This year is the 35th anniversary of ‘Back To The Future‘ (1985) and to celebrate the greatest movie, Tokyo Fox goes way back in time to…… 2002! In early May of that year I visited America for the first time and, as a huge fan of the franchise, I was determined to go on the Universal Studios tour……not that I knew at that time what was there or what it was even about! I really don’t think I knew beforehand that it was a theme park!
A VIP ticket fortunately took my friend Alvin (from Holland) and I past the waiting queues and straight into the grounds of the studios where a Marilyn Monroe photo opportunity threw us head first into the magic of it all.
Feeling the need to make the most of our time, we headed straight for the ‘Back To The Future‘ ride. I was actually quite overwhelmed to see Emmett-Brown’s Delorean and Biff Tannen’s car located besides the ride.
The ride itself was centred around Doc Brown plotting against arch enemy Biff in order to get history back on track. The high flying time travelling machine that we sat in ripped across the past and future (chasing Biff in the process) in a very realistic and enthralling simulated ride where we hit the magical 88 mph on multiple occasions and each time we were transported on a journey to survive exploding volcanoes, devastating avalanches, ice-filled rivers and the perils of future civilisation in Hill Valley. We were shunted and jolted about frequently as we swerved and dodged the various flying cars and dinosaurs while speeding through time on what was a very enjoyable ride
After that, we took the tram ride tour of Universal Studios and the numerous outdoor sets which included various fake buildings and houses including the famous Hill Valley Clock Tower.
We were told a few stories about the recording of the films as our vehicle continued on past the props and set of a typical New York street, and the ride then took in a constant series of cinematic thrills starting with the tram having to negotiate the perils of a collapsing bridge. What followed that included all manner of disasters including rock slides, an earthquake, fire, floods and the parting of the Red Sea. The flood and fire parts of the tour were most interesting with the latter involving a train carriage coming off the track and sliding along the ground before eventually catching fire.
The tour also included a sudden meeting with King Kong and venturing inside the curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, and it’s waiting skeleton warriors as well as being attacked by Jaws as we drove by the waterfront bit replicating the ocean. The truly unique sight of seeing the shark glide backwards and down into the sea followed that!
Alvin and I then went to the other side of the park (passing by the book shop where Hugh Grant worked in ‘Notting Hill‘ along the way) to experience the reality shattering ‘Terminator 2‘ 3D adventure.
First of all, we had to put on the special 3D cyber adventure glasses as we sat in what resembled a theatre or cinema-type place. It featured the cast of ‘Terminator 2‘ except it wasn’t the real actors as the show was cleverly choreographed so the audience couldn’t see their faces on stage apart from the guy playing John Connor. Facial shots of the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) did show up on the screens at the side of the stage but of course the actors on stage were other people!
The plot was about fighting against some new corrupt invention device and we were thrust right into the heart of the action and its hyper-realistic special effects including various forms of missiles coming at us in their full 3D effect while the Terminator and co fought their way through the barrage of gunfire. This was a completely different simulation to the ‘Back To The Future‘ ride although the climax of the ‘Terminator 2‘ ride did involve our seats being slightly jolted causing them to drop a couple of inches, and prior to that we were taken by surprise and somehow sprayed very lightly with water.
By now our time was starting to run out so Alvin and I took the escalator down to the Lower Lot and it’s ‘Jurassic Park‘ ride where we went along the Jurassic jungle river on what was basically a log flume ride. As the raft cruised down the river we seemed to be constantly getting sprayed with water in various ways whilst spotting many dinosaurs on the river banks and in the water. It was even made out to look like the group in the raft before us had been attacked and eaten by one of the dinosaurs. The finale involved escaping the thundering wrath of a towering T-Rex by taking the only way out which was inevitably straight down an 84ft vertical drop waterfall which was pretty awesome and gave us a good soaking.
We thankfully dried out while queueing up for what was our last event of the day. It happened to be the insight into the action of creating special effects via three sound stages. Unfortunately I can’t really remember what props and filming tricks were showcased from stages one and two but I think the first was a virtual studio where two audience members were thrown into a showdown with the Mummy which involved lifting breeze blocks that were just foam props. It was obviously far more interesting in reality than what I’ve made it sound here!
Stage two was the creature factory and included something along the lines of bringing life to the gruesome and grotesque. For the third sound stage lab I was chosen, along with half a dozen others, to participate in re-creating the sound effects to accompany the on-screen pictures from ‘Shrek‘ although it may well have been ‘The Grinch‘ but either way it was a film I hadn’t seen! I was supposed to make a growling sound into the microphone when the red light lit up on my monitor which, in itself, would have been difficult to do as I had no real basis to what it should sound like!
However, my light never came on which I soon discovered was purposely done. Prior to knowing this, I was told to do my vocal from another room as my microphone was supposedly broken. As soon as I went through the door another guy told me that I’d actually be doing nothing and that a fake outline of a person would be silhouetted on to the window to fool the audience into actually thinking it was my shadow. A growling sound was automatically performed on demand and I then walked back on stage to warm applause.
Although I was secret in my knowledge that I actually did nothing at all to warrant this, I was slightly disappointed to have not seen the performance from the audience like everyone else as that was what I queued up to see.
At that time it was approaching 6pm and the place was closing but we could have done with more time to go on a couple of other rides. I guess that was the downside of doing a cheaper tour and therefore only having three quarters of a day to tour the grounds. It had still been a fantastic day though and there were still a couple of interesting sights to see as the bus speedily returned to our accommodation via the Capital Records Tower and along the road and bridge that wasn’t completed in the film ‘Speed’ (1994).
Click here to read ‘TF Flashback – Universal Studios Japan (2005)’
Click here to read ‘Universal Studios Hollywood’ (2011)’
Click here to read ‘Back To The Future Filming Locations’