The Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Los Angeles Has Both Flash and Intellect (5 stars)
I’ve been on all three studio tours in Los Angeles: Paramount, Warner Bros., and Universal Studios, and they are all different. The Paramount tours are all heart. You get an intimate experience as part of a very small tour group, and can ask any question you like. You get to exit the golf cart and walk around exploring. But you mostly see blocky grey studios from the outside and “city sets” that look like New York, or Paris… in other words, like ordinary city sidewalks.
The Universal Tours are the opposite. It’s very impressive but impersonal. You’ll never get to ask a question of the tour guide, and you never leave the bus. Instead of learning a lot about filmmaking, it’s more of a theme park ride. You’ll see some cool sets and get shaken up — literally, as the bus shakes.
The Warner Bros. tour is a well-balanced in-between. Pay $12 for parking and wait in the comfortable waiting room that has an interactive map of the grounds and has a Starbucks inside. Then you join a small cart of 14 people. The guide is very knowledgeable and adjusts the tour to the shows that people on the tour love. So if you’re a fan of the old TV comedy Friends, you’ll get more of that on the tour. It’s remarkably humble and personal for what we expect from Hollywood, and will feed your curiosity completely. So completely!
We saw the set where Ellen is shot, and also the Big Bang Theory studio. It’s interesting to see how these multi-camera comedies are made, and why they never shoot from the other side of a room, because… that’s where the set ends! Although to me the highlight was simply going inside the smaller sets, the fabricated buildings that look good from the outside but are built to be taken apart, to many people the highlight will be the museums.
The tour stops at three museums: first, an entire warehouse dedicated to the Batmobiles from different eras of the Batman movies. You can’t touch them, but you can turn on and off the Bat Signal, and take as many photos as you like. They also have a museum whose first floor is the DC Universe and whose second floor is all about Harry Potter and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movies. The museum has been remodeled since I was last on the Warner Bros. tour a year ago. They show off the costumes from the DC movies and you can wear the sorting hat from Harry Potter. Finally, the tour ends with a cafe, gift shop, and additional museum on movie magic.
To me the real magic though was in environments that were not set up for tourists. For example, we got to walk all through the props warehouse, which is beyond extensive. This is a real place that actual working filmmakers, who wouldn’t go often to the Batmobiles warehouse, will visit all the time and which teaches you a lot.
There’s enough flash (and The Flash) in the Warner Bros. tour to entertain everyone, including small kids and adults who because of travel or temperament just want to be entertained. But even if you’re a serious film buff or filmmaker, the tour has enough depth and personalization to be truly entrancing.
You cannot go wrong with the Warner Bros. tour. It’s an easy 5 stars.
For more, see wbstudiotour.com.