One of the cool perks of my new job is the fun activities in which they encourage us to participate. Last week they chartered a bus to take us up to LA where we took part in the Sony Pictures Studio tour. After enjoying the sights, we were served lunch in the VIP area of the Plaza lobby. It was so much fun!
While waiting for the tour to begin, we wandered the lobby and explored the various displays of movie memorabilia.
Off in the corner, I found a reptilian-looking fellow (nobody puts Baby Godzilla in a corner!). While I thought he looked pretty cool, lots of details went into his creation, he wasn’t all that massive. Perhaps Godzilla, like many of Hollywood’s stars, was required to diet? Maybe his next feature film will be titled “Godzilla, Hungry and Grumpy.” It could happen.
I loved the costumes on display, I especially loved the fabric choices and exquisite details of the dresses and tunic from the movie The Other Boleyn Girl.
After watching a short film on the history of Sony Pictures Studio, we began the walking tour of the lot. The first thing we notice after passing through the gates is a massive rainbow. Now, it would be really cool if the rainbow sculpture had been used in the production of The Wizard of Oz, but it wasn’t. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty impressive.
Weighing in at 100,000 pounds of steel, “Rainbow” is a multi-colored arc 188-feet across and 94-feet high, created by American sculptor Tony Tasset, and greets visitors beyond the Madison Street entrance.
Apparently, Sony Pictures Studio wanted to build a couple of office buildings and a parking lot, and in exchange for these new additions to the studio lot, Sony partially funded the project via the 1% for Art requirement.
While the images of Dorothy clicking ruby slippers, flying monkeys, and munchkins might come to most people’s minds, I was thinking more along the lines of hey, it’s the end of the rainbow, where’s the pot of gold? Alas, no matter how hard I willed it, no pots (of gold or anything else) materialized.
A short walk past Rainbow led us to our first glimpse of buildings used in a variety of films. For example, we saw the ticket booth were Frank Sinatra buys movie tickets in the musical Anchors Aweigh. While I was never a Sinatra fan, I adored Gene Kelly, and this film is one of my childhood favorites, and not just because Jerry Mouse made an appearance. The animation segment featuring Jerry took two months and $100,000 to produce because someone noticed that although Kelly’s reflection shone on the floor during his dancing, Jerry’s did not; therefore, Hanna/Barbara productions spent a couple of months revising the animation.
There are many different kinds of studios on the lot. We passed by the Foley studios, the place responsible for supplying noises for a film, like the swishing of clothing and the tapping of footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass. I always thought that would be a fun job. Can you imagine the kind of stress related to finding the right sounds? For example, what sound might the breaking of bones make, or the tip-toeing of animated elephants? I imagine a Foley technician listens to the sounds in the world differently than the rest of us.
Some buildings had a shabby mystique to them while others were adorned with the Art Deco touches reflecting the era in which they were built.
No matter what they looked like on the outside, all the buildings had me wondering what was going on inside, and if maybe there might be a celebrity beyond the closed doors.
Of particular note among the various building on the lot is the Barbara Streisand Sound Stage. The stage was originally located at the MGM shooting stage until the late 1920s. One of the first film scores recorded there was The Wizard of Oz in 1939. The studio remains unchanged over the years because of the exceptional sound it produces; no one knows why the building has the incredible acoustics is does, and nobody wants to do anything, like paint the walls, in fear that such a change will alter the magnificent sound the room produces. I must confess the space wasn’t particularly spectacular, yet there was something fantastical about knowing you were standing in the same place as John Williams, who did the soundtracks for movies such as Jaws and Star Wars, Michel Jackson, and (of course) Barbara herself had performed. The artists who contribute to musical scores are gifted sight musicians. Get this: Many of the movies they work on are so hushed-up, the artists don’t even know the title! The players see the score for the first time about a 1/2 hour before they begin performing – that’s just amazing! Usually, the movie score is complete in one run-through and is finished in 2-4 hours, depending on the film.
While we weren’t allowed to go into any of the stages, there were several with doors wide open where we could get a glimpse of the interior. We passed by one large studio where the set builders were enjoying a lunch break.
Of particular note were stages 15, 27, and 30.
Stage 15 is the second largest studio in the world and was home to movies such as A day at the Races, Air Force One, Rocky, and Stuart Little, among others.
Stage 27 was once transformed into Munchkin land, the Emerald City, and the Witch’s Castle, although the yellow brick road, (painted plywood) has long since been lost in the annals of time. (Where exactly are the “annals of time” located, anyway?) Other memorable sets include the Spaceship Interstellar, and the Sistine Chapel.
Stage 30 was once owned by Esther Williams, which had her swimming pool and underwater tanks, and now this stage is where many water-themed movies are filmed (think Jaws and Hook).
There are many other things to share, for example, the Ghost Busters cars and their “storefront,” Stages for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy (which are interesting, even though I don’t watch the shows). There are oodles of other tidbits and behind-the-scenes lore to explore. Instead of me blathering on, the next time you find yourself in LA, I urge you to take a studio tour or two. It won’t spoil movie magic, and it is most definitely educational, informative, and tons of fun!