1 Feb
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Reasons to Tour Warner Bros. Studio Hollywood

iconic Hollywood sign

I’ve always been drawn to the magic of movies. My parents owned a video rental store when I was growing up, back when VCRs were just hitting the market and movie night meant watching a video tape. When we decided to spend a day around Hollywood during a recent California vacation, I knew a movie studio tour should be on the agenda. We chose to tour Warner Bros. Studio based on a Harry Potter exhibit, a Batman vehicle exhibit and access to the Central Perk set from the Friends television series.

boy standing on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Before our scheduled Warner Bros. Studio Tour, we made the obligatory stop to view the iconic Hollywood sign. The place we stopped at is called the Hollywood Bowl Scenic Overlook.  Our oldest has wanted to see that view for years. While there we also looked out over the Los Angeles landscape, which is not a favorite view of mine. There are too many cars, too many buildings and not enough clear air for this Wyoming girl. Our teen couldn’t wait to hit the streets of Hollywood and the surroundings area.

girl at Chinese Man Theatre

From the tourist-packed Hollywood sign overlook we moved a couple miles south to the the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was packed with people. Some were tourists like us, but others who were clearly using the sidewalk as intended and not gawking at what was at their feet. We had researched a few different celebrities to find specific locations on the walk but enjoyed reading names as we passed. Their were quite a few people I was surprised to see on the Walk of Fame. If you visit, be prepared to be accosted by people offering tours, comedians and musicians peddling their CDs and the occasional costumed superhero. It reminded me of the sidewalks on the Strip in Las Vegas, but with fewer people. We found the celebrity imprints in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre more interesting than the Walk of Fame. The kids enjoyed placing their hands and feet in imprints of stars like John Wayne and Will Smith.

boy being sorted by Harry Potter sorting hat

Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank is only a short drive from the center of Hollywood. We purchased our tour tickets online before our vacation, and I’m glad we did. We toured on a Saturday, and it was busy. Fortunately, it only felt crowded in the lobby waiting for our tour to begin. Warner Bros. Studio is massive, so once we were on our tour we didn’t see too many people except in the DC Universe and Harry Potter exhibit hall. We watched a short film before the tour began on the history of Warner Bros. Our tour had 13 people and the tour guide quizzed us before we departed on what we were interested in seeing. With the scale of Warner Bros. it was nice to have some say in what we’d see during our time there. Our group mentioned Gilmore Girls, Friends, Harry Potter, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and DC Comics.

man sitting at president's desk from West Wing

The tickets were pricey at $65 for adults and $55 for children, but we enjoyed the almost four hours spent on the studio tour more than I thought we would. It was interesting to hear tricks of the trade like snow being made from potato flakes, or how one side of a house looks a certain way but the opposite side of the house looks completely different. We were walked through a town square we’ve seen in several TV shows and movies. I may have gotten geeky-excited to see a white-steeple church from a favorite 1980s movie, The Monster Squad. We watch that film every October, so standing in the spot the ending was filmed at was fun. We were walked through a few scenes from the Friends TV series and learned how the use of cameras and lenses alter perception. I have a greater appreciation for what we see on TV and at the theatre.

Warner Bros prop department

One of our favorite parts of the tour was the Warner Bros. Prop Department. We walked through a small portion of the 200,000 square feet, four-story tall warehouse that stores production props. There were shelves filled with baskets of telephones from all eras as well as trophies and walls of paintings and ceilings dripping with chandeliers. We saw countless items we’ve only viewed on-screen like the Maltese Falcon and the Oval Office desk from The West Wing.  You could spend days wandering the aisles and not see everything.

Batmobiles exhibit at Warner Bros.

Harry Potter fans are treated to costumes and actual props from the movies and are given a chance to be sorted by the sorting hat. I felt like a student at Hogwarts, really hoping I would be placed in a desirable house. I look forward to my time as a Hufflepuff. Batman fans are in for a treat. A warehouse is home to eight varieties of Batmobiles, and it’s just as cool as it sounds. I’m not a car person and loved getting close to Batman’s favorite vehicles. We also had the opportunity to use the bat signal getting us one step closer to Gotham City.

family drinking coffee Central Perk

The tour ends at Stage 48 which offers several self-guided exhibits. My reason for wanting to tour the studio is housed in Stage 48, the Central Perk set from Friends. Sitting on the couch I watched every Thursday night for 10 years on TV was surreal and a highlight from our trip to California. It was like stepping into the TV. The Warner Bros. tour is a must for Friends fans simply for the brief moment you get to sit on the couch.

boy riding Batmobile

There is a green-screen interactive exhibit at Stage 48 where visitors can ride a broom like Harry Potter or drive the Bat-pod through the streets of Gotham. Green screen acting is hard, and a lot can be done with footage in post-production. We had fun taking turns and trying out our acting skills. Short videos are taken as well as still photos. The video and photos are separate purchases, but make a fun souvenir from that one time I rode a Firebolt over Hogwarts and watched my boys morph into Batman racing through the streets of Gotham.

woman holding Oscar

On our way out of Stage 48 we stopped to see some more famous props in display cases like the ER hospital badges and a crucifix from The Exorcist. We also had a chance to hold an Oscar from the 1930s. When you hear an actor at the Academy Awards exclaim that the statue is heavier than they thought, it’s true. An Oscar is hefty at 8 1/2 pounds. I’m sure that will be the only opportunity I have to hold an actual Oscar. If nothing else, it was a different photo opportunity for each of us. Before hitting the gift shop on our way back to the tour carts, my husband and I stopped for coffee from an operational Central Perk cafe. The coffee wasn’t anything special, but I did keep the branded cup.

Ellen show plaque at Warner Bros.

We watched small segments from Friends after we were home from vacation to show the kids the scenes that were described on our visit. I still need to show the kids a portion of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The Ellen set was the only place on the tour we weren’t allowed to take photos. The set is much smaller than it seems on TV, and she is closer to the audience than I thought. We were told there’s a four-year waiting period for tickets to her show, so at least I can say I sat in the audience, even if it wasn’t taping. The Warner Bros. tour was the perfect addition to our short visit around Hollywood. We saw much more during our tour than I’ve covered here. It’s an entertaining and educational way to spend a few hours for any movie or TV buff. Warner Bros. is bound to have something you’re familiar with to tour.

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