If you want to peek behind the curtain and find out how movies and TV shows are made, then a behind-the-scenes studio tour is just the ticket. We selected the Warner Bros. Studio Tour from the several that can be visited in Los Angeles and loved the experience.
Once parked up (we really didn’t feel they should charge for parking when the only reason to park there is for the tour!), we headed past the statues of two of their most famous cartoon characters to join our tour.
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Next up was to go through security and with our tour group cards in hand (these simply split you into smaller groups for the actual tour) we entered a theatre to watch a short film. This told the story of Warner Bros. history and showed off some of their most famous productions. It’s an interesting watch, not too long, and you will be sure to recognise many iconic moments from films and TV shows you’ve seen. After that you are split into groups based on the tour card you are holding and climb aboard huge golf buggies to begin the tour. Also photos are very much encouraged on this tour which we were really happy to hear.
Each buggy visits different parts of the tour in a different order to keep anything from getting overcrowded and our tour started with the outside sets or back lot. The tour guide asked which of Warner Bros. shows people are fans of so they can show things related to those shows if possible and target the tour a little to the group. For example, because there were lots of fans of the Big Bang Theory (including us!) we saw the outside of the apartment building that Leonard and Sheldon live in amongst other things.
The tour of the back lot was very interesting and the guide pointed out odd things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about. For example, entrances to subways that don’t actually go anywhere but a small room, and the fact that extras will sometimes walk down the stairs “into” the subway, change their coat or hat and then walk out again as a different character. Guess this saves on extras, and now I end up watching people in the background of films sometimes to see if I can spot the same person coming up the stairs as went down a moment before :)
Seeing the exterior of sets that look real on TV or film, but are just thin facades with nothing inside them or are just painted facades that don’t look remotely real when seen close up! One large set forms a solid enough looking building, but each of the four sides is a completely different thing; for example one side is a courthouse, another a school, and another a fire station. It’s all very clever and interesting to see the tricks that are used to make TV shows and films.
Fans of Gilmore Girls will likely also feel like they are in familiar territory as the back lot is complete with gazebo, Luke’s Diner, Doose’s grocery, and other town square locations. Many of these buildings are now used as sets for Pretty Little Liars.
One particular favourite was the street in the picture below, because whilst a two dimensional picture of it looks normal, when seeing it with your own eyes you can tell something’s not right. The buildings at the back are obviously smaller and closer to you when seen in three dimensions than they appear when seen in two. This is another trick used to reduce the amount of space sets take up and very obvious when you look with your own eye that it’s odd sized, and then look again through your camera it looks right.
When sets are rented the people renting them can make any changes that they need, on the condition that they put the sets back the way they started; however, sometimes changes made are seen as useful and the studio decides to keep them.
Leaving the back lot we went to an exhibition with props from two of Warner Bros. most successful franchises – Batman and Harry Potter. Various costumes and items from the films were on display and we had plenty of time to wander around both exhibitions.
On the Harry Potter floor you can even be “sorted” into a house by the Sorting Hat if you wish… hope you get the house you want. Having been to the Harry Potter studio tour in Watford, England, the stuff on display here cannot compete against all the sets on show where the movies were filmed, but it’s still interesting, especially if you are a fan of the franchise. As a side note – we thoroughly recommend the Watford studio tour. It is really well done and has huge amounts of stuff from the films, in fact it has even more stuff on display now than when we went, as the steam engine from the film is there now too.
Back on the giant golf cart we were taken to one of the studios to see an indoor set. We visited Studio 18 to see the set of the CBS show ‘Undateable‘ which neither of us had actually ever seen before but Stacey did watch a couple of episodes when she got home. Outside each studio is a plaque showing all the productions that have been made at that studio but unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures at this one point on the tour although we’re not really sure why as they weren’t actually filming on the set at the time.
Our next stop was to see some more Batman paraphernalia, this time a lot of the vehicles that have been used in the films. Bat cars, bikes and planes are on show and again we had plenty of time to see them all because the tour wasn’t at all rushed. You could even turn on a bat signal! :-)
At this point the guided tour ends and you are dropped off at the last stop on the tour to view the rest of the exhibits at your own pace before you leave. The first thing we saw was the exterior of Central Perk from Friends and, after viewing some stuff from Scooby Doo and Mars Attacks, we could step inside the famous coffee shop and, not just to view it, you can sit on the sofa and have your photo taken. :-) Pleasingly this is not an up-sell. They happily take a picture with your own camera and you don’t have to buy the photo or anything.
The museum continues with hundreds of other props and such from productions; some of the memorable ones for us were a set from Two and Half Men, the capsule from Gravity, one of the flying Ford Anglias from Harry Potter, Superman’s cape, a blimp model from Blade Runner, the six shooter from Dirty Harry, the crucifix from The Exorcist and some Oscars from winning Warner Bros. productions… plus much, much more.
If you’re interested in how TV shows and films are made, we thoroughly recommend the “Studio Tour” or if you want to learn more information and go more in depth there is a “Deluxe Tour” option available too.
Plan Your Visit
- Tickets for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour are $68 for adults (13 years and up) and $58 for children (8-12 years) and there is a small discount if booked online. Children under 8 years of age are not permitted. This tour will take approximately 3 hours.
- The Deluxe Tour is $295 but there are no discounts if purchased online. This tour will take approximately 6 hours.
- Parking is available for an additional fee of $12 per vehicle and is nearby at 3400 Warner Blvd.
- For visiting hours (it’s recommended you do check as they can be sold out on particular dates), directions and public transit information please click here.
- A money saving option is the Go Card for Los Angeles which lets you choose from LA’s top 34 attractions and save up to 50% vs paying at the gate. Another option is to build your own pass, especially if you will be visiting other cities in California and won’t be in Los Angeles long enough to get the best value from the Go Card. We used this option on our trip to add attractions from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego which bundled them together and saved us 20% off gate prices.
Have you taken this studio tour? If so, what did you think of the experience?
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