Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Lights! Camera! Burbank! The Warner Brothers Studio Tour

I was a guest of Warner Brothers on its studio tour, and was assisted by Discover Los Angeles on my LA visit.

In Los Angeles once again, I was keen to join the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. 

I'd been on it once before while researching a story about four LA studio tours, and was curious to see how its new Stage 48 section had developed over the past year. It would also be an opportunity for Narrelle Harris to see it with me. She's just as much a movie fan as I am, so we were looking forward to the experience.

Stage 48 had opened just before my 2015 visit. The finale to the traditional tour of Warner's back lot and front lot, it's a facility which takes visitors through all the stages of film-making. 

To my mind, it makes the WB tour the best of the studio tours for those interested in the process of movie-making, as it adds content to the glamour. 

The tour starts in Burbank, which I had previously learned via a taxi voucher drama is not actually in Los Angeles; it's technically a separate city. 

Arriving by Uber this time, I saw Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (my favourite Looney Tune) waiting in the forecourt, not far from the famous water tank with the Warner Brothers logo:



After an introductory video, tour members boarded a cart which took us through the back lot. These make-believe streets and neighbourhoods stand in for various locations via deft changes to signage and the odd spot of CGI. 

This 'jungle' is perfect for tropical scenes; though Jurassic Park was filmed in Hawaii, one or two additional scenes were filmed here:


What's more common on the back lot are mock urban streets, which feel a touch creepy via their lack of people and the absence of signage on their buildings (which is added as needed):




Midway through the tour we were taken to an exhibition building with two floors: one exhibiting Harry Potter costumes and props, the other devoted to superheroes. 

Last year the ground floor had featured Batman costumes and items from the then upcoming Batman vs Superman movie. This year it was preparing the ground for the upcoming Justice League movie via a DC Universe display, with each character featured above an original comic book containing one of their earliest appearances:




Beyond this was the excellent Wonder Woman costume as worn by Gal Gadot in Batman vs Superman:


Further on was a series of large portraits (along with some props) from the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, about a pack of DC villains forced to operate as a team. 

I'd read the comic book back in the 1980s and liked the concept; a team of villains was always going to have some entertaining flaws. And I loved this glimpse of the costumes, which indicated the designers at least have caught some of the anarchic humour and drama of the comic book:




We then toured another building full of Batmobiles, and had a look at the set of a TV show currently being shot (at which we were forbidden from taking photos).

At the conclusion of the tour, we were deposited at Stage 48 and told we could spend as as much time as we liked there.

It was great. Taking our time, Narrelle and I wandered through the initial section devoted to screenwriting, casting and costuming, where Narrelle took the opportunity to design her own customised lemon-coloured Batmobile:




Then we passed the original Friends set to find an exhibition of Mad Max: Fury Road costumes...


... into the more technical area which covered such techniques as green screen, forced perspective, CGI and motion capture:




One of the best exhibits was near the end of the tour. Visitors sat within a separate room with a big screen, viewing four versions of a short scene from Gravity with different aspects of its sound added. It was a great overview of the complexity of sound in a big motion picture.

The tour was fun and we'd learnt a lot. All that remained was to collect our Oscars for Best Tour Member in a Supporting Role:



We only hung onto the statue briefly, but it was a real Oscar. Heavy too, around 4 kilograms in weight. It'd make a great paperweight on one's award-winning writer's desk.

Read more and book tickets for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour by clicking here. For more about the attractions of LA, visit Discover Los Angeles.