A Tramtastic Tribute to Universal Hollywood’s Studio Tour

A Tribute to Universal Hollywood’s Studio Tour

Recently, the British travel website ETIAS.com grabbed headlines with a survey tagging Universal Studios Hollywood as the “world’s most expensive theme park,” as determined by dividing the one-day admission price by the total number of rides. However, that metric does a serious disservice to the world-famous Studio Tour, a unique offering that combines a half-dozen experiences into a single uber-attraction. As a counterbalance, we’re taking a page out of the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2022 and sharing our five-star review of Universal Studios Hollywood’s not-to-be-missed Studio Tour.

Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour tram 2021
Join Jimmy Fallon on a tram ride around Universal Studios Hollywood’s backlot with our Unofficial Guide to the theme park’s world-famous Studio Tour. (Photos/videos by Seth Kubersky)

The Studio Tour is the centerpiece of USH and is one of the longest attractions in American theme parks. The tour departs from the tram boarding facility to the right of The Simpsons Ride and down the escalator. (Note that there’s also an escalator to the left of The Simpsons Ride, so don’t get confused.)

Tonight Show host and former Saturday Night Live star Jimmy Fallon is the tour’s prerecorded host. All trams are equipped with high-definition monitors showing clips from actual movies that demonstrate how the sets and soundstages were used in creating the films; the newest models are powered by quiet electric motors.

The Studio Tour circulates through the various street scenes, lagoons, special effects venues, and storage areas of Universal’s back lot. The tram passes several soundstages where current films and TV shows such as The Voice are in production, and it actually enters three soundstages where action inspired by Earthquake, King Kong, and The Fast and the Furious are presented.

Other famous sets visited include those from movies like Psycho and War of the Worlds, along with more recent television shows like The Good Place.

A simulated flash flood, long a highlight of the tour, has been enhanced with new sound effects.

And visitors with fond memories of Universal Orlando’s extinct Disaster! and Jaws attractions will be happy to find their Californian cousins still going strong here.

The award-winning King Kong 360/3-D is a virtual experience inspired by Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake. Guests enter a darkened tunnel where tram-length curved projection screens transform into the jungles of Skull Island. A family of hungry V. rexes decides to dine on your tour group, and Kong himself swings in to save you, with hydraulic lifts under the cars simulating the sensations of their tug-of-war.

The experience is visceral and visually stunning, especially when seen from the middle of a row (sitting on the outside exposes the top of the screen, spoiling the illusion). At only about 90 seconds, King Kong is too short to be a satisfying stand-alone attraction (it was substantially expanded for the Orlando incarnation), but it’s a terrific addition to the overall tour, and a recent 4K projector upgrade has the old ape looking sharper than ever.

In 2015 Universal debuted Fast & Furious: Supercharged, a new finale to the tram tour, featuring Vin Diesel (Dominic “Dom” Toretto), Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty Ortiz), Tyrese Gibson (Roman Pearce), and Luke Evans (Owen Shaw) from the long-running car-racing franchise. Inside a 50,000-square-foot soundstage built on the site of the old avalanche-effect tunnel, the “3D-HD thrill ride” uses hydraulic platforms, 400-foot-long screens, and 34 4K 3-D projectors to make it appear as if your tram is in the midst of a high-stakes car chase, pursuing an international crime cartel at 100-plus miles per hour through the streets of Los Angeles.

The Fast & Furious finale begins when your tram driver reveals that a member of your party is a crime witness being sought by both the bad guys and the FBI. Your tram shelters in an industrial warehouse, where a rave is in full swing until the feds crash the party. The F&F crew come to your rescue and escort you on a virtual high-speed highway chase filled with CGI car crashes and simulated explosions.

After so much hype, Supercharged is frankly somewhat disappointing, failing to advance the Kong 360 technology in a meaningful way or capture the visceral thrill that made the Fast & Furious films so popular. The dialogue and visual effects are shockingly cheesy (even by theme park standards), but it all goes by in such a nitro-fueled blur that audiences emerge applauding.

The great thing about the Studio Tour is that you see everything without leaving the tram—essentially experiencing four or five major attractions with only one wait.

Get an express sample of the Studio Tour for yourself in this video of edited highlights recorded in 2021 at Universal Studios Hollywood:

Touring Tips

Though the wait to board might appear long, do not be discouraged. Each tram carries several hundred people and departures are frequent, so the line moves quickly. We recommend taking the tram tour after experiencing the rides on the Lower Lot. The attraction entrance typically closes 105 minutes prior to the park’s closing time, so we recommend getting in line at least 2 hours before the park closes.

Tour trams are four cars long. The front car allows you to see your guide in the flesh; aim for the elevated back row. The third car is the sweet spot for experiencing the 3-D 360 visuals, and the back car bounces around the most from the motion simulation.

Including your wait to board and the duration of the tour, you will easily invest an hour or more at this attraction. Remember to take a restroom break before queuing up. This is one of the few attractions that allows food and beverages to be brought on board. Though the ride as a whole is gentle, some segments may induce vertigo or motion sickness—especially the Kong encounter and Fast & Furious finale. Finally, be aware that several of
the scenes may frighten small children.

Have you taken the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood? Let us know what you think in the comments!

For all there is to see and do at Universal Studios Hollywood, check out The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland by Seth Kubersky with Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa, and Guy Selga Jr. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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