USA Pt IV: Warner Brothers VIP Tour

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Warner Brothers VIP Tour

Both Ying and I had the intention to go on one of the studio tours when we were in Los Angeles and the one offered by Warner Brothers seemed to have the best reviews on Tripadvisor.

We bought our tickets online around two weeks before our intended date of visit and availability was wide open. The VIP tour cost USD 57 (inclusive of USD 3 service fee) and we would need to check in 20 minutes before the tour with the printed e-mail confirmation.

The drive from Holiday Inn Express West Los Angeles to Burbank took around half an hour (I-405 N then US-101 S). The traffic wasn’t heavy since we were heading away from the city center.

Oops wrong gate; we should go to Tour Center instead

There were many entrances to Warner Brothers studio and it took us some time to find the carpark (USD 7 per entry) opposite the Tour Center.

Bugs and Daffy welcoming us

After going through the security at the entrance, we would need to pass through the shop before getting to the registration counter. It seemed that buying at the counter was possible but it was subject to availability. After collecting our tickets, we looked around the shop while waiting for the tour to start.

Personalized tickets

Harry Potter merchandise

Ellen merchandise

Ellen boxer briefs anyone?

At 8.30am sharp, the tour participants were invited into the auditorium. A nice 10-minute video on the history of Warner Brothers was played. The participants were then divided into two groups of around 12 (either Group A or B indicated on the tickets) and led to the buggies by the guides.

On our buggy

The guide (whose name I couldn’t recall) asked the participants if there were any particular shows that we were particularly interested in. It seemed that there were a fair number of Friends fans among the crowd that day.

As he drove through the set, the guide started to tell us the different TV shows or movies that were shot on location within the compound. One of the interesting facts was that most buildings weren’t labeled; that way they could be used over and over again for different shows and scenes.

One of the few labeled buildings that we saw

The buildings were so generically-built that they could be used for different purposes.

This was a hospital. And an airport. And an office building.

We also drove through the sets specially constructed for filming. The Hennessy Street set, built to resemble New York City, made the biggest impression on me.

Streets of New York in California

The ‘buildings’ were actually made of plexiglass. For safety reason, we weren’t allowed to enter them.

Ain’t real bricks

We got down and the guide told us about the scenes that were filmed there.

Stopping for photographs

Apparently the kiss between Spidey and Mary-Jane was filmed at that wall.

Famous wall

The attention to details was fantastic; the ‘gum stains’ were created with chemicals.

Dedicated to Dale Hennessy

Exterior of Central Perk

We were later driven to Warner Village, a cluster of offices.

Warner Village

The buildings were constructed to resemble suburban America.

Suburban America

Actual offices of the film crew

Many of the productions were already on summer hiatus and props were stored along the roads of the compound.

Dismantled for the summer

Unused boat

Pretty Li’l Grips

Warner Brothers has a ‘Jungle’ behind the Warner Village and many rural scenes were filmed here. Other studios such as Universal had rented the set for their shoots and our guide told us that a scene of Jurassic park was shot there.

One of the ‘buildings’ inside the ‘Jungle’

More driving through the sets:-

Demolished car 1

Demolished car 2

There is also a memorial for Warner Brothers employees who died in action during the wars.

Memorial

Warner Brothers Theater- you know you’ve made it in Hollywood if you’re invited to private screenings here

The studio is so big that buggies are required to get around

Warner Brothers Fire Department

We stopped outside the ‘court house’ where our guide told us about the movies and TV shows which were filmed there.

‘Court house’

He also pointed out the grass patch (across the court house) which doubled up as New York’s Central Park in Friends.

Back in New York again

Our guide told us that the museum which housed the automobiles used in movies was closed to visitors at that moment as it was being remodeled. However we were able to sneak a peek from outside the door.

Cars

Batmobiles

The Scooby Doo van was parked outside though and we were able to get up close.

The Mystery Machine

We got to visit three stages: the first of them was the preserved set of Friends.

Outside Stage 24 – the original stage where Friends was filmed.

Plaque commemorating famous features and TV shows filmed inside the stage

Only TV shows which lasted more than five seasons are eligible to be on the plaques.

The preserved set was somewhere else though. Some of the tour participants were visibly excited about the visit.

Friends

Central Perk

Central Perk

Our guide giving us more information

Couch

Interior

Photography isn’t allowed in the next two stages that we visited as they are sets for active shows: The Big Bang Theory and Ellen. Our guide explained the reason behind the photography ban; the producers don’t want any spoilers before the episodes are aired. So we made do with photos from outside.

Stage 1

Ellen

While we weren’t exactly fans of these shows, I still managed to learn some interesting stuff from the visit. For instance, the elevator lobby set in BBT was the same one used for every level and it was ‘redecorated’ each time for the scene to be shot.

The final stop of the tour was at the museum. It has two levels of movie-related costumes and props and the upper level is totally dedicated to Harry Potter.

We had around 25 minutes there and it was probably the highlight of the tour for me.

Level 1:-

The founders and CEOs

Costumes from Dark Knight series

Jewellery used in Great Gatsby

Costumes from Gossip Girl

Costumes from Friends

Superman

Level 2:-

Harry Potter

The sorting hat! Apparently Ying belongs to the Slytherines, slimy.

No! Hermione!!

Escape from Azkaban

Nosey Parker

Chimney of letters

The end of the museum visit concluded the tour and we were dropped off at the visitor center around two and a half hours after we started.

Us outside the visitor center

So did we enjoy the tour? At times. We definitely learned some really interesting stuff about the show business during the visit. It would be better if we were fans of the shows whose sets that we visited.

However, being driven around the studio looking at the ‘buildings’ wasn’t the most exciting activity. To me, the tour wasn’t worth the USD 57 that we paid; 30 USD was probably more reasonable.

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