Some of the greatest movies and TV shows of all time were made right here. "Casablanca," "The West Wing," "Friends," "ER," and so many more. It occupies a huge swath of land in Burbank, California. Elephantine sound stages and a city-worth of backlot let filmmakers from all over the world create movies about everywhere in the world, and beyond.
And you can tour it. The awesome Warner Bros. Studio Tour is a multi-hour trip through the sets and streets of this legendary Hollywood studio.
This isn't some gimmicky ride with fake dioramas and approximations of what moviemaking is like. This is a guided tour through a working studio. That means every tour is different, and changes depending on what movie or TV show is shooting where.
After a brief movie about the history of the studio, you're escorted to the lot in small groups (of eight to 12) via stretch golf carts. The tour guides are friendly and knowledgeable.
On my tour we made our way to "Park Place," a courtyard surrounded by building facades. These are all fairly nondescript, intentionally so. The idea is to allow them to transform, with a bit of set dressing, to look like any major city.
We passed between two of the buildings, which are mostly empty or lacking any interior at all, to "Hennesy Street" which has a definite Brooklyn vibe, with more storefronts, exposed brick and, thanks to a recent film, fire escapes.
"New York Street" was next, though this looks less like New York and more like, well, literally any city. A subway entrance is merely steps down to a fake door. A cafe entrance has nothing inside. A movie theater is...actually, that one's real. It's a 516-seat theater, but the entire building, like nearly every building on the lot, has been used for a filming location at some point.
A collection of Batman vehicles was the next stop, one of many tweaks to the lot to hype "a lot of iconic cars. Another nod to their big not-quite-summer-yet movie was a full vinyl wrap of the iconic Warner water tower. How are Yakko, Wakko and Dot supposed to get out?." Other times when I've done this tour, other vehicles were featured. Warner has
Continuing the Batman theme, the Archive was next, a showcase of famous costumes and props. Costumes from the various Batman movies took over the whole bottom floor. The second floor, however, was all Harry Potter.
Other stops included the sprawling prop house, the Mill, and even a walk through of a TV show set currently on hiatus.
After about an hour and half, our last stop was the new "Stage 48," which shows off all the various steps a movie makes from a writer's mind to the final product. Writing, casting, set design, costumes, even special effects and more. You can take part in a mock taping of "Friends" or do a green-screen special effects video short on Harry Potter's broom.
There's an even longer tour, a private one with lunch included. It's a lot more money, but the reviews make it sound great. If you've done it, let me know.
Worth the money next time you're in LA
If you're a fan of movies or TV shows, and are curious about how they're made (and you're going to be in Los Angeles), I highly recommend the WB Studio Tour. It's not cheap -- $62 per person as of this writing -- but it's one of the activities I recommend to all friends visiting LA (and one of the few that doesn't involve food).
True, there's a "Backlot Tour" over at the Universal Studios theme park, but that's more a ride, where this is an actual tour.
Even this jaded LA resident has done it four times, taking visitors from as far away as London and as un-Hollywood as my mom. They all loved it.
As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road trips, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his tours and adventures.