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Theatre / Special Effects Show

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Special Effects Show is a behind-the-scenes presentation at Universal Studios Hollywood. As its title suggests, the attraction showcases the many different kind of visual effects used in Universal's movies and how they are pulled off.

There have been many special effect shows throughout Universal Studios Hollywood's history. The first was the The Six Million Dollar Man Bionic Testing Center, which opened in 1977. That was replaced with Special Effects Stage in 1980, which was later updated into 2010 Special Effects Stage, which covered special effects in sci-fi films such as 2010: The Year We Make Contact. In 1991, it became World of Cinemagic, a show divided into three rooms: The Magic of Hitchcock, The Back to the Future Special Effects, and the Harry and the Hendersons Sound Effects Show. Come 2002, the show became Special Effects Stages, with the three rooms now being the Virtual Studio, the Creature Factory, and the Sound Lab. This show lasted until 2010, when it was removed to make way for Transformers: The Ride.


The show found a new location in a single-room theater known as the "Castle Theater", replacing the short-lived Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical. It opened in 2010, under the name Special Effects Stage. In 2015, the show underwent further revisions and had its name changed to Special Effects Show.

Special Effects Show/Special Effects Stage provides examples of:

  • Audience Participation: To help demonstrate effects in the show, several volunteers from the audience are brought up on stage.
  • Batter Up!: At one point during the stunt fight scene, one of the villains tries to use a bat against the stuntman, with not much effectiveness.
  • Chroma Key: Was used several times in Special Effects Stage, in ways that included inserting a woman into New York City from King Kong (2005), inserting a family on a boat into a jungle, and inserting a family into a situation where they flee from a Tyrannosaurus rex.
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  • The City Narrows: The stunt demonstration of the show is set in a seedy alleyway, complete with several garbage bags and a dirty dumpster.
  • Clip Show: The show contains multiple montages of Universal's movies, often as a way of showcasing a different special effect.
  • Combat Tentacles: In Special Effects Stage, the chroma key demonstration in which a family is made to seem as if they're driving a boat ends with them getting attacked by giant tentacles, which were mere props on sticks controlled by crew members.
  • Don't Try This at Home: The hosts warn the audience that some of the effects demonstrated in the show should not be tried at home.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Occurs in the horror section of the show when the volunteer screams for a photo.
  • Fast-Roping: The show's stuntmen come down onto the stage via a rope from the ceiling.
  • I'm Okay!: When one of the stuntmen "kicks" another stuntman in the face, the latter falls to the ground and lies there for a few seconds before getting back up and saying this.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: When the hosts mention that they are now going to demonstrate practical stunts, two stuntmen come down from the ceiling and say, "Did somebody say stunts?"
  • Kung-Foley: In the stunt fight scene, all of the punches and kicks make very audible noises, which is something that the hosts bring up afterward.
  • Living Statue: During the horror section of the show, a Michael Myers statue comes to life just as one of the show’s volunteers is about to have their picture taken.
  • Man on Fire: As a way of demonstrating fire effects in movies, it is shown how a man can be safely set on fire for a scene that requires it.
  • Matte Shot: It is shown how Alfred Hitchcock was able to create the town from 'The Birds'' from mostly matte paintings.
  • Miniature Effects: The use of miniature models in movies is brought up, and how they have been used in movies such as The Mummy (1999)
  • Motion Capture: The show demonstrates motion capture effects in movies by having a person use motion capture to make Ted do a dance.
  • Product Placement: The show is often given minor revisions to promote one of Universal's latest releases.
  • "Psycho" Strings: When the hosts pretend to drive a knife through one of the volunteers' arm, music from Psycho is played.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Soundtrack bits from movies such as Apollo 13, Backdraft, and Casper are used throughout the show.
  • Reference Overdosed: Tons of Universal movies are showcased in the many montages of the show.
  • Running Gag: In Special Effects Stage, there was a running gag where one of the crew members would constantly interrupt the show's attempts at chroma key shots before the hosts eventually agree to give him a part in the show.
  • Screaming Woman: In the horror section, the hosts have the female volunteer do an over-the-top scream for when they take her picture.
  • Spiritual Successor: This show is more or less the same thing as Special Effects Stages, just set all in one room as opposed to three.
  • Stop Motion: Special Effects Stage had a section dedicated to explaining how stop motion is used in movies like Paranorman.
  • That Poor Cat: In the stunt fight scene, a cat screeches when one of the villains gets tossed into a dumpster.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: Volunteers are brought up to try to recreate sound effects used in a scene from Identity Thief, this trope being the natural result.

Special Effects Stages provides examples of:

  • Cold-Blooded Torture: In The Mummy segment, the hosts asked the volunteer to act is if they're being tortured by the pharaoh.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The large werewolf shown in the Creature Factory is called "Fluffy".
  • Get Out!: After one of the hosts says that the Creature Factory being haunted is just a rumor, a disembodied voice suddenly tells them and the audience this.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After one of the volunteers got mauled by Fluffy, the host would say this to the volunteer's family.
  • Not Quite Dead: After one of the volunteers was fried into a skeleton, one of the hosts checked their pulse and said that they're still alive.
  • Remote Body: In the Creature Factory, a child volunteer wore a special suit that controlled Fluffy's movements.
  • Stripped to the Bone: One of the volunteers was reduced to a skeleton due to an electrical error during The Mummy segment.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Not only did the volunteer survive getting fried in The Mummy segment, but he later returned completely recovered in the Creature Factory scene.


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