How does one infuse something already magical with a dream-like quality? Welcome to Universal Studios in Los Angeles, USA. If you have at least a day free in that city, then a visit to Universal Studios is a must. Doesn’t matter if you are old, young, a honeymoon couple or a child – it is a place that can enthrall everyone and set their imagination rolling.
One of the most famous and still functioning Hollywood studios, Universal started its modern tour in 1964. Back then it included a series of dressing room walk-throughs, peeks at actual production, and later, staged events. It has now evolved into a full-fledged theme park. The theme park is replicated in many parts of the world, but the original is in Los Angeles. A day spent in Universal has a dream-like quality, especially if you love cinema.
If you have enjoyed watching Jurassic Park, or Simpsons, or Shrek, or are a fan of the minions of Despicable Me, then ride along with your favorite characters in the imaginative attractions. I discovered the sheer joy of simulation and 3D in these rides. Sitting in a room, simulation takes you along mountainous terrains, sharp turns and u-turns, thuds and shoves. The characters play out a small story in the surroundings, at times seeming to touch you and at others lunging at you. One dodges sparks emanating from a fire, and the rolling car that seems to come hurtling in front. When exiting the hall, the exhilaration and fatigue is the same as that of a real roller coaster ride. But if you have motion sickness like I do, then you can simply shut your eyes when the ride gets tough. After years, I sat through a roller coaster ride, without the attendant problems.
The theme park was also a first brush with 4D technology. While watching the Shrek show, water sprayed on our faces when it rained in the scene, the chairs we sat on rumbled in coordination with what was happening on screen, and all of us jumped when it felt like the rats on screen were scurrying past our feet!
The real treasure of the park is the Studio Tour. In a long open carriage, a drive through the iconic studios of Universal is a mesmerizing dream. From the avenues of New York, to Wisteria Lane where the Desperate Housewives live, to the eerie plane crash of War of the Worlds, they are all recreated. One understands how floods occur in movies, or that subway stations are built entirely to recreate the ambiance. When an earthquake occurs, pre-planned vehicles tumble and water gushes. Fires break out, while small water bodies mimic oceans and rivers. Movies are make-believe, we all know that. During that studio tour I realized that the make-believe too has a reality, which is equally fascinating.
However, the stories that the studios tell is part of an era that is slowly passing us by. When we sat through the special effects show it was crystal clear.The show narrates the journey of special effects from the time they used red fluid for blood to computer generated imagery. With nothing but a dark color backdrop, any atmosphere – flood, forests, fire, age, injury, crowds, castles or rain can be recreated.
The world of movies is moving from the brick and mortar sets to the virtual world. The magic is now only on the screen and nothing real is left behind for memory or for visitors like us. The virtual world is now transformed into attractions of simulated entertainment. The cycle goes on eternally, but in a different form!
Attractive food stalls, lots of popcorn, dressed up characters, peppy music, and hordes of people from all over the globe create a world of fantasy and fiction.
Capturing the magic of movies and encapsulating the thrill into a dream-like day is the essence of a visit to Universal Studios. Creativity is a never ending process, from one art form there sprout endless artifacts. It is simply a matter of imagination and execution.