Friday, February 06, 2015

A True Hollywood Experience - Touring the Studios #RMBCali

Hollywood. The traditional heart of the American movie experience. How could we visit and not do a studio tour? Our first full day in Los Angeles was spent checking out where the magic happens.

Tours are available at Hollywood's oldest and only remaining major motion picture studio - Paramount Pictures.  Paramount covers 65 acres, and boasts 30 stages as well as a huge backlot featuring a 5 acre New York City lot, recreating 8 distinct districts, and a Chicago set-up. It's really quite amazing what can be accomplished here without heading out on location. There's even the Blue Sky Tank for filming any of your water scene needs.

Our tour started with a look at some props and costumes from well known productions. Including this little number from Grease. We were encouraged to take photos in the props building, and even to try on the costumes there. This was way too small for me though. I wonder who wore it?

Our tour guide pointed out a variety of vehicles, set decorations and statues, and told us where they had all appeared.  There was even a prop dead body in a coffin, from the move "Bad Grandpa." I won't share a picture of that though. How about these velvet shoe chairs instead?

Or a little Star Trek?

After the props we headed out to visit a few of the studio stages and then on to the back lots.

Each studio has a plaque near the door, listing all of the films and shows that were shot there. These are the plaques for the adjoining Studio 19 and Studio 20. Love that "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" were right next door to each other. "Instant Mom" is a current Nick at Night show filming in Studio 20. They were on a brief hiatus, but the sets (minus furniture) were still in place, so we were able to walk through and check it all out. We weren't allowed to take any photos inside, but it was neat to see the set-up with the studio audience, and how they do scenery outside windows and such. The camera really works such magic, creating the illusion of a full house when you're really working with just three walls.

Our tour then took us around the back lots, where the city-scapes are located. The tour guide talked about the different shows that had been filmed in different areas and how the sets were made to represent different cities and neighbourhoods. Place a sign in the window of the pizza shop with a Chicago phone number. Put local papers in newspaper boxes on the street. She also showed us where structures were built in to the sidewalks to allow lamp posts, trees, and other decorations to be moved around, added, removed. Boo thought is was pretty neat to see that these sets too are basically just facades, with no actual rooms behind the front doors.

Learning the history of Paramount Studios, hearing the stories, was pretty magical. "This parkette was designed by Lucille Ball to look like her backyard. She brought her kids to play here when she was working, so she could spend more time with them." That same parkette and the building behind it have been used in countless productions for different settings. We were shown one clip from the Brady Bunch where it was the kids' schoolyard. On the show it looked huge, but in reality it's about 15x30 feet maybe. Very cool.

We were able to bring it all home for Boo by introducing him to the "Back to the Future" movies when we got back to Toronto. We had toured through an area that was used in the filming of the movies, including the gas station and the town hall with the clock tower. It didn't mean much to him when we were there, but watching the film at home, he saw those features on the screen and was able to connect those images to the reality he had experienced. It gave him a better appreciation for the work that goes into movie making, I think.

Interested? Paramount offers two tour options - 2 hours and 4 1/2 hours, starting at $53 per person. You can get all the details and book your reservation on the Paramount Studios website. You never know who you might see while you're there!

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