Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stories.
Movies, like books, tell stories. I love how almost anything is possible in the make-believe world of movie magic. In college, I went to watch movies almost every other week, because they offered a few hours of escape from studying and the everyday stresses of life. Sadly, I haven’t found time to watch that many since I started working.
Since I was in the entertainment capital of the world – Hollywood, Los Angeles – there was no way I was going to miss on visiting one of the most well-known movie places on the planet: Universal Studios Hollywood.
We set off early in the morning on a bus to the Hollywood/Vine subway station. It was my first time using an American subway, even though we have underground trains in Kuala Lumpur as well.
But while our KL train stations are dull and drab, the ones in Hollywood are decorated with various props such as large cameras. The ceiling is also covered with film reels.
Train to the Universal Studios stop via Red line. There are two subway lines – Red and Purple.
The trains are tired looking; not surprising, since they’ve been operating for over 20 years. The seats look faded and the walls are a dirty beige.
We rode the subway a couple more times while in LA, and it wasn’t uncommon to see homeless people riding the train. Some smelled of weed, others just smelled bad. It was really sad. In KL there are homeless people but they don’t often come up to ask for change, preferring to sleep under bridges, and are generally not very visible to the public.
Arriving at the Universal Studios stop. It was also decorated with artworks in the form of colourful ceramic tiles on its pillars.
Walked a short distance to the tram stop and took a tram up to our destination.
There was a boulevard full of shops and restaurants outside the theme park and studios. Of course, being LA, palm trees made their appearance on the sidewalks.It was a weekday, so thankfully there were not too many people.
This is my second visit to a Universal Studios. I went to the one in Singapore and enjoyed the experience very much, so I was looking forward to this trip.
Entering the compound, we were greeted by a few statues…. or are they? Some visitors got a fright when one of said ‘statues’ moved. His makeup was so well done! Can you spot the real among the fake?
The ‘Main Street’ of Universal Studios. There are various city-themed attractions, so visitors can take pictures in settings of New York, Paris and even London.
Our first ride was the Shrek 4D movie experience. We were just in time to catch the first show. Outside at the waiting area, there were Wanted posters of fairytale characters as seen from the movie (which is one of my favourite animated movies, btw!).
The experience was exactly the same as the one in Singapore. Visitors were ushered into a ‘torture chamber’ while fairytale characters navigated us through a story. Lord Farquhar (from Shrek 1) has returned as a ghost and is intent on capturing Fiona and making her his ghost bride, so Donkey and Shrek (and you!) must go on a journey to save the damsel in distress.
The 4D ride includes jerking seats, blasting air currents and sprinkling water, all cleverly incorporated into the show.
Moving on to the other themed area, featuring French inspired buildings and decorations.
Further in was the town of Springfield from The Simpsons. This was something that wasn’t available in USS. The shops were all themed around characters from the Simpsons.
We decided to go to the bottom level where the studios were + some more rides. It was a very long escalator ride down.
The bottom level of the park featured rides from blockbuster films, such as Jurassic Park, Transformers and The Mummy. Since bags weren’t allowed on the rides, we put them in a free locker which identifies the user by thumbprint. Performers like this pretty lady were seen walking around taking pictures with visitors.
We were lucky coz there weren’t that many people on weekdays – so the most we had to wait for rides was 10 to 15 mins. We went on the Transformers ride first. It was the same as the one in Singapore, but I didn’t mind going on it again because it was my favourite.
We were seated in a jeep-like contraption, surrounded by ceiling-high 3D projectors, and were given 3D glasses. The story goes that you are a cadet, and the Decepticons are attacking the base. The jeep then speeds out onto the ‘streets’ while trying to make an escape. All the while, riders are bombarded with real sensations and smells like smoke and even heat from a fire!
At different times throughout the day, characters from the Transformers film will be out and about. Their costumes look hyper realistic and they also talk in the exact same voices.
The Mummy ride was the only coaster in the theme park. I was worried my glasses would fall off, so I stuffed them into a safe compartment near the seat. Which meant that I couldn’t really see what was going on (I’m technically blind without glasses!). I think some of the mechanical contraptions were creepy hands waving from the ceiling, mummies lining the walls and trying to ‘grab’ you while Imhotep muttered creepy things about taking your soul while he chased riders through a dark tunnel.
It was a good coaster – fast and with all the right turns, altho no big drops or turns. We went on it twice 🙂
Break time! The lower level didn’t have a big selection of food, so we went up the long escalator ride again to ‘Springfield’. I was craving fried chicken, so we went to Cletus’ Chicken Shack.
The restaurant is designed like a barn with wooden paneling and funny props, like a portrait of Cletus’ large family (playing on redneck stereotypes) and random animals hanging from the ceiling. They also have a large tv playing all the ‘restaurant’ clips from The Simpsons.
Chicken platter, with three pieces of chicken, half a corn cob, biscuit, and mashed potatoes with gravy. Tastewise it was okay.
Stay tuned for part 2!