of them to soon get eaten by a V-Rex while the rest flee in fear.
  • Ancient Tomb: The tour used to feature Curse of the Mummy's Tomb as the finale, where guests would find themselves at the mercy of Imhotep.
  • Behemoth Battle: King Kong 360 has the guests being right in the middle of a battle between Kong and three V-Rexes that's very similar to the one that occurs in the movie.
  • BFG: Hobbs of course has one in Supercharged, which he happily displays to Agent Novak.
    Dom: Cop, I suggest you clear out of here, otherwise we can't guarantee your safety.
    Agent Novak: Guarantee my safety? I'm the one holding the gun!
    Hobbs: (comes walking in with a massive gun) Yeah, but mine's a whole lot bigger than yours.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • The big ape himself shows up to save the riders just in the nick of time in King Kong 360
    • In Battle of Galactica, an unnamed Colonial Warrior disrupts the Cylons' launch sequence, allowing the tram to escape.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: All the guests aboard the tram become this repeatedly with each major conflict they end up in the middle of.
  • Captain Ersatz: The metro station in the Earthquake segment is meant to resemble a BART station, from the Brutalist style of the station design to the train's distinct pointed-nose lead car. The system maps on the station walls look similar too and reference real-life San Francisco Bay Area locations (such as the San Francisco International Airport and the East Bay), again with station names and geography mixed up a little bit.
  • Car Fu: When Shaw threatens the riders with his flame throwing car in Supercharged, Dom stops him by crashing his car right into Shaw's vehicle.
  • Car Porn: A whole section of the tour is dedicated to showcasing the numerous amount of cars that have been used in Universal's movies from over the years.
  • Christmas Episode: A former feature of the Grinchmas event had the tram briefly stop at the Whoville set to watch the Grinch and the Whos put on a small performance.
  • Clip Show: The tour contains several compilations of Universal's movies, usually as a way of passing time.
  • Damage-Proof Vehicle: Whether in between a battle between a giant ape and dinosaurs or in a dangerous high-speed chase, the studio tram always comes out unharmed.
  • Deadline News: In the former King Kong Encounter, video monitors in the tram and TVs visible through apartment windows showed a news reporter in a helicopter reporting on Kong's rampage. As the tram gets closer to the monster, she screams in terror and the picture starts spinning before cutting out; then a burning helicopter drops out of the sky, just missing the visitors on its way down.
  • Disposing of a Body: On some versions of the tour, Norman Bates can be seen doing this on the Bates Motel set.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Universal sure seems to have a very chaotic backlot, as within a span of 45 minutes guests are menaced by earthquakes, flash floods, dinosaurs, killer sharks, crime syndicates, and mother-obsessed killers.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • A ride named Studio Tour is a tour of Universal Studios. Who would've thought?
    • Several of the sequences are this as well, such as Flash Flood and Collapsing Bridge.
  • Expansion Pack: In a non-video game instance, there's a more elaborate VIP version of the tour available for a hefty upcharge that allows you to walk through several of the backlot's sets and soundstages, as well as the studio's prop warehouse.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: In Supercharged, Shaw wields a flame thrower against the riders, threatening to fry them if they don't give up the witness.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: During the nighttime tour, the monster makes an appearance in the Little Europe set.
  • Giant Spider: Riders get uncomfortably close to one in King Kong 360 while tangled up in the vines.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche: There used to be a scene on the tour called The Glacier Avalanche, in which, as you would expect from the title, involved the tram getting stuck in the middle of one.
  • Halloween Episode: Formerly during Halloween Horror Nights, the attraction became the Terror Tram, where it was hosted by some sort of horror character and had guests getting off the tram and walking through the sets of Psycho and War of the Worlds (2005), with scareactors galore.
  • He Knows Too Much: In Supercharged, Owen Shaw and his gang is after a witness that holds information that would prove dangerous to his operation.
  • High-Speed Battle: Supercharged is this, with the protagonists having to ward off Shaw and his forces while moving at top speed through a highway.
  • House Fire: The tour once featured a look at a house facade that's always on fire. It was later removed to make way for Jurassic Park: The Ride.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The full name for King Kong 360 is King Kong 360 3-D Created by Peter Jackson.
  • Leave No Witnesses: When Norman Bates notices the guests on the tram have spotted him placing a dead woman in the trunk of a car, he pulls out a knife and slowly approaches the tram with murderous intentions.
  • Long Runner: Having been around in some form for over 100 years, it's one of the oldest theme park attractions (if not the oldest), being almost 50 years older than the theme park itself!
  • Miniature Effects: Throughout the years, the tour has featured several displays dedicated to showing how miniature sets are used in movies like Dante's Peak and King Kong (2005).
  • Newscaster Cameo: The King Kong Encounter had veteran ABC newscaster Sander Vanocur anchoring coverage before throwing to fictional reporter Kelly King. When Kongfrontation opened along with the Florida park, they replaced Vanocur's footage with new footage of real New York anchor Rolland Smith (the "fighting the frizzies" guy), as MCA owned WWOR-TV in New York (well, Secaucus NJ) at the time of the ride opening (they had purchased it from the infamously-corrupt RKO General, which was being forced by the FCC to sell their stations); the footage of King was retained, but overdubbed by Tress MacNeille. Even long after WWOR was spun off by MCA, changed their logo and became a UPN station owned by Fox (it's currently a MyNetworkTV station), the footage was retained until Kongfrontation was closed.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Supercharged, Roman accidentally leads Shaw right to the protagonists' location, as he forgot to turn off his cell phone, which Shaw is able to track.
  • Nitro Boost: One that's built into the protagonists' vehicles in Supercharged ends up being used to get them over a huge ramp.
  • Ominous Walk: Norman Bates eerily walks towards the tram at a casual pace, which conveniently allows the tram driver to drive away just in time.
  • Product Placement: The tour often contains plugs for some of Universal's upcoming movies or NBC's upcoming tv shows.
  • Prop Recycling: invoked The tour, especially the VIP version of it, goes to lengths to explain how often you'll see the backlot's props reappear across a multitude of works. The Little Europe section of the backlot, for example, is explicitly said to be able to fill in for virtually any European town by simply replacing the language used on the signs and windows.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Plays, of course, when the tram is at the Psycho set.
  • Ramp Jump: A rather huge one serves as the finale of the Supercharged sequence.
  • Raptor Attack: King Kong 360 starts out with the guests being pursued by a pack of Venatosauruses.
  • Recycled Set: invoked The tour repeatedly explains how virtually all of the sets in the backlot have been reused for multiple films and TV shows.
  • Runaway Train:
    • The western sets once had a ghostly train that would stop just barely short of hitting the tram. The train was later rendered immobile sometime in the '80s.
    • During the Earthquake scene, a nearby subway train derails and nearly collides with the riders.
  • Scenery Gorn: The set of War of the Worlds (2005) is this to a glorious degree, as it depicts an entire neighborhood that's been obliterated by an airplane crash.
  • Silent Movie: When the tram puts out a "Quiet on the Set" alert, a Jimmy Fallon sketch of him doing a silent film parody is shown.
  • invokedSpecial Effects Failure: Often joked about. After an attack from the shark from Jaws, the host will then point out that it happens to be the only shark in the world that can swim backwards, while the robot shark drifts in reverse to reset to its original place.
  • Split Personality: Jimmy Fallon has one in his western sketch, to the point that he ends up having a Mexican Standoff with himself.
  • Staring Contest: In his silent film skit, Jimmy Fallon tries to have one with the riders.
  • Stock Animal Diet: With the way that Kong's breath smelled in the King Kong Encounter, it seemed that he had quite a liking for bananas.
  • Subways Suck: The Earthquake sequence puts guests in a subway station that's being torn to shreds by a massive earthquake.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The climax of the King Kong Encounter had guests coming face-to-face with Kong while on a bridge.
  • Taking Youwith Me: When of the V-Rexes is about to fall down a cliff, it bites the last car of the tram and pulls it along for the fall.
  • Threatening Shark: The Jaws portion of the tour features, of course, an appearance from the shark itself.
  • Unexplained Recovery: When the tour was hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, she ended up getting swarmed by scarab beetles during The Mummy's Tomb sequence, but afterwards reappeared completely unharmed. The tour guide would often be desiccated by the scarabs, too, demonstrated by a corpse-like mannequin puppet, only to turn out fine about a minute later.
  • We Interrupt This Program: Hobbs interrupts Agent Novak's message to the tram by hacking into and taking over the transmission.
  • Weather Report: The tour has NBC's Al Roker giving one for every part of the Universal backlot. He in particular gives a flash flood warning for the Little Mexico set, a warning that the tour guide decides to ignore.
  • The Wild West: The Six Points Texas set is used entirely for Western films.
  • Witness Protection: Plays a big part in Supercharged's story, as a member of the program is said to be among the guests.