Double the fun : East & West coast Disney & Universal parks during the holiday season **COMPLETE 7/11/11** - Page 2 - PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel
Double the fun : East & West coast Disney & Universal parks during the holiday season **COMPLETE 7/11/11**
About This Page: This is a discussion on Double the fun : East & West coast Disney & Universal parks during the holiday season **COMPLETE 7/11/11** within the DL: Sharing the Adventure: Disneyland Trip Reports, part of the PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel; DAY 6: Sunday, 14 November 2010
VIP Tour of Universal Studios
We woke at 7.30am to beautiful sunny weather, knowing ...
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We woke at 7.30am to beautiful sunny weather, knowing we had a fantastic day ahead of us, in the form of the seven hour VIP Tour of Universal Studios. Two hours later, we walked over to the park as usual, but instead of queuing in the general entrance line, we had our own special VIP reception to go to. At 9.30am, we showed our paperwork at the window, and were admitted into the reception area of the Guest Relations/VIP Experience building, where we had our ID viewed, name checked off, and were handed a navy blue and gold VIP lanyard to wear for the duration of the day.
Administrative tasks over, we went upstairs to join our group and meet Donna, our tour guide. Donna was a fantastic person and had a great sense of humour. When someone mentioned to her that they had heard that Tom Cruise was going to be on set that day, she replied, "Honey, that was yesterday!"
The room we were in was very large and spacious. It had well-spaced nice tables and chairs, lots of green plants, large windows for the sunlight to come streaming in, and framed posters of award-winning movies the Studio had made, lining the wall. Donna pointed out that one hadn't won anything, but that was because it was before the time of award giving, and that she was sure it would've won if awards had've existed back then.
Along one wall, breakfast had been laid out for those of us wishing to partake in it. As Nest and I had spent the two hours before the tour, pretty much battling to wake up and actually get out of bed, we hadn't had time to eat until now. We both picked out a fruit cup each (consisting of rockmelon, honeydew melon, grapes and pineapple) and bottled water, then chose a table near the window to dine at. Other breakfast options had been tea, coffee, orange juice, and a huge pile of crumb cake. I didn't realise at the time just how delicious crumb cake was, as I didn't get around to trying any until a couple of days later at WDW.
Once everyone in our group had arrived (around 16 in all) in the VIP lounge and had settled down to breakfast, Donna gave us a quick rundown of what was in store for us that day - I was just so excited at the thought of it all (and even more excited when I actually experienced it. I could tell Nest was super happy too, as I hadn't seen him smile so much since he was little.)
Before we set off, most of us took the chance to use the restroom for the last time in a while. Along the corridor to the restrooms, were glass cabinets displaying well-known movie props (eg. a mask worn by Arnold Vosloo as High Priest Imhotep in The Mummy Returns (2001) and the Emmy won by 30 Rock for Outstanding Comedy Series (2009). The show was knocked out of first place by Modern Family in 2010. Donna mentioned that Modern Family wasn't a Universal Studios product, but that she still loved it.
We started off with a VIP tram tour of the Backlot. We had a special single gold and blue tram to travel around in. Nest and I sat on the outer left hand side of the tram with two other people. We so wished we could've sat on the outer ride hand side of the tram, as that's the view of the Backlot we wanted to see the most, plus the seating that side was more spacious. On the outer left hand side of the tram, the four of us were so squashed - Donna did mention before-hand, that it only comfortably sat three people. We stuck with it though, as we wanted to see the Backlot from a different perspective.
Is that someone picking a wedgie in the background?!
The first place we were allowed to get off the tram and walk around, was the no camera zone. The stars' formal restaurant and casual cafe was located in this area. In the windows of the cafe, were shelves of copies of the Oscars and Emmys the Studio has won for their award-winning TV shows and movies. I was pleased to see that a number of the awards were for Columbo, The Rockford Files, and Murder She Wrote - some of my most favourite TV shows.
We learnt some interesting facts about both types of awards while admiring them in the window. The Academy Awards were nicknamed Oscar, after a motion picture librarian exclaimed how much the statue looked like her Uncle Oscar. I thought that was such a great anecdote, even though I fail to see how a faceless statue can resemble someone that infinitely. An Oscar weights 8.5 pounds, which you've got to admit is quite heavy as far as small objects go. As for the Emmys, they were originally called Immys, but were changed to the name we know them as now, to sound more feminine.
The cafe has been used as a set in shows such as Desperate Housewives and the American version of The Office. Across from the cafe, was a white multi-storey building that has been used in shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man (as the headquarters), Ghost Whisperer (as a hospital), and Desperate Housewives. As the building is in such a populous spot, the scenes usually have to be filmed when the sun's coming up.
Nearby, was a multi-storey black building I'm pretty sure has been used in an episode of Columbo. This building was very controversial, as at the time it was built, the surrounding neighbourhood protested, as nothing of the kind had existed so close to suburbia before, and they were worried that it would cause the price of real estate to plummet. Obviously, things didn't go in favour of the neighbours. These days, this multi-storey building is nothing compared to its much larger counterparts in the area.
After attempting to commit the sights to memory due to the no photography rule, we strolled back to the waiting tram, which then drove us to the set of Ron Howard's Parenthood. Parenthood began screening on Australian TV screens a bit before Nest and I set off on our trip. While we're not fans of the show, it was still exciting to be walking onto our very first soundstage for a good look around.
An ever-present security guard opened the door to soundstage number 44, and we filed inside. Taking up the majority of space, was the first floor of Zeek and Camille's house. The house was built on a stage, and didn't have a ceiling due to lighting and camera equipment hanging down from above.
It was great being able to walk through the house. As long as you didn't look up, it seriously felt as if you were going through an actual house while the inhabitants were out. If filming requires, a roof can be attached. There was such a cosy feel inside, and there were personal touches everywhere. Donna explained that the photos we saw on display around the house, of the characters as children, had been worked on by the Art Department to make it look as if they had actually grown up together.
Rooms we walked through, were:
Lounge room: Having worked in various libraries for the past fifteen years, I was very pleased to see books very well represented in this digital day and age. The fireplace gave this room a very cosy feel. I also loved the corner that had been made into a study area - the noticeboard was very colourful and busy looking.
Dining room: A massive table took up the majority of space in this room - it looked big enough to sit a number of families around, which was the idea to start with, I guess. As the table took up most of the room, when it came time to film the Thanksgiving dinner scene, the walls had to be moved back to allow space for the cameras and other equipment to operate in. All the walls in the house are detachable, so if a scene needs to be filmed a certain way, things can be moved around to make the shot easier. These types of detachable walls are known as "wild walls".
Spot the ever-present security guard
Kitchen: It kind of reminded me of my Nan's homely kitchen, with bits and pieces everywhere. I prefer these types of kitchens over the super sterile looking modern ones.
Patio: I love the idea of a patio with one of those swinging chairs (though not the crazy type featured on Funniest Home Video shows where one side breaks while people are swinging on it.) The patio wasn't lit up when we walked through it, and you could see the soundstage through the flyscreen windows, as the outside scene screens hadn't been put up in their place.
Also inside the house, was a staircase leading to nowhere but a small alcove, so when the actors did their bit in going upstairs, for example, they'd be out of sight of the camera once they're reached their 'destination'. The second part of that scene, would then be filmed on the 'second floor' set which is located in Pasadena, and the actual house exterior (including the shed), is located up a steep hill in another part of the Backlot. No wonder schedules in this industry are so long, if parts of the set are scattered all over the city!
From the verandah, you could see a massive moveable screen featuring a shed and trees. This screen is placed at various angles outside certain windows of the house when filming.
Out the front on the cement area, Donna pointed out that the footpath patterns, drain coverings and various stains had been painted on. They looked so realistic, that I seriously wouldn't have given them a second glance if she hadn't have pointed this out.
Soundstages are 98% soundproof, and it takes approximately five days just to film one episode of Parenthood.
From the set of Parenthood, we drove to the awesome King Kong 3D experience, through a section of the Backlot where a "top secret" movie was being filmed. Being a Sunday though, there was no action on set, and all the cherry pickers had been collapsed and stored against the sides of buildings. Donna said she'd lose her job if she told us the name of the movie. All I can tell you is that part of it is being filmed in the square of golden blonde coloured buildings used for the courthouse scenes of Ghost Whisperer. You could tell that such a lot of effort had been put into making this set perfect, but Nest told me he spotted something that didn't belong - taped to a light pole, was a hand drawn poster asking, "Have you seen my kitty?", complete with hand drawn picture of said kitty. Unfortunately, it flashed by so fast, that Nest didn't have enough time to react by taking a photo.
Any guesses as to which "top secret" movie's being made?
It was fantastic being immersed in the King Kong 3D experience again. Donna said she loves taking people on it for the first time, and hearing them scream throughout the battle, even though it's all just moving pictures. Even though I knew what was coming this time around, because Nest and I had been travelling around sideways all day from choosing a seat on the outside of the tram, it felt as if we were falling face first when King Kong sent the T-Rex and tram over the edge of the cliff! At least I wasn't subjected to the monster spider this time round
Even though I enjoyed the VIP Tour immensely, my most favourite part by miles, was going inside the props warehouse - it was absolutely AWWWWWESOME! The ground floor stocked over-sized items such as chairs, tables, and pianos. In the foyer, were a selection of well-known large props from movies such as The Mummy trilogy and ET. We didn't have a proper look at the ground floor though, as our limited time was devoted to the fantastic third floor, which we caught an over-sized lift to.
The third floor consisted of shelves and shelves of pretty much every small to medium-sized props a person would need to decorate their movie scenes with. There were shelves of board games, toys, telephones, awards, ornaments shelved by subject (eg. squirrels, elephants, pigs, etc.), fake bread, dolls, bones, bakery snackas, glassware, plates, and weaponry such as swords, clubs, spears, axes, bows, arrows, shields, armour - the list goes on! Items such as guns, ammo and explosives (which I assumed were all fake), were locked securely in a glass cabinet, as were smaller valuable items such as jewellery and pocket watches. I loved seeing a large portion of the ceiling with loads of chandeliers hanging down, and I was absolutely thrilled to find the Cabot Cove sign from Murder She Wrote, and a framed picture of James Garner and Noah Beery from The Rockford Files. Every item is barcoded to enable it to be leant out and a record kept of its whereabouts. I bags being a cataloguer in this library! I have 15 years cataloguing experience! HIRE ME!
The "Cabot Cove" sign!
There were little displays around the floor, of things such as the types of snow used in Jim Carey's The Grinch, some props from Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost, the gun from The Rock's Doom, Robin Williams' red clown nose from Patch Adams, and Nest's personal favourite - a container full of money, locked in a glass cabinet. Someone had also dressed ET up as Steve Irwin, and featured a dinosaur in a humourous Harry Potter display. We also came across some realistic looking cans made from sponge and used in fight/accident scenes, which we all had a quick squeeze of.
It was time to leave the prop warehouse all too soon I could've stayed in there for so much longer! I loved the joke photos in amongst the more formal looking notices hanging up on the boards near the lift entrance - there was a person riding a dinosaur, and in another shot, were a pair of crazily dressed characters (colourful knee-high socks with short shorts, anyone? ) As we were going back down to the ground floor in the lift, Donna told us the reason we saw no dust anywhere, was because special filters had been installed throughout the building, that continuously suck all the dust from the air so that none of the props require cleaning or are damaged as a result of dust.
Back outside the prop warehouse, we noticed a few over-sized props had spilled out from the ground floor. I had momentarily clicked off from the all the excitement of being on level three, when I suddenly heard Nest pipe up, "Jackass!" I thought that was unlike Nest to say such a thing in public, until I realised Donna had asked the group if they could name the movie with featured the nearby giant shopping trolley. I took a photo of Nest standing by it (it's rare that ordinary everyday objects are taller than Nest!) so he could show his friends when we got back home.
I can't remember how it came up, but while we were standing outside the prop warehouse, Donna told us that CSI Miami is actually shot in Long Beach, California, and not Miami, Florida! :0 Nest and I were so surprised to hear this!
Our tram turned up all too soon, and transported us to the front of the curved tall white building with columns, used in such movies as The Scorpion King, Spartacus, and Princess Diaries 2. After admiring the building up close, we then walked through a super tall arch, and found ourselves in a villagey type setting, used in such movies as Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean.
While walking around such recognisable sets was very exciting, Nest and I were most excited to learn that we'd be visiting the less recognisable super old set complete with a very decorative water fountain, featured in many super old black and white horror movies which Nest and I are huge fans of. As the set was very important to us, I asked one of our fellow travellers to take a photo of Nest and I in front of it. We were both really happy about this, as neither of us had been able to get a decent shot of it during our general tram tour the night before.
My attempt at photographing the special fountain the night before
After we finished at the horror set, we all got back on the tram and continued on with the tour. We could see part of a Western set as we boarded the tram, and were told that some of the sets were built smaller, so as to make the short macho men appear taller. Thankfully, my Western hero, John Wayne, didn't require this sort of assistance, as he was naturally tall enough
As we had driven past the line of famous cars from a variety of movies and through a short patch of jungle setting with startling pop-up dinosaurs that spat water (they're even more startling when you're travelling sideways and facing them head-on!), Donna mentioned that these particular trees were saved from the set of Jurassic Park. The huge trees were made from industrial strength foam, and the moss was made from sawdust painted green. I was also extremely excited to hear that there's talk of a fourth Jurassic Park movie, which Donna confirmed, but then went on to say that the project has currently been shelved. JP4 has been in production twice, but it was eventually decided that the scripts weren't good enough. As disappointing as this is, I'm glad on the other hand that quality of script is high up on the list of requirements.
Next, we drove around Wisteria Lane, where we learnt all the pretty flowers are fake. I know that's kind of an obvious statement, seeing as the flowers are in such pristine condition all the time, but I was surprised all the same, as they looked so real from the distance I was seeing them from. Nest was happy to spy the bright red slippery dip in the park area, as he had been mock disappointed not to have seen it on the War of the Worlds set, where we had last seen it back in 2007 (we hadn't spotted it the night before.)
As we were passing Whoville, Donna informed us that the Whoville cars had started off as golf buggies, and are still drivable if you had the keys. I think it would be so much fun to have a little drive around in them! Perhaps I should mention that in my feedback form?!
Norman was waiting for us as we rounded the corner to pass the Bates Motel, though he didn't chase us all the way up the hill this time.
We then drove through the small town of Amity, meeting Jaws along the way. It was at this point, that Donna told us that Steven Spielberg named Jaws, Bruce, after his ferocious lawyer.
As we stopped in the War of the Worlds disaster area set for some stationary photo opportunities (without getting off the tram), Donna told us two really interesting anecdotes about it that I had never heard before:
1st anecdote: As the set is so well recognised, Steven Spielberg has prohibited anyone from using it in any other movie. What he has authorised though, is the disaster training of FBI agents and their sniffer dogs! On the odd occasion, tram tours are lucky enough to see this training in action, which I think is great.
2nd anecdote: Once a pilot flying overhead believed the War of the Worlds disaster set to be an actual accident, and called it in! It is said that the police responded in seconds, and weren't impressed (neither were the FAA), once they realised it was the Backlot. Even though I haven't been fortunate enough to see Universal Studios from above, I would still think it would be hard to mistake the set for an actual accident, considering what surrounds it.
As we were driving up a steep dirt road to see the exterior of the Parenthood house, Donna told us that that same dirt road had been used for the marching scene in Spartacus. The extras were played by actual military students, as the Director needed people who already knew how to march in formation.
After the brilliant VIP tram tour had come to an end, Donna took us around all the rides and almost all of the attractions of the park. We started off with mine and Nest's favourite - Jurassic Park. When we had first met up that morning, we had all been given white emergency ponchos. When Donna mentioned to the group that you would get wet on this ride, 13 of the 16 group members immediately pulled on their ponchos. Nest, myself, and a guy travelling solo, were the only ones not to wear them. One couple in particular, were really worried as to how wet they would get, and were asking Donna all these specific questions. Nest and I were behind them in the ride queue, and when they learnt we wouldn't be wearing our ponchos, the looks on their faces were as if we had just told them we were going to jump out of a plane without a parachute! And with that, they tied their poncho hoods so tightly, that only their noses were sticking out! LMAO! There was no way I was going to miss buying the resulting souvenir ride photo afterwards! It was great fun riding our favourite ride with such a nice group of people.
We rode the Mummy as a group next. Donna minded all our bags so we wouldn't have to waste time at the locker stations. Once again, I bought the resulting group photo afterwards.
With those ride experiences under our belts, it was then considered a safe time to stop for lunch. As we were travelling up the skywalk towards our destination, we looked back when Donna pointed out that a new headliner ride was under construction where the old Backdraft attraction used to be. It was pretty hard to miss that giant crane When I asked what kind of ride was it going to be, Donna said she wasn't allowed to say I can't recall my source, but the rumour I've heard since, is that it may be another top of the range simulator ride based on the Transformer movies. It's due to open in June 2011 last time I checked, so we haven’t much more time to wait to find out at the time of writing this.
Our dining destination was Jardin de Paris, which was open exclusively for us
Due to the name, I thought it was going to be some kind of French restaurant, but it turned out to be a super yummy buffet serving mainly American fare.
This is only part of the buffet available
As we were in polite company, I made a conscious effort to control my portion sizes so that no one thought I was taking more than my share I had small portions of the following:
∑ Lettuce and tomato ∑ 'Normal' lasagne (you'll figure out why I wrote 'normal', when you read down a bit further ) ∑ Korean ribs with boiled rice (extra super yummy!) ∑ Herbed mashed red-skinned potatoes (extra super yummy - I simply craved mashed potatoes during this trip!) ∑ A big pasta shell filled with feta cheese (extra super yummy!) ∑ A thick slice of roast turkey with gravy ∑ A small wedge of focaccia
Nest had roast turkey, fries, chicken tenders, salad, a big pasta shell filled with feta cheese, flavoured cheese balls (I can't remember these), lasagne, and an assortment of breads.
Other food available in the buffet, which Nest and I didn't get round to trying, was meatballs, prawns, lobster lasagne (yes, lobster lasagne), marinated sausages, and much more. I love seafood, and wouldn't have minded chowing down on some if I knew it wouldn't make me ill (I always worry about the freshness of seafood when I dine out, and tend to steer clear of it as a result.) To this very day, I'm still wondering what the lobster lasagne tasted like.
I was so tempted to go up for seconds (though Nest couldn't resist), but thought it better if I headed for the dessert platter instead, before I filled up completely. There was a freezer with two types of fruit flavoured ice blocks to choose from, as well as medium sized tubs of ice cream. I didn't look to see what flavoured ice cream was available, as I knew I wouldn't have been able to eat a whole tub myself ... well, not in the short time we had left for lunch, anyway. I stuck to the tray of cakes, and chose three tiny cakes for my dessert (chocolate, lemon, and plain sponge), and Coke as my choice of beverage. Nest stuck to the cake tray too (mini lemon cheesecake, mini cream cake, and what I can only describe as a mystery cake), and had diet Coke to wash it down with.
My dessert (was so excited, I couldn't even hold the camera steady!)
We chose a table for two in the very corner of the restaurant, where we had a full view of the room, and could see the mountains outside the window. There were black and white portraits of people dining in the olden days, hanging up on the walls, but we didn't recognise anyone (though I think one of them may have been JFK's brother.) The chef did the rounds of the tables, checking that everything and everyone was ok, which I thought was good. Nest got annoyed after the chef had left, as the chef had mentioned that we had chosen the most romantic table in the restaurant, not realising that we were brother and sister. LOL!
After lunch, the group reformed in the queuing area for the Animal Actors show. I had a quick bathroom break first, and when I arrived at the meeting place, found Nest there talking to Donna by himself, as everyone else had been seated, which I knew would've been embarrassing for him (I never deliberately set out to embarrass Nest, as I know it can work both ways, plus there's nothing worse than a joke backfiring in public, and being made to look like a fool!) A front row section of seating had been reserved for our group, which was great - it totally eliminated the stress of hunting for the best seat you could get, while everyone else is doing the same thing.
The pre-show consisted of a lot of interesting facts projected up onto a screen, about animals in general, and sometimes in relation to training them. Like I'm sure I mentioned in my 2007 review, the fact that sticks in my mind the most, is that cats are the hardest animals to train, due to their independent nature.
The main part of the show was pretty much the same as when we saw it in 2007, so I'll just write about the new bits:
∑ A chicken came on stage and opened up a lunch menu to display "pork", by pecking on a button, then left the stage. A pig then trotted into view quick smart, and changed the menu to read "chicken". Later on it was changed by another animal, to "vegetarian". ∑ A boy was chosen from the audience to come up on stage and sit on a chair. He was instructed to think of two items of clothing, which a dog would go backstage to retrieve. The first item the dog retrieved, was a hat. The second item the dog retrieved, was a bra, which the boy totally denied thinking of. An orangutan dressed in women's clothing, then appears on stage looking unimpressed, and demands the item back, as if she has been terribly inconvenienced. ∑ The same boy was then asked to remain seated on stage, while the trainer showed everyone how she trained the dog who had been retrieving the clothes. She put a doggy treat in front of the boy, and then turned and walked towards her dog. As her back was turned, a tiny little dog zipped from backstage to snaffle up the snacka, then disappeared just as quickly, before the trainer turned back round to face the boy. The trainer jokingly suspected the boy of having eaten the doggy treat, and told him that it was meant for the dog, not him. This happened a few times, and luckily the boy took it in good humour. He was awarded an arcade games pass for his involvement. ∑ An orangutan called Harry, and his trainer, came on stage for a conversation. The trainer asked Harry a question, passed the microphone to him, to which Harry made a farting noise into. The trainer then talked to Harry some more, then passed the microphone over to him for a response, which just happened to be prolonged fart noise effects. The trainer took back the microphone, as he had had enough of Harry's cheekiness, but Harry snatched it back and made one last fart noise, signalling the end of the act. Nest loves primates and fart jokes, so this was the perfect mix for him ∑ A fennec fox was carried out onto stage briefly, to get him used to large crowds of people. He didn't seem stressed, which was a relief. A white cat was also brought out later on by the same trainer, and I could tell he wasn't enjoying itself, as he tried to escape up and over the trainer's shoulder In the end, I think he wanted to take his frustrations out on the dog looking up at him from below, seeing as he wasn't having any luck with the trainer.
When I write up a journal entry properly, I then double check Nest's journal for details that may have slipped by me (I didn't do it for my Sydney entries, as they were easy, but I'm definitely doing it for the American entries, as they are so detailed.) I love it how one of the things he wrote for the Animal Actors show, was, "A cat ran out and a little dog chased it."
We learnt that seeing the live shows as part of a VIP group, that we got to stay behind afterwards for a Q&A session. We skipped the Animal Actors Q&A session though, to experience the Simpsons Ride as a group. Nest didn't want me to buy the resulting souvenir photo (after all this time, I can't remember why. It mustn't have been particularly memorable then.) When we met up with Donna afterwards, she told us that the most we move on this simulator ride, is the initial eight foot rise. After that, you move roughly 20 inches either side, but any extra sensation you detect is as a result of your imagination.
After the Simpsons, our group caught a screening of Shrek, then braved a walk through of the House of Horrors. A woman in our group emerged from the house with a frozen look of terror on her face and on the verge of tears. A teenage boy not part of our group, bolted out soon after, and ran as fast as his legs would take him, away from the house until we couldn't see him anymore. Maybe they both had had an encounter with Chucky? Even though I was still scared going through the House of Horrors, I enjoyed experiencing it with our group, as I had more people around me to hide behind I'm assuming Nest enjoyed it more too, as that meant his jumper sleeve would be that little less stretched
By that time, we were due for the last Waterworld show. The queue for this was horrifyingly long, and I was extremely grateful that our group was allowed to go in ahead to our reserved seating area. Unfortunately, our reserved seating was up the very back in the dry area, and Nest and I wanted to sit where the action was - down the front in the soak zone, so we separated ourselves from the group so as to get the full experience of what the show offered. Once the main gates opened, the seating filled up so quickly. To warm the crowd up (or should I say, cool them down?! ), three stuntmen adopted a third of the audience each, and pitted them against each other as to who could cheer the loudest. For motivation, we had buckets of water strewn across us. I could be biased, but I believe our section was the best, as was our motivator (though the one to our left was awesome also, as he was a big guy like our security guard bro, Johnny, and had the same stern demeanour about him, which really got him drenching his audience with the most buckets of water!! Nest and I laughed in disbelief when that same guy threw his bucket to the side, and picked up a large water blaster and absolutely hosed his audience with it! Nest and I soon stopped laughing though, when the water blaster was then turned on our section!) One guy was chosen from the audience, to use a water blaster on the stuntman in the middle. Unbeknownst to the chosen audience member (and us), as soon as he started hosing the stuntman, the stuntmen on either side, blasted the audience member either side with water blasters! Unfortunately, I couldn't remember these actors' names (I didn't get the chance to read the information board outside the arena gate), but I believe they were all actors from well-known TV shows (which I also can't remember the names of, though I think one of them may have been ER.) Nest and I got soaked during these motivational sessions. Thankfully, we had the foresight to put an emergency poncho on Nest's camera bag and my backpack, so the gear inside would stay bone dry.
Our Waterworld "motivator"
The Waterworld show was based on Kevin Costner's 1995 film of the same name, where the polar ice caps have melted, flooding the earth, and everyone is looking for dry land while existing on floating cities in the meantime. There's a good group of people, and a bad group of people, who unavoidably clash during their search for a more concrete way of life. The clash is illustrated by a variety of impressive water-based stunts such as a lot of diving off tall platforms (sometimes as a result of an explosion going off), zip lining, and jet skiing (the wake of which drenched the people sitting closest to the front.) Throughout the show, a lot of pyrotechnics were used, such as explosions going off, gun battles using blanks, the evil leader being set on fire, and a brief firework finale after this massive explosion. Nest and I enjoyed the show, as we had never seen it before. Nest had been videoing the show, and was so disappointed when his camcorder battery ran out before the explosive finale.
With the conclusion of Waterworld, also came the conclusion of our VIP tour, which we were really sad about, as we had had the best fun ever. I would seriously happily pay more money to have the tour go that little bit longer (even though we had pretty much covered everything the park had to offer.) It would be great if the Backlot part of the tour could be a litter longer, so we could perhaps have a look inside one of the writers' bungalow, such as Alfred Hitchcock's, followed by a look around the second floor of the prop warehouse. I would also love to be able to have a look inside the Bates Motel ... but not while Norman was in, of course Oh, and I would also love to be able to walk down the main street of Cabot Cove, but I suppose that type of access would hold the general tram tours up too much. Lastly, it would be great to be able to attend all the VIP Q&A sessions at the end of all the live shows.
Donna had said her goodbyes before we entered the Waterworld arena to take our seats, but Nest and I wanted to thank her one last time after the show, for providing us with such a great day. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get to her in time afterwards, as everyone was trying to leave the arena at once, which made it impossible to get ahead to the area we suspected she was at.
As we couldn't do anything about the tour being over, or not being able to catch up with Donna at the very end, we took her last bit of advice in foregoing the Q&A session with the Waterworld cast, and rushed to catch the last showing of T2 (based on the Terminator movies), followed by a Q&A session with the cast of that. We caught up with a few members of our group, who had tagged onto another VIP tour group and their guide (why was their tour still going?! ) While we were waiting for the show to start, a couple from our group were asking Nest and myself about our home town. I so hope we didn't bore them, as there's hardly anything to do in Canberra!
During the pre-show to T2, the marketing spin for Cyberdyne Systems was saying how it can provide 5000 TV channels for granny, and if she couldn't choose, that the computer would choose for her. Nest and I both laughed out loud when the program the computer chose for the little old granny, was Murder She Wrote! Nest is always stirring me about being 'old', but I wouldn't go as far as granny old
T2 hadn't changed since we had last seen it back in 2007. We both registered that it seemed a lot louder though, which we couldn't remember from last time, but we soon found out why in the Q&A session.
The Q&A session after T2 was great! I was happy to just sit and listen, as very rarely can I think of a decent question to ask in these situations. I was a super massive fan of the Terminator films during my teens (I still like them now, but I'm not as fanatical), and I got wondering as to what questions my young self would've asked if given this same chance back then. We got to talk to the actors who played the characters of John and Arnie. The lady who played the role of Cyberdyne Systems representative, introduced them, and then had to hurry away to prepare for the next show. John entered the Q&A session in the same way he enters the show - by free repelling from the roof, which was suuuuuuuuper high up. They were really nice people, and I could tell that they were genuinely happy to be there with us despite the gruelling performance they had just put in. The actor who played the T1000 didn't come out, as he was meant to be stretching for the difficult scenes, but John and Arnie laughed and said he was probably just lying on the couch out back watching the football.
Five groups of actors alternate doing the shows, which is an important occupational health and safety factor when you consider that up to 40 shows a day are performed during the summer months! :0 (In the low season, they can perform as little as ten shows.) It's possible for the same person to play multiple roles (except for the bulky terminator guys) to cover staff absences. As part of their training for the roles, the actors were required to attend a three day bootcamp! :0 Now that's dedication!
The Stage Manager is responsible for overseeing each performance. As great as the show is, it must get a bit repetitive at times, especially during the summer months and the 40 performances a day! She explained that the show was performed at such a loud volume, so as to cover the noise the 2500 pound large screen makes when shooting up to make the motorbike door usable. She made the large screen go up and down for us without the cover music, to illustrate this point. Loads of smoke is used when preparing for this scene, so that the audience can't see the doors, therefore making it look as if the motorbike really is riding out of the movie and onto the stage.
The funniest question asked during our session (thankfully not by me, for a change!), was if the red objects at the feet of the giant terminator models, were made of jelly, as the person asking had seen them moving during the show!! John laughed and said no, they were actual lights, and just needed the maintenance crew to come by and tighten the screws.
Terminator model with "red jelly"
After our Q&A session, the actors happily posed with us all for photos, and we were also permitted to take photos of the giant terminator models (photography is prohibited during the show.) We learnt that Sergio, the guy playing Arnie, had a role the following day in an episode of Lie To Me, which we were all very excited about for him.
We experienced a bit of a lost feeling being left to our own devices suddenly after having our fun organised for us since early in the morning, and didn't run into our group members again. Having said that, we certainly knew how to keep the fun going though, and made a beeline for the Lower Lot to ride our favourite ride, Jurassic Park Even though the tour was over, as long as we wore our VIP lanyards where staff could see them, we were permitted to use the 'Gate A' entrances for the remainder of the evening, allowing us front of line access. Due to this access, we were able to ride Jurassic Park pretty much twice in a row (we were still required to get off the ride, and just had to run around to the special queuing area again.) The fact that it was now totally dark, made our journey all that much more exciting.
Next, we switched over to the Mummy. Unfortunately, we weren't able to squeeze a second go in, as it had gone 6.30pm, the Lower Lot's closing time for the evening.
Tomb Treasures was still open though, so we went in with the intention of buying something, as our VIP passes awarded us 25% off any purchases we made in any park store (including the larger Universal Store in City Walk) that evening. After having admired so many items in the store the night before, it felt weird when I walked out with nothing. I did find a pink t-shirt with a nice gold Egyptian design on it, but there wasn't one in my size
We headed up the skywalk to the Upper Lot next, with the intention of going on the Simpsons Ride, but it had closed for the night too, as time was rapidly approaching 7pm by that stage.
On our way out of the park, we stopped in at the Nick Store, where Nest bought a Patrick Star "Brain Freeze" t-shirt.
As we were approaching the Cartooniversal store, we saw that there were still a lot of people inside, so we thought we'd go in ourselves. I made some small purchases of:
∑ Jurassic Park ride postcards to send to family and friends back home, telling them how it was our favourite ride and what a great time we were having. ∑ A pink 3D Patrick Star luggage tag: I knew we'd have to make use of our tan coloured vintage Mickey Mouse duffle bag due to an overflow of 'stuff' before our trip was up, and I thought this big pink tag would stand out nicely, and help differentiate our bag from other similarly coloured ones. ∑ A Spongebob and Patrick face washer: This only lasted one use, as the material ended up being of really poor quality ∑ A pair of adult-sized Spongebob and Patrick thongs: I bought these for our bro, Johnny, back home. He loves watching Spongebob, and his favourite footwear are thongs. These ones are bright yellow, with a big bright pink Patrick on one, and Spongebob surrounded by bright colours on the other. The things that hold them to your feet are white. I gave them to him for Christmas, and his reaction on opening them, were, "Where the hell am I meant to wear these?!" (He works as a security guard, and because of his stern demeanour, he would be stirred mercilessly by his friends and colleagues if they caught him in them.) I laughed so much.
Just before exiting the park, we popped quickly into the Universal Studios Store, where I bought two Hollywood postcards for my own personal collection, and a black t-shirt with a pink and silver jewelled Universal Studios logo on it.
Determined to make the most of our 25% discount option for that night only, we then continued on to Universal City Walk, where we spent ages in the Universal Studios Store there, as well as Hot Topic, the fun store next to it (our discount option didn't apply at the latter though.) Nest bought loads of cool stuff (a t-shirt, a variety of postcards for his personal collection, a Homer Simpson photo album to put the postcards in (we're not sure what to do with the over-sized postcards that don't fit), and four souvenir pins), where-as I didn't buy a thing. On hindsight, I have absolutely no idea why this was (especially as I would've loved a Hello Kitty handbag and purse, as I genuinely need to replace my current super worn set), unless it was because I was concerned this early on in the trip, about our money lasting.
After such an exciting day, I asked Nest if he wanted to end it by having dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, but he said he'd prefer to end it quietly by having room service for dinner, as it would give us time to catch up on our journal writing (today's entry was a massive effort to write up!), and we'd hopefully get to bed that little bit earlier for tomorrow morning's early rise and the big day ahead. Nest's reasoning was more than fine with me. We stopped off at Sparky's to get a cone of twelve mini cinnamon sugar coated donuts to share on the walk back to the hotel.
For dinner, Nest had a salad (feta cheese, tomato, lettuce, cucumber and pineapple), an eight inch BBQ chicken pizza (BBQ sauce base, chicken, red onions, mozzarella, and fresh cilantro), a fruit cup (like we had this morning), and a diet Coke. I had a Hollywood Hills Club sandwich (shaved ham, turkey, roast beef, pepper Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and bacon) with a side of coleslaw and a regular Coke.
After having rung in our dinner order, I then rang downstairs to book a taxi for tomorrow's activity, only to be told it wasn't necessary, as there are always taxis out front. No worries there then.
We both spent ages writing our journals that night, as we didn't want to forget a second of the great day we had had. We were certainly going to miss being able to use the special 'Gate A' lines to rides and attractions, not to mention our 25% discount in all Universal park stores, that our VIP passes afforded us (they were dated, therefore only valid for that one day.) If you only have a day to spend at Universal Studios, and you can get to the check-in point by the appointed time, then I demand this be the way to spend your only day there! It is so worth it! The only point the tour didn't cover, was the Lucille Ball tribute, and you can easily cover that in your own time after the tour. On our next trip, I'm definitely booking us a spot on the VIP Tour again. Next time, I'm going to make it for a weekday, to see how much difference that makes to the experience, and whether we'll get to see stars and crew at work or not.
Do you know how you're quite aware you should steer clear of certain foods because they don't agree with you, but sometimes you can't help yourself, as quite often these forbidden foods are so yummy? One of my forbidden foods is pork - it just doesn't agree with me. As you may recall, there was shaved ham and fried bacon in my dinner. The combination was oh so yummy, but boy, did I pay for it afterwards I didn't get to bed until 3am as a result, but I've got no one to blame but myself. Sleep didn't come until half-an-hour later, as I kept on thinking I heard something moving about in our room (I think I paid one visit too many to the House of Horrors! )
Next entry: Deluxe Tour of Warner Bros Studios with the best tour guide in the world!
Little Brother & Big Sister
Last edited by Big Sister; 05-03-2011 at 10:11 PM..
Reason: Correcting spacing
Your tour sounds amazing. Your writing is so descriptive that I can picture it all in my mind. The pictures are great I've been to Universal in Florida many times so it's nice to be able to see te difference.
for not having posted for ages due to a servere case of writers block It had absolutely nothing to do with the sudden discovery of Nest's DS, and all the fun games you can play on it I finished the draft to my post about Warner Bros yesterday , and just need a day or so to polish it up and load photos, etc., before posting the final copy. My goal for the week is to get it done by Friday at the latest
Originally Posted by chezp
What an amazing day at Universal you had! The VIP tour sounded so cool.
It was our favourite day of the trip thus far. A very cool tour indeed
Originally Posted by Colexis Mom
What a great tour at Universal! Love all the pictures! Can't wait to hear about the WB tour. I wanted to do that one last year when we were out there and we didn't have time!
Thank you . Next time you visit California, put the Deluxe Tour of Warner Bros on top of your list of things to do - Nest and I thought it was totally awesome, thanks to the brilliant guide we had! I'm not sure if young children will have as much fun as us though, as it's a bit more serious/theoretical than the Universal tour with it's Norman Bates impersonator, King Kong 3D, shows, and ride components. Nest and I will definitely be visiting Warner Bros again
Originally Posted by pamcarey
Wow! That tour sounds amazing! I love your detailed descriptions!
Originally Posted by clio
Your tour sounds amazing. Your writing is so descriptive that I can picture it all in my mind. The pictures are great I've been to Universal in Florida many times so it's nice to be able to see the difference.
Originally Posted by lazanya
Just caught up! The tour is amazing!
Thanks very much, you guys! I try to be as detailed in my writing as possible, so I can remember the great travels I went on when I'm super old and can only participate in armchair travel
Deluxe Tour of Warner Bros Studios with the best tour guide in the world
Work to the alarm at 7.30am for the second morning in a row, absolutely dead tired due to only getting four hours sleep. The day's plans in the form of the five hour Deluxe Tour of Warner Bros Studios, motivated me to get moving. We had been really looking forward to visiting Warner Bros Studios ever since we realised just how close to Universal Studios it was, back in 2007.
While waiting for Nest to get ready, I quietly tidied up our room and continued on with yesterday's journal entry. While we were looking out the window, Nest saw his first squirrel, which we were both really excited about. Unfortunately, it moved way too fast for Nest to take a photo. He must've had his morning coffee already, unlike Nest ... who doesn't drink coffee in the first place, so what am I going on about
We caught the only taxi out the front of our hotel, to Warner Bros Studios in time for our 10am tour. It was only a short drive - about 15 minutes at the most. The Studios were located in a beautiful leafy and affluent area. I loved the architecture of the building we'd be going into, and out the front were palm trees and bronze statues of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Before we could enter the building, we had to get our bags checked and walk through a security screen. Nest jokingly chided me for wearing a Universal Studios t-shirt to Warner Bros Studios. I hadn't thought of it in that way when I'd been getting ready that morning, and felt self-conscious about my choice for the rest of our visit.
Once inside the building, we had to walk through the gift store to get to the ticket counter. There were so many nice items for sale: t-shirts of various Warner Bros TV shows and movies, Harry Potter coin sets, Harry Potter metal bookmark sets, Harry Potter house pens, wands, Warner Bros Studios history books, and lots more. I was looking forward to going through everything at a more relaxed pace, after the tour.
There were quite a few people waiting for tickets. Nest and I overheard people getting discount coupons for ice cream, and hoped we were going to get them too. When we got to the front of the line, we were told that a new ticket distribution system had been installed, and that this was its unveiling day, which was why things were moving along more slower than usual.
We had planned on grabbing a bite to eat for breakfast at the nice looking cafe at Warner Bros, as we weren't relaxed enough to have it at the hotel, not wanting to be late for the tour, but it turned out we didn't have time. At least we'd well and truly be ready for lunch by the time it came around!
Tickets in hand (with detachable ice cream coupons! ), we then went and lined up at a row of doors as instructed, wondering what was behind them and where they led to. At 10am, the doors automatically slid open, revealing a very luxurious and cosy theatre. Nest and I took our seats (they were so comfortable, I was concerned about the danger of me nodding off, though I'm sure Nest would've elbowed me in the side if that had happened!), and settled down, waiting for the show to begin.
The show went for about 20 minutes, and was a short film on the history of Warner Bros, followed by a fast montage of scenes from highly successful TV shows and movies produced by Warner Bros. The clips were grouped into action, comedy, horror, romance, and bloopers. I was pleased to see the Supernatural TV series and Harry Potter movies featured in this montage. I quite clearly remember a Harry Potter clip featured in the bloopers section, featuring a very young Daniel Radcliffe slipping off his broomstick in front of a green screen, and hanging upside down, laughing.
Once the show was over, our host brought the lights back up, and introduced three tour guides. Within the theatre, were two groups waiting to do the general two and a half hour tour, and one group waiting to do the five hour deluxe tour. We all had one of three letters printed on our tickets, and they corresponded with one of the tour guides down the front. Nest and I had "D" for "Deluxe" The two general tours were the first to gather and set off on their way, leaving six of us behind - two women in their mid-twenties (I guess) from Austria, an older couple from Chicago, plus Nest and myself.
Our tour guide was Thom. Jumping ahead of myself here for a second, out of the eight tours Nest and I went on during our holiday, Thom was the best tour guide by far. It's not to say the others weren't nice, it's just that Thom had what I suppose people would call the X-factor. He had a fantastic personality without being loud, egotistical or over-bearing. Nest and I are very shy when it comes to having to interact with strangers, but with Thom, it was as if he was our long-lost best friend. We found we could talk to him about anything, and we weren't self-conscious in the slightest about asking him questions (stupid ones or otherwise ) I also loved it how whenever he saw someone famous while driving us around property, he would slow our buggy down to a stop, turn around and whisper excitedly, "Did you see who that was?!", as if we were a group of gossipy friends out on the town. It was also apparent that he was very passionate about his job, which is another reason our tour turned out to be so fantastic.
Anyway, back to the moment at hand. Thom took us out the front to where our eight passenger buggy was waiting. Before we took our seats, we were required to stow all our belongings in the "locked box" on the buggy. We were allowed to keep our cameras with us, but at times, Thom said we'd have to stow them in the locked box too.
Buckled up securely in our seats, Thom gave us a rundown of our itinerary for the day. He also rattled off some TV shows and got us to respond to the ones we were interested in, so he'd know what things to specifically point out during our travels. Thom had made it clear from the beginning, to feel free to stop him at any time during the tour, if we had a question. Since Nest and I didn't react to any of the TV shows Thom mentioned, I asked about Supernatural and Harry Potter (even though I'm quite aware the latter isn't a TV show.) Before Thom had a chance to react, the two Austrian women behind us went, "Vancouuuuuuuuuuuver!", in response to the Supernatural part of my question. While I did feel stupid for not being aware that that's where Supernatural's filmed, I didn't want to have come all this way and not have been game enough to have asked questions in the first place. Thom responded while both projects had not been filmed on set there at Warner Bros, that there were some costumes and small props from Supernatural at a Museum we'd be going to later. He also said that the top floor of that Museum was devoted to Harry Potter. I could not wait to see it!
Questions over for the time being, we set off on our way. We began by driving down a street in absolutely pristine condition - not even a leaf was out of place. There were short buildings running down either side of the street, which housed administrative services amongst other things. As Thom had once worked as a courier for Warner Bros, he knew his way around this area pretty well. George Lopez was around in this area at the time we were there, as we drove by his gold buggy, which was pimped out with crushed velvet seat coverings and faux diamonds on the steering wheel! Too cool! When I become famous (don't hold your breath for that one, folks ), that's the kind of golf buggy I want ... with perhaps the addition of silver tinsel and fairy lights at Christmas time and birthdays
The first movie/television site we came to, was this beautiful forested area. It had most recently been used in the television series, True Blood.
Nestled in the outskirts of the forest, was a small wooden building complete with patio, which is used as the cafe in True Blood. Before this, it was used in the TV series, Invasion, which only ran for one season before being cancelled.
Back in 1993, the long stretch of dirt road we travelled on down through the forest, had been used for the T-Rex chase scene in Universal Studios' first Jurassic Park movie. The bulk of the movie was filmed in Hawaii, but none of the actors were required to fly over to California and back, as the footage shot at Warner Bros only appeared in the rear view mirror of the jeep Jeff Goldblum's character was driving. Unfortunately, I can't remember why the rear view mirror scene was shot in California, and the actual footage of the jeep driving was shot in Hawaii. I'm so confused! I'm sure it was explained to us at the time, but as we were fed so much information that day, I was only able to retain a certain amount. If anyone knows the answer, please let me know! Thanks
Hidden within the forest, was a gorgeous inviting looking lagoon (the last time one of us mentioned that a water area looked inviting though, it ended up being home to the biggest croc we had ever seen! :0) A day or so before, it had been used in a Budweiser commercial. It had also featured in an episode of ER back in the day, where George Clooney wades in to save an injured child. In the scene, it was raining and the actors were shivering, but in reality, Thom said they weren't suffering at all, as the lagoon can be heated up to 85 degrees.
From the beautiful hidden lagoon in the forest, we then drove down a super lovely street of two storey pastel coloured houses, with the Hollywood Hills pretty much in their backyard, they were that close. I couldn't believe it when we were told this is where the writers work - what inspiring surroundings!
Eventually we came to a big carpark storing a variety of vehicles which could be used in any production as needed. Nearby, was the helipad used for 15 years in ER, as well as the facade of the famous hospital.
We got to get out when we came to a big house standing by itself on a grassy area wedged in near the carpark. The interesting thing about this house, was that both sides of it were 'fronts' (ie. It had no backyard. If you went around to the opposite side of the house to where you were originally standing, you'd see another front side of a house, except it would be of a different design.) Thom did mention which films and TV shows the house had been used in, but as they were none that I'd seen, the names unfortunately didn't stick in my mind.
Back in the buggy, we then drove around to the opposite side of the house, and found ourselves in a cul-de-sac, which we were allowed to get out and walk around in. It was a beautiful leafy street, and featured two storey houses of different designs and colours. Thom told us the story behind each and every one! :0 Unfortunately, I was only able to retain the history of three of the houses.
One of the houses we walked past, was used in the movie, Gremlins. I made a point of remembering this and taking a photo, as it's one of my friend's favourite childhood movies.
The house at the end of the street closest to the church, was used in the movie, The Shootist, starring John Wayne and James Stewart. In the movie, James Stewart plays a doctor, who in one scene, has to tell John Wayne's character that he has cancer. A sad anecdote Thom told us, was that only two weeks before this scene was filmed, John Wayne had been told he had cancer for real Some people say it was because John shot a movie called The Conqueror in Utah, downwind from a nuclear testing site, where it turned out 41% of the cast and crew developed cancer, but other people (including John himself), say it was from his six pack a day cigarette habit.
Down from the John Wayne house, was the home of Ross and Monica's parents in Friends. We got to go inside, where Thom told us in great detail, about the scene that was filmed here. It was the scene on a video found by the friends, showing Monica and Rachel waiting for their dates to show up and take them to the prom. When it looks as if Rachel's date isn't turning up, Ross goes and gets dressed up to take her to the prom (which she isn't aware of), and as he's coming down the staircase, Rachel's date turns up and whisks her away, leaving Ross sitting on the stairs, heartbroken. Nest and I saw this very episode of Friends while at Disneyland a few weeks later, and it was strange to know that we had been in that very room! What was even stranger, was that while we were in that house, it was totally gutted and derelict inside. So much work must go into getting the interiors ready from scratch for filming. It must be fun in a way, choosing the furnishings, fittings, accessories and the like. The sets in this street don't have any electricity or running water, so when they're ready to set up and film, they run extension cords to generators for electricity, and call a plumber in to get the water running. It's not a full plumbing job though - the tap can be turned on, but to catch the water, just a bucket is placed under the sink. Like with other sets we had been on, there was no second level - just rooms for lighting and camera equipment. Though if an actor did need to be filmed at an upstairs window from outside, there were stairways and platforms leading up to said windows.
As I mentioned before, near the house used in John Wayne's last movie, was a white church with a small manicured front garden. The TV show Thom mentioned it being used in, was the 1970's Monster Squad. Nest and I had only just began watching the series before our trip, and Thom's face seemed to light up when we told him.
Near the church, was a very small area of parkland, which was used in the episode of Friends where Phoebe convinces Rachel to go jog-dancing (I think that was the kind of exercise it was.) When we passed this area later on in the day, it was being covered in snow made from freeze dried powdered mashed potato. Mmmmmmm, mashed potato ... As the Weird Al Yankovic song goes, "Might as well face it - you're addicted to spud!"
Close-by, was a colourful and exciting looking main street bustling with the activity of a film crew. When we asked Thom what movie they were working on, he said if he had to guess, it would probably be the new Muppets movie. (Nest and I were really happy that it wasn't "top secret" )
On the grassy area we had been standing on and taking in our surroundings, was a tree. The big deal about this tree, was that all its leaves had been removed, and replaced with fake leaves, so that it would always look perfect for filming. Nest found a fake leaf on the ground, and gave it to me. I thought he had given it to me as a souvenir, but he had only given it to me to look at. I didn't realise this until he saw it in front of the TV when we got back from our trip, and he exasperated, "Why did you bring that home for?!"
Also featured in the main street, was a shop called F.W. Woolworts, and further on down, was a courthouse. I couldn't believe it when Thom said that this set was used in the final episode of Seinfeld - Nest and I absolutely love that show! Outside Woolworts, was where the group was arrested for not helping stop a mugging, and the courthouse was where their case was heard. It wasn't until I came to write this, that I thought, "Hang on - the show's based in New York ... what were they doing filming in sunny California?!" Nest and I decided it must've been part of their plan to keep the final script top secret.
Around behind the main street, was a backstreet. I think if we had been walking down it during the evening, it would've been a bit on the scary side, as it had a bit of a creepy feel to it (though, like the rest of Warner Bros, it was absolutely spotless and not smelly at all, like you would imagine a real backstreet to be.) Scenes shot in this backstreet, have been from TV shows such as Friends, and Sex in the City, and movies such as Minority Report and Spiderman. Still present, was the underground shop featured in Gremlins, where the little gremlin was purchased.
What I was most excited about though, was the store that had been used as a pet store in The Mask, and as a hair salon in You Don't Mess With The Zohan. Why? Because Thom added onto the end of these credentials as what seemed to be an afterthought, that it was where the Griswold's had broken down one night on their way to Wally World in one of my most favourite movies of all time, National Lampoon's Vacation!
After all that walking, we drove around for a bit. We saw:
∑ The much-recognised water tower with the Warner Bros logo emblazoned on it
∑ The tallest soundstage in the Northern Hemisphere (Thom mentioned that the Warner Bros logo on the soundstage, is deliberately facing Universal Studios to remind them of this fact )
∑ The set of stairs Batman and Robin from the original TV series ran up to enter the courthouse Nest and I thought it was funny when we found out this one piece of footage was used 72 times!
∑ The cinema used in a episode of (can you guess?) Friends, where one of Joey's films premiered
∑ The last remaining set from the classic movie, Casablanca. We saw it from a distance, and it looked like a small pastel green unmarked shop front. Later on in one of the prop buildings, we saw the pink baby piano and stool used by the character, Sam, in the movie.
Opposite the cinema, was a road leading to some buildings shielded by bushes. We headed on down the road and got out of the buggy, as it was lunchtime!
We would be dining at the Commissionary (where the stars also dine!), but before we went in, Thom got us to put our cameras in the buggy's locked box There was a lot of seating outside, but we had a table reserved for us inside. It was nice inside - not too formal that you felt uncomfortable in your everyday clothes, yet not too casual like McDonald's, that it wasn't a special experience. I don't have a photo to refer back to, and my notes of the day aren't as detailed as I would have liked, but I remember a lot of cream coloured decor, and the backs of the booth seating were jungle themed, with animals peering through the foliage. Nest got an awesome booth/back wall seat facing the entire seating area of the restaurant, while I got a seat facing the back wall At least I was sitting opposite Nest and Thom, so I would be in for some interesting conversation at least.
I was right about the interesting conversation! When asked, Thom told us how he got started at Warner Bros. He had originally applied to work at Universal Studios, but a friend passed on his resume to the people at Warner Bros also. He was taken on as a tour guide by Warner Bros, but during the holiday season only. He was let go at the end of this period, and to stay with the company, he took on a job as a mail courier, until he had the chance to be taken on as a full time tour guide. His test was taking all these high ranking officials of the company around on a tour. Thom is from Tennessee, but loves his job so much, he plans on being in it for the next ten years. Hopefully Nest and I have him as our tour guide when we next visit Warner Bros
Thom was also asked why Warner Bros doesn't have rides like Universal, and he said at one stage, they used to have a partnership with the Six Flags Magic Mountain parks.
While virtually everyone was on a bathroom break, Nest and I spoke to Thom about Harry Potter. Thom said that the Studio put on a special advance screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 1, for its staff, which I imagined would've been fantastically exciting, and on hindsight, wondered if this took place at the cinema we passed on the way to lunch. I'm pretty sure that was the case, as there were Harry Potter posters on display in frames on the outside of the cinema.
Nest asked if the movie was as good as the matching book, seeing as the previous movie wasn't, and he said yes. He said that even though the movie ends on a cliffhanger, you walk out feeling ok about that, as you know you'll see the concluding part next year. Nest and I were both really excited about going to see it once it opened to the general public later on in the month. He also spoke about a Harry Potter Museum opening up in Leavesden Film Studios, England, which I immediately added onto my list of places to travel to, getting really excited about it in the process.
While we still had Thom to ourselves, I took the opportunity to ask another question without the risk of having people chorusing, "Vancouuuuuuuuver!", behind me I asked if he had anymore anecdotes about Chevy Chase and the National Lampoon Vacation movies, but he said no, except to say he thinks their family house is on one of the Studio's ranches (at least he didn't say it was in Vancouver ... not that I've got anything against Vancouver, and would love to go there next trip )
Now back to the food side of lunch Once seated, we were handed menus and asked what we'd like to drink. Nest chose Diet Coke, and I chose regular Coke, with our glasses constantly being refilled throughout our meal. Thom didn't have to say anything, as what looked like a pink lemonade served up in a cocktail goblet and garnished with fruit, a cocktail umbrella and a drinking straw, was immediately delivered to his place setting.
While our entrees were being prepared, baskets of hot dinner rolls and dishes of flavoured butter balls were delivered to our table. They were so yummy, I had to use all my powers to refrain from grabbing all the rolls and butter onto my plate and eating the lot myself! The flavoured butters available, were sundried tomato, pesto, and plain.
For entrees, Nest had a tomato and capsicum gazpacho soup, and I had minestrone soup. Even though Nest was aware that he had chosen a cold dish, he still thought it would've tasted better served hot. Having said that, he said it still tasted nice as it was.
By this stage, I was starting to feel pretty full, and I was yet to have my main course, which was a lamb chop salad. I hadn't had lamb chops since I was little, so I was excited about my choice. These were the nicest I can ever remember having - they were really tender, deliciously seasoned, and served on a bed of mixed lettuce. Nest's main course was a garlic, rosemary and herb-crusted chicken breast. Other people at the table had these really yummy looking prawn salads. The serve was really generous, and the prawns looked so plump and mouth-watering. One of my friends would've been most impressed, as once she ordered a prawn laksa for lunch, which ended up containing only two prawns! She didn't realise this until she had given one to me to taste! When an oversized plate with a huge slice of Austrian cream cake complete with chocolate icing, passionfruit sauce, and CREAM was placed in front of me, all I could do was look at it longingly, as there was simply no room left at the party in my tummy ... though I did risk being sick, and had just one spoonful so I'd know what I was missing As much as I love my food, I'm not used to having such HUGE lunches!
During our meal, Nest leaned over and quietly asked me the name of the actor who plays the current Dr Who, and I said Matt Smith, to which Nest replied, "Well he's sitting right behind you!" Naturally, I wanted to turn around straight away, but felt really self-conscious about it, so left it a while. Sure enough, there he was - I couldn't believe it! Nest and I enjoy watching Dr Who, and were really excited to see him in our own quiet way. Matt was super skinny and was wearing a white shirt with a tiny pink flower pattern all over it, and brown trousers. He had his hair combed the same way he wears it as the Dr. Even though I was sitting quite close, I could only hear the hum of his voice, not what was being said, except that he chose a lamb chop salad for his lunch too! I got the impression that it was a business lunch. When I leant over to whisper Nest's discovery to Thom, he got everyone to lean in towards the centre of our table, as if he was about to deliver a super serious top secret message
Our star spotting didn't stop there - as we were walking past the outdoor seating back to our buggy, the Austrian women up ahead let out a bit of a squeal. Thom interpreted to the rest of us, that to our right having lunch, were Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg, who play Dr Rajesh Koothrappali and Dr Howard Wolowitz respectively, in The Big Bang Theory. Nest and I didn't become regular viewers of that show until after our trip, so we appreciated having seem them on hindsight.
There was so much information and new sights to take in after lunch. We started off by visiting the following suites (after having our cameras stored in the locked box):
Sound effects suite: When we got there, we got to observe two people making sound effects for an upcoming Steve Carell movie. The sound effect they were working on, were raindrops dripping off a raincoat, which they did by lightly tapping their fingers in a puddle of water on the concrete section of the floor. When the guy completed capturing that sound effect, he then came out into the hall to talk to us and answer any questions we had, while the lady slipped on a pair of heels and began working on footsteps in the rain sound effects. I knew that a lot of work went into making movies, but I didn't realise to what extent until today. When a movie is made, all they worry about recording perfectly at the time, sound-wise, is the actors' dialogue. All the other sound effects are recorded and added separately at a later date. Another reason dialogue and sound effects are kept on separate tracks, is that when the film is sent to countries where English isn't their first language, all they have to do is record the foreign language dialogue - they don't have to worry about re-doing the sound effects, as they just use the ones prepared by the Studios. Let me tell you - I certainly watch movies in a different way now! (Knowing this new information hasn't wrecked my viewing enjoyment, I must point out.)
We viewed the sound effects suite from the hallway through these two huge windows. Automatic shutters could be deployed for "top secret" projects To get a super good look inside, I stepped as close as I could to the glass, not realising it was set at an angle, and thumped my head really hard. The resulting thump caused everyone to turn around and look. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Nest shaking with silent laughter next to me. I didn't dare look at him for a while, as I knew that if I did, we both would've started laughing out loud and not be able to stop (And yes, I did sport a bump on my forehead for the next couple of days )
After almost knocking myself out from excitement, I continued on with my observations from a distance. To the left, was a glass booth where the sound effects were recorded. It was also where the film they were working on, was controlled from, and could be instantly re-wound to double-check sound effect timing. The film itself appeared on a big screen mounted on the far right wall. In-between, were all different sorts of objects (including a bathtub!) in which the staff used to create simple to complex sound effects we may or may not take all that much notice of when we watch the final cut of a movie.
Editing suite: We got to walk into this suite. It was smaller than the sound effects suite, and featured a massive sound board with hundreds of those slidey button things. Here, movies are previewed with their accompanying newly recorded sound effects track, on a big screen in front of the huge sound board. Situated behind the sound board, were some comfy chairs and a coffee table displaying a very big attractive bowl of mixed lollies. Here sit the producers and other big wigs of the movies being previewed, who have a say in which effects stay, and which effects they wish to be redone. When Thom asked if we had any questions, I wanted to ask if we could have a lolly, but restrained myself
Music recording suite: This place was huge! The best comparison I can come up with, is perhaps an indoor basketball court with room for spectators. To our left, were the glass booths for singers, as well as separate ones for the people controlling those big sound boards with all the slidey button things. Outside these booths, seemed like an impromptu storage space for music holder stands and other large items. Then there was a huge empty space leading on towards the right hand side of the suite, which led to a seating area for an orchestra in front of a stage with royal blue velvety-curtains. Thom told us that this was where Neil Diamond recorded his Christmas album the previous year (woo hoo! ) Thom then showed us a section of the floor that had been damaged by the pointy ends of cellos (not as a result of Neil Diamond's recording session, I must point out.) He then went on to say that the suite was almost closed down, as they couldn't afford the antique rosewood needed to replace the damaged floor (which I found a bit hard to believe, considering the success of Warner Bros.) No other wood could be used, as it would've noticeably altered any future recording sessions. Anyway, Clint Eastwood heard about this predicament, and rang the Studios, saying that he would pay to get the floor redone, which was a very generous gesture indeed (I don't think that a price was mentioned, otherwise either Nest or myself would've remembered something that startling )
We spent some time driving around the soundstages, which had plaques on the outside listing which films and TV shows had been filmed there. To give you an idea of just how huge they were, Thom told us that the Vegas set from Ocean's 13 was filmed at Warner Bros, for if it had been filmed at an actual casino, the producers would've had to have paid the casino what the casino would've lost in gambling, on top of everything else, for the duration of filming! Who would've thought?! I thought that was a great anecdote!
We weren't given the chance to go inside one of these huge working soundstages, but we were permitted to go inside an empty one. While that may not sound all that exciting, I can assure you it was very very interesting, if only to illustrate just how much space was inside. The soundstage we got to go inside, was a double storey single spaced one, where the pirate ship scene of The Goonies was filmed. I was happy I had seen the film, albeit a long time ago, so I could appreciate being in the place where a lot of creativity went into preparing such a great scene. Thom mentioned that the floor of this soundstage had been recently filled in (the massive pit that was there, was as a result of a more recent movie - not The Goonies ), which the Studios soon regretted, as not long afterwards, the producers of Pirates of the Caribbean came around looking for the perfect place to film the latest installment of the series.
While we didn't get to go into any working soundstages, we did get to visit two working sets (while they weren't being used, as contradicting as that sounds.) Once again, photography was not permitted, so we had to lock away all our cameras and other recording devices. I'm not sure why this was, especially as Universal allowed photography on their working Parenthood set.
The first working set we got to visit, was that of The Mentalist, starring Simon Baker. Once again, Nest and I don't watch the show, but we still appreciated the experience of being there The set consisted of the office featured in the series:
The main working space: From the promotional advertisements of the show I've seen on TV, this section seemed a lot smaller compared to how you see it on the small screen. When we arrived, all the lights were out, and it seemed as if we were the first ones to arrive at work for the day. As you would expect in a working office environment, there were closely set desks ladened with computers, stationary and thick case files. Simon has his own office, which we got to peek in at from the doorway and through the glass petitions. (I didn't know myself out with excitement this time ) Thom pointed out the comfy brown leather sofa complete with crocheted granny's blanket, that Simon's character often spends the night on, as he can't bear to return home due to the terror that took place there.
The glass in the office partitions are tiltable, so they can be moved into any position so as to prevent glare when the cameras are filming through them (and perhaps so people wont get a bump on the head if they go in for a super close look )
From the office windows, you can see a view of the city. Only it's not what is really outside the window, but a giant photo of a city, printed off on a massive printer. If a night time view from the window is required, LED lights help give the scene that extra twinkle. There are other techniques that give the view that night time look, but it's the LEDs that stuck in my mind the most, as my two youngest brothers enjoy constructing things with them. I still remember the time Nest zapped himself big time when connecting both ends of an LED to a battery - it was quite funny to see, once I realised he wasn't hurt.
The break area: This area was a little too sterile looking for my liking, but then I suppose that's what comes of working in a serious industry. There was a very plain table and chairs in the middle of the small area, with a very basic kitchen area to the left, and a notice board to the right. I thought it was interesting how Thom said that the notice board has to be constantly kept up-to-date, as in this day and age of advanced technology, he said that some people zoom in on the notice board when watching the show on DVD, see that there's an out-of-date offer or advertisement, or that the board hasn't changed, and complain!
The interrogation room: If I thought the break area looked sterile, then the interrogation room looked absolutely barren! Everyone knows what an interrogation room looks like (though hopefully not from first-hand experience ), so I'll leave my description there. The most interesting tidbit about this room, is that the intercom doesn't work - the exchange is added in afterwards.
The lift foyer: This area was particularly interesting, in the way that the one foyer is used for all four floors of the building. Around the corner out of shot, are four pockets hanging up on the wall, containing all the finer details needed to decorate the foyer to appear as a certain level, eg. floor number, directional signage, and wall plaques. As it was just the one floor, the elevator was just for appearances, therefore didn't work. It's some guy's job to open and close the elevator doors smoothly with the sound effect crew adding the corresponding noises in afterwards.
Before moving on to our next working set, Thom first rang to ensure we had the all clear to enter. We did, so off we went to the set of Two and a Half Men (yet another show Nest and I don't watch ) This set was different to the set of The Mentalist, in that it was set up to have a studio audience.
We must've entered the set the way the actors of the show do, as we walked through these really short narrow corridors and past the dressing rooms, before going up some scaffolding type stairs which led us to the audience seating area. I thought it was interesting to see that as we walked past Angus' dressing room (I hope that's the kid's name!), his height growth throughout the years had been recorded in pen and pencil on the doorframe. I wasn't surprised in the slightest when Nest briefly stood against the doorframe himself, and towered over the most recent height marking. If only I had a pen on me, I could've added Nest's height
The audience viewing area was very small. Without a photo to refer back to, I guestimate there was seating for about 100 people (two banks of five rows of ten seats.) The whole area was black, and had long thin sausage shaped microphones hanging up over almost every seat to capture the audiences' reaction (which then may or may not lead to instant rewrites so as to get a more favourable reaction ... no wonder it takes so long to film!)
The viewing area was set up at a surprising height, so you were looking down on the set. Perhaps it was to prevent spontaneous walk-on 'roles' during filming? The two rooms the viewing area looked down on, were the combined entrance/living room, followed by the kitchen. Just looking at these two rooms evenly side-by-side, reminded me of those dioramas some of us may have made in shoe boxes, during our early school years. That was just me? Oh ...
I can't remember where the bedrooms and balcony were situated, but we could partly see another room around the back of the front ones. Thom explained some rooms were only temporary. The temporary room for that week's show, was a bar area. From the small bit I was able to see, the walls were blue and had a sea theme. I asked Thom how were the audience meant to see the taping for those scenes in the hidden back rooms, and he explained that they were projected onto screens.
Knowing that at the time, Charlie Sheen was paid $2 million per episode, I was very much shocked at the show's weekly schedule - he hardly had to do anything! WINNING! Monday to Thursday's work only takes up to around two hours or so, with Friday being the only day they have to put in long hours (yet the maximum six hours expected, is still not as long as a typical day of 7 hours 21 minutes in the Australian public service), with the weekend free. Let me explain a bit further:
Monday: Scripts are handed out Tuesday: A proper read through around the table with everyone Wednesday: A walk through of the scenes. Extras stay behind afterwards to assist with lighting tests. Thursday: (Unfortunately I can't remember what this day entailed. Perhaps it's costuming and make-up, in which case the main stars aren't bothered) Friday: The week's episode is filmed in the evening, and can take from four to six hours, even though it's just a 22 minute show without advertisements Weekend: The actors have Saturday and Sunday off.
I was super excited to hear we'd be going to Warner Bros' prop house next, especially if it was anything like Universal's. I was looking forward to seeing how it compared, and what sort of items it stocked. We drove though a long workshop on our way there.
The prop warehouse was split into a couple of smaller buildings, all of which we got to go into. I don't know where the main warehouse was situated or exactly what it contained though.
The first prop area we went into, was devoted to lights. The piece that immediately commanded my attention on entering, was an absolutely magnificent chandelier that sprung to life when Thom turned it on. It had a glorious warm golden glow to it, and was dripping with strands of sparkly shiny things and strategically placed candles.
Surrounding the huge chandelier, was almost a ceiling full of smaller chandeliers of various designs, colours, and materials. Even though the building we were in was only one story high, there seemed to be a few levels of chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling. I was really excited to spy a row of disco balls off to one side, but was too far away to take a decent photo.
At a lower level, were sections of shelves devoted to groups of particular items, such as lamps and candlestick holders. I noticed how neatly they had been placed on the shelf, and was most impressed.
In the foyer of the next prop building we went into, were cabinets of trinkets such as goblets and utensils used in some of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (the goblets weren't the silver challises used in the latest movie though), framed photos of Clint Eastwood, ash trays, vampire teeth, somebody's drivers license, and lots of glass objects which had a beautiful shine to them when you looked at them from a particular angle.
There were also shelves of larger glassware, in red or green colours only. I wonder if this section had been set up specifically for the Christmas season? On top of these shelves, were an assortment of fake fruit and vegies - you gotta love those!
Walking on further, we came to rooms full of larger items such as oversized framed paintings and warrior armour. There was also a heavy Egyptian theme running throughout, as we came across a lot of Egyptian statues, chests decorated with hieroglyphics, wrapped mummies, and coffins.
In the main corridor connecting all these areas, was the little piano and stool I mentioned earlier, from Casablanca. I thought it was good how they had a framed still from the movie, featuring these pieces, on top of the piano, so you could see them in context.
Hanging up in this same corridor, was a huge portrait of an old man which had the eyes cut out, so that the owner could spy on people from behind it, as has happened many times in old black and white horror movies. I asked Thom which movies this portrait had featured in, but he didn't know. That was ok though, as he had been able to answer all our other questions.
We also got to see some very pricey pieces. The first objects being two intricately designed white light chandeliers. They weren't as big as the magnificent one in the first prop house, but they were still very beautiful. Originally there were eight of these beauties made, but unfortunately four were destroyed in a bombing raid during one of the World Wars, so there are now only four in existence. Nest and I can't recall who owns the other two, but we do remember that they're worth $3 million each.
Keeping on the subject of lights, we got to see two super gorgeous blue Tiffany chandeliers worth $750,000 each. They were made with pieces of pretty blue, yellow, baby green, and baby pink pastel coloured opaque glass, with gold settings. Hanging below, were six blue fluted cone shapes. At first, Warner bros didn't realise just what they had on their hands, until someone pointed it out to them, suggesting the items should be locked away in a more secure building. Thank goodness the Studios didn't take this advice, so that us normal people can see them up closely with our own eyes.
I didn't record it in my notes, but according to Nest's notes, we also saw a cabinet that was worth $4 million! I went back through our photos, and while we did indeed get a shot of it, we can't remember why it was worth that much. It must've had something to do with the material it was made from, who designed it, and who the carpenter was. Or perhaps it just has loads of hidden compartments filled with gold
Once we had seen all the props, Thom had us gather outside a plain unassuming sliding wooden door. He unpadlocked the door and slid it open, revealing the bright and exciting coffee shop featured in the highly successful Warner Bros sitcom, Friends. As it's such a highly recognisable set, whether you're a fan or not, it was very exciting to be able to go in for a thorough look around, taking as many photos as we liked in the process. The Chicago couple offered to take mine and Nest's photograph behind the counter without us having to ask, which I thought was really nice of them, returning the favour afterwards.
Locking the door securely behind us, we gathered next to a business type section near the door of the warehouse. Here, Thom unexpectedly started joking around with this massive telephone on the wall I was surprised I hadn't noticed before. He also gleefully pulled this giant quarter out of his pocket, which he excitedly announced he had been looking forward to using all day! I was so happy I hadn't momentarily switched my camera off to preserve the battery, and was able to capture both these moments on film. Thom explained to us later on, that these over-sized props were generally used in commercials.
Now for the part of the tour I was super excited about the most - the Harry Potter Museum! (Technically, it was really the Costume Museum, as the ground floor had costumes on display from general TV shows and movies produced by Warner Bros, where-as the entire first floor was devoted to Harry Potter.) There were two "unfortunatelys" that went with this visit though: 1) We weren't allowed to take any photos (the torture of it!); and, 2) We only had half an hour to view both floors, which had me worried about how thoroughly I'd be able to look at everything.
Nest and I started off on the ground floor where the general displays were, as we knew if we had started off on the first floor, that we would've easily spent all our time up there, completely missing viewing the floor below.
The first display I hunted down, were the Supernatural costumes, which, luckily for me, didn't include too much desperate looking around, as they were right in the front. Accompanying Sam and Dean's general costumes (a combo of jeans, t-shirts, and over-shirts), was their Dad's diary/hand-written reference book they often refer to, the demon-killing Colt pistol, and a page from a newspaper with a suspicious paragraph circled in the personals column, which must've been the starting point to one of their hunts. I quickly skim-read around the circled paragraph, as I've always wondered what the parts of the newspapers we weren't meant to be paying attention to, were like, and my curiosity was happy that it all seemed in order. (I swear I'm not one of those people who ring up and complain about notice boards on TV shows being out of date )
Other things of personal interest I took in during our brief circuit of the ground floor, was the hat James Garner wore in Maverick, and a gun John Wayne used in one of his movies.
Items of less personal interest, but were still fun to look at, were:
∑ Costumes from Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland (these were so bright and colourful!) ∑ The monsters from Where the Wild Things Are ∑ A few Mr Smith mannequins from The Matrix ∑ Costumes from The Dark Knight, which included the batsuit, the Joker's suit, Harley Quinn's nurse uniform, Two Face's costume, as well as his double-headed coin ∑ A white bodysuit studded with what must've been thousands of little white LED lights (unfortunately, I can't recall which movie this was from) ∑ Costumes from 300, including the Spartan suits, the evil leader's outfit, and one of that of the evil leader's warriors ∑ Will Smith's costume from I, Robot. I seriously couldn't believe how small it looked, as he came across on screen as pumped (I thought the same thing about the Supernatural costumes, also) ∑ There were also costumes worn by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. The name of the movie these costumes were from, escapes me, but I remember there were some old fashioned styled sepia-coloured photos of the guys, set up next to this display.
Even though I could've spent more time on the ground floor, Nest luckily noticed we had hit the halfway mark of our time in the Museum, and suggested we should head upstairs. I didn't need asking twice, as it was why we had specifically come to Warner Bros in the first place.
On reaching the first floor, we didn't know in which direction to go first, as there were just so many things on display from the first six Harry Potter movies to look at. We started off by seeing which house the Sorting Hat placed us in. I was placed in Gryffindor (woo hoo! ), while Nest was placed in Slytherin (aaaaa ha ha ha ha ha! ) Nest believes the hat got it around the wrong way, as apparently I'm the bad one, according to Nest
I don't know where to begin describing what we saw. I think the best option would be to divide everything into movies, and hope to goodness I get it right, as I don't want to be shouted at
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
∑ The cupboard under the stairs. Like in the movie, loads of bits and pieces were stored in this space, despite it doubling as Harry's room. I remember seeing little figures made from nuts and bolts, set up on a ledge in there. A small mannequin dressed in Harry's clothes, was sitting in the doorway. ∑ The Dursley's fireplace with Hogswart letters flying out from it, which looked fantastic! (The letters were arcing out and suspended by wires) ∑ Hagrid's costume which was somehow holding baby Harry in a sling ∑ Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco's costumes (they were so tiny!) ∑ A normal-sized set of Wizard's chess ∑ A goblin sitting at a bank desk ∑ The cape Voldemort wore when he drunk unicorn's blood in the Forbidden Forest ∑ A hatching dragon egg from Hagrid's hut
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
∑ A 'frozen' Hermione holding a mirror and a torn page from a book, with 'pipes' written on it ∑ The Gryffindor sword used to kill the basilisk ∑ Tom Riddle's diary with the basilisk tooth plunged in it ∑ Gilderoy's costume and the many books he wrote based on 'his' experiences ∑ Harry's costume ∑ Dobby
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
∑ A squashed bed from the purple bus ∑ The bellboy's costume from the purple bus ∑ Book of Monsters ∑ Sirius Black's costume and wanted poster
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
∑ The Goblet of Fire ∑ The Triwizard Cup ∑ The Golden egg that screamed unless opened under water ∑ A dementor ∑ Lucius Malfoy's death eater mask and costume, set up in a small graveyard scene ∑ Model of the Durmstrang Institute for Magical Learning's ship ∑ The arm of a dementor, used to open the train carriage door ∑ Rita Seeker's striped black and green feather quill and notebook ∑ Models of the little dragons picked blindly from a bag to determine which wizard would battle which dragon ∑ Ron's crazy Quidditch binoculars ∑ Quidditch storage box containing the quaffle, golden snitch, and bludger
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
∑ The Weasley twins' box of excuse candy ∑ Dolores Umbridge's costume, cat ring, and assorted cat plates
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
∑ The tatty spell book Harry was left with (containing valuable tips), after Ron won the tussle for the last good remaining copy ∑ The pyjamas of Horace Slughorn
∑ A newspaper featuring the story of Lucius Malfoy's arrest ∑ Weasley fireworks (one looked like a volcano) ∑ A harmonica made in Strawberry Hills (Nest said that I had said at the time, that it belonged to Sirius Black, but now I just don't know) ∑ Nimbus 2000s and 2001s ∑ A signed set of first editions of Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling ∑ Cabinets filled with assorted sweets and bottles of pumpkin juice. One of the sweets Nest remembers as being clear and purple in colour, and that it may have had something to do with pumpkins. All I can remember was that this particular display was colourful and exciting
I was so wishing we could've taken photos in this Museum, as it would've helped me remember the great things we saw, so much clearer, and given added meaning to my journal. Failing that, I would've been happy if a souvenir book had been available for purchase, to compensate for the no photo rule. Nest and I lost track of time in the Museum, causing Thom to have to come and find us. He gave us five extra minutes, which I thought was really nice. I was relieved to see the Chicago couple still emerged in the magic too, so I didn't feel guilty about being the only ones holding the group up.
The last stop on the tour (noooooo!), was the car warehouse. I'm not all that fussed over cars, whether they're famous or not, but I must admit I was very excited to see the blue Ford Anglia first driven by Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As we were allowed to take photos inside this warehouse, Nest and I took turns in photographing each other in front of the car.
Other cars we saw, were:
∑ The 1965 Lincoln Continental complete with Mr Smith mannequin from the first Matrix movie. Thom told us that for the army of Mr Smith's in one of the Matrix movies, that not only were mannequins used, but loads of extras were also employed and given Mr Smith masks to wear, to make it appear as if the army was huge
∑ The jeep from Yogi Bear
∑ The Shaguar from the Goldmember installment of Austin Powers movies
∑ The chopper, pod car and monster motobike from Artificial Intelligence
∑ The Mystery Machine van from Scooby Doo 2
∑ The red Sunbeam Tiger from Get Smart, accompanied by Maxwell's shoe phone, Swiss Army Knife, and a bomb in a nearby glass display case. Also nearby, was a phone booth
∑ A 1972 Grand Tornio, from ... Clint Eastwood's Grand Torino
∑ There were quite a few vehicles from the Batman movies, being the batmobile, batpod, batbike, and bat tumbler
In the corner of the car warehouse, was a large green screen. Pairs of us took turns in standing in front of it, holding wands and broomsticks from the Harry Potter movies. Nest and I started the production line off, with Nest grabbing Dumbledore's wand from the selection available, which he was rather proud about, as it was more powerful than the one I ended up with. (I'm not good with knowing which one's which, otherwise I would've 'won' ) The design which would be digitally added in behind us at the few clicks of a button, later, was the Great Hall where all the great feasts and all school meetings occurred in the Harry Potter movies.
And on that note, this fantastic tour had sadly come to an end Thom drove us back to reception in the buggy, where he went and collected our Harry Potter photos from I think the checkout counter, and handed them out, saying goodbye in the process. Nest and I told him how much we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and gave him a generous tip, hoping that was an acceptable gesture, as we're still unsure of who to tip when.
We spent a while going through the gift shop, seeing as so many things had caught our eye before the tour. Surprisingly, Nest and I only ended up purchasing a few postcards each, as on a closer look at the time turner and display boxes of coins from the Harry Potter movies, all had been heavily handled and were no longer in mint condition. We found this disappointing, but thought that with a bit of patience, we'd be able to pick up some from Harry Potter World itself, much later on in our holiday. If I had known at the time, that this particular merchandise wouldn't be available there, I would've made do with the handled pieces from Warner Bros, and polished them up and mended the display boxes myself!
I eventually got hold of a whole stack of Harry Potter merchandise not available in the parks, via SkyMall for one of my bros' birthdays, but found their service dreadful after they asked for my address and credit card details via a normal e-mail (huge warning bells went off - banks warn people of this all the time), after I had correctly entered all my details via the secure website. I complained, got no response, and ended up getting my bro something else for his birthday. Two months after my bro's birthday, the Harry Potter merchandise miraculously turns up - you could've knocked me over with a feather from the surprise of it all! I jokingly said to him I should've saved the goodies for his Chrismtas pressies, but wouldn't have been able to stand the suspense.
As we were still full from our massive lunch, we no longer felt like making use of our ice cream vouchers, which was a shame, as we had been so excited about it before the tour. I asked at the counter where we had bought our postcards, where could I book a taxi back to Universal from, and the lady quite cheerfully said she could do it for me, which I really appreciated.
Nest and I waited out the front for our taxi, buzzing about the great day we were having. A taxi turned up before we knew it, but it turned out that was because it wasn't ours, which both us and the taxi driver didn't realise at first, especially as there was no one else waiting for one. A minute later, the taxi meant for us turned up, as did two guys who the original taxi was for, so we swapped taxis and went merrily on our way, arriving back at the hotel in no time.
While Nest went back up to our room to relax for a while, I asked for directions to the hotel's Business Centre. It was a nice quiet little private room, where I was able to rescue our Simpson's Ride photo from my junk e-mail folder, and make the payment to Presentations : Gifts of a Lifetime company, for organising a surprise treasure hunt for Nest, to take place in WDW on November 30 (I can't wait to share our experiences of this particular day with you all! ) I also tried confirming our Delta flight to Orlando for the day after next, but times were not yet available, so I made a mental note to check back tomorrow.
Once I had finished in the Business Centre, I went up to our room to convince Nest that relaxation time was over, and that it was park time. We set off with all of Nest's camera gear in tow, so he could take a lot of night photos in the park. We had been planning to get all the rides in afterwards, but sadly couldn't, as we had mistakenly thought that the park closed at 7pm, when it was actually 6pm
As we couldn't do anything about it, we went next door to City Walk, where Nest spent ages taking photos of the main neons, as well as experimenting with a new technique he had learnt at Tafe.
For dinner, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. It was really nice inside, what with all the rock memorabilia on show, and the colour changing light displays, but unfortunately only part of the dining area was open due to it being a quiet night, and that part of the dining area was in the direct path of some double doors that were open, and it was absolutely freezing (even though we hadn't been cold outside while taking photos.)
For drinks, we both started off with berry blend mocktails. For entrees, Nest chose chicken enchiladas, and I chose beef enchiladas. We were both so shocked when the waiter delivered us a hulking mound of nachos each, that I didn't pull him up on it like I should've. Nest was very annoyed at how our order had been stuffed up, when we had been the only customers in the restaurant at the time. I was relieved when our waitress came back and admitted a mistake had been made, and offered to rectify the problem. I cancelled my entree altogether, and sent my nachos back, as I no longer had an appetite. Even though Nest wasn't happy with being given nachos, he didn't send his back, as he has worked in the hospitality industry himself, and knows the consequences of getting an order wrong, and he didn't want anyone behinds the scenes getting into trouble.
While Nest went to the bathroom, a couple were seated at the table directly behind where Nest had been sitting. I was annoyed at this, as the tables were so close together, that it wasn't physically possible for people to sit back to back. Wasn't this obvious to the people running the restaurant? Nest was annoyed all over again when he returned and saw this for himself. We rectified the problem ourselves, by having Nest move to the seat next to me.
Our main course soon arrived, and I was relieved to see that the dishes were the ones we had actually ordered Nest had a chicken burger with fries, accompanied by a lemonade (and was given a pink lemonade, which he wasn't all that crazy about. Lemonade to us Aussies, means Sprite. At least we'll know for next time.) I had a sirloin steak with mushrooms and cheese served on top of garlic bread, accompanied by a Coke.
My main dish was fine, but Nest discovered that a lot of his potato fries were green. We both got annoyed once again, as any cook/chef should know that green potatoes aren't fit for human consumption. I bet they wouldn't have served the same dish in this same condition, if some rock god decided to dine here, for example.
On hindsight, I wished we had returned to our hotel after Nest had finished taking photographs, and ordered room service as originally planned, just to keep our perfect day going perfectly. There were so many yummy dishes available from room service, and they were always immaculately presented and of the highest quality ingredients.
Nest and I are the type of people not to complain except in extreme conditions (such as our bad accommodation in Sydney, or someone tryig to con my credit card details from me - problems you can't just walk away from.) There were four separate occasions where we could've complained during our dining experience, but didn't. With bad dining experiences (this being the first one in years ... I suppose we're lucky it hasn't happened more frequently), we tend to just cut our losses and never go back again.
Despite our bad dining experience, Nest bought a warm hoodie with Hard Rock emblazoned across the chest, from their store afterwards, and I bought a really nice red t-shirt with a Hard Rock design on the front, decorated with red and black faux gems, though I now think we should've waited till we got to the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, where we had a much better time, as they sold similar merchandise there. We were given free lanyards with our purchases, which certainly made up for our meal
We then walked back to the hotel to work on our journals for as long as we could keep awake. I concentrated on writing about the Harry Potter Museum first, before I forgot the finer details. We called it a night at midnight.
Next entry: Last day in LA - VIP helicopter tour
Little Brother & Big Sister
Last edited by Big Sister; 06-19-2011 at 10:19 PM..
Reason: Re-sizing photos
As a car was coming to pick us up at 9am for our 10am VIP Helicopter Tour of LA, I had set the alarm clock for 7am. It was so hard getting up after not enough sleep yet again, and Nest didn't get up at all Luckily, our prayers were answered in the form of a phone call from Celebrity Helicopters, saying that our flight had been delayed until 1pm, due to the low-lying smog in the area. That suited us just fine, as that meant another four hours sleep at least
Who would've thought that it's possible to feel even tireder after roughly eleven hours sleep, as opposed to our original block of seven? Somehow we managed to get ourselves out the front of our hotel by 12 noon, where a very young driver called Ray, picked us up in a little bright blue bubble car. He drove us to Compton Airport, which took about 45 minutes. Along the way, he told us how his Dad's Aussie. Ray had recently gone to Melbourne to visit his rellies, and got booked for going three kilometres over the speed limit in his Grandad's car! This really took Ray by surprise, as he said in America, there's a ten mile (sixteen kilometre) over the speed limit allowance, except in school zones. This surprised and confused Nest and myself, as we thought anything over the posted speed limit would be a ticketable offence, otherwise what's the point of having speed limits to begin with? Luckily, Ray's Grandad was able to prove he wasn't driving the car at the time, and got the conviction thrown.
We arrived at Compton Airport fifteen minutes early (no, we weren't going three kilometres over the speed limit ), so Nest and I sat on some over-sized white sofas in the reception building, and watched a Hollywood gossip show called TMZ. Nest and I both loved the Chuck Norris "facts" segment, which said things such as, "Chuck Norris is the only person Kanye West wont interrupt" (), "Every night before going to sleep, the bogeyman checks under his bed for Chuck Norris", and, "When ghosts go camping, they sit around the fire and tell stories about Chuck Norris."
We could tell that the guy sitting behind the counter at one stage, found the story on Rihanna amusing, as his laugh was so big, it seemed to fill the entire room (she had her photo taken with some children at an airport, while wearing an inappropriate necklace.)
By that stage, our chopper was fuelled and our pilot was ready, which meant it was time to be on our way. Debra, the receptionist, came and took our photo out by the helicopter, which was red and way smaller than we had envisaged. Debra was unable to take a back-up safety shot, as the polaroid ran out of film, so Mike, our pilot, offered to take one with Nest's camera.
A colleague of Mike's was coming along for the flight too, and as we were doing the VIP version, he brought with him a basket of goodies for Nest and I to share. The basket contained grapes, two small wheels of Babybel cheese, two packets of Sun Chips ("Grain Waves" in Australia), two packets of choccie dipped shortbread, and a bottle of champagne, which for legal reasons, only I was permitted to partake in, as Nest was only 20. He wasn't missing anything in my opinion though, as I thought it tasted like vomit . For some reason, I thought it was hilarious how the base of the plastic champagne flute fell off, leaving just the stem and body - it just looked really funny, and wasn't functional in the slightest if you needed to put it down (which I did need to do eventually.)
As Mike was preparing the helicopter for action, on hearing Nest and I were from Australia, he told us that he had spent six months travelling round there, including Canberra, our hometown. Nest and I were impressed with the Canberra bit , as most people from outside Australia we've come across, have never heard of it, mistakenly thinking that Sydney's the capital.
Before boarding the helicopter, I asked which was the best side to sit on to see the Hollywood sign. It turned out to be the left side, so that's where Nest sat, as taking a decent photo of it was one of this trip's photographic goals for him.
Buckled in and headsets on, we took off into the skies for a bird's eye view of LA, resisting the urge to make helicopter noises like we usually do when spotting one I also made a conscious effort to push my microphone up over my head while eating, as I didn't know if the others would've been able to hear me chewing or not if I hadn't have. Mike pointed out famous sights non-stop for the next fifty-five minutes - it was incredible! It was also impossible for me to commit them all to memory, more's the pity. Perhaps I should've been videoing the flight instead of taking photos, seeing as Nest was taking photos also.
Sights we remember seeing during our flight, were:
∑ An oil refinery
∑ A silo with a big yellow smiley face painted on top of it
∑ Oil tankers far offshore
∑ One of the world's largest shipping yards for new cars. This one had a capacity of tens of thousands (we didn't have time to count all the spaces for an exact figure ) I believe the world's largest car shipping yard is somewhere in Asia
∑ Many beaches, including one with the most expensive line of real estate in the area. Passing above one of the beaches, we flew over a large flock of seagulls on the sand below. It was interesting seeing them take off and disperse from above
∑ The tennis court where Serena and Venus Williams practice
∑ The Santa Monica Pier. It had turned 100 that year, and this would be the closest we'd get to it this visit. The octopus-shaped attraction looked fun, and the rollercoaster running around almost half the park, looked fantastic
∑ A huge cemetery, with a group of trees planted in the formation of a crucifix
∑ The extremely exclusive golf club Tiger Woods is a member of. I say extremely exclusive, as an annual membership costs a quarter of a million dollars, and you have to be recommended by an existing member before you can be considered for membership yourself
∑ A suburb where the residents successfully voted for no streetlights, to make it feel more like a country town
The area in question is up on the hill, from memory
∑ The marina where Tom Cruise keeps his boat
∑ The garage where Britney Spears keeps her car
∑ The hotel the Hilton sisters often party at
∑ The Griffith Park Observatory. 2010 marked its 75th birthday. It has also undergone renovations to get rid of heavy graffiti and to deter the gangs that used to hand around there
∑ The Walt Disney Concert Hall
∑ Normal crowded suburbia stretching for miles
∑ The Bat Cave. I was on the side of the chopper to take the photo for this exciting sight, and I disappointingly didn't do a good job of it, due to the light. At least I'm able to point out the cave opening through the glare in the photo
∑ A horse ranch where you can hire a horse and ride up near the Hollywood sign (I didn't think you were allowed up that close to it)
∑ The Hollywood sign itself
∑ The highway that Speed was filmed on, while the highway was under construction
∑ The Hollywood Walk of Fame
∑ The Queen Mary 2 cruise ship (which had me wondering if that's where the LA-based Disney cruises depart from)
∑ The Aquarium of the Pacific
∑ The Hotel Roosevelt, which is said to be haunted
∑ The area where a scene from Boyz 'n the Hood was filmed. Mike didn't recommend the area, saying that it's pretty dangerous. It was hauntingly deserted at the time we flew over it
∑ And of course, many celebrity-owned mansions, including: ∑ The Playboy Mansion ∑ Arnold's mansion ∑ Posh & Beck's mansion (under construction) ∑ Britney Spear's beach condo ∑ Julia Robert's mansion ∑ Madonna's mansion ∑ The Spelling mansion
∑ Johnny Depp's green apartment building
Before we knew it, we had arrived back at Compton Airport. Our flight seriously only felt like five minutes, we had enjoyed the experience that much. Having said that, I was relieved we were landing though, as I had begun to feel sick. Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (how appropriate! ), was playing in the background at the time, as if it knew I was worried about being sick.
We thanked Mike and his colleague for the flight (later realising that his colleague must've come along so as to balance the chopper out ), and returned to reception, where we were given our souvenir photo (it was fuzzy and Nest had his eyes closed - thank goodness Mike's back-up shot turned out!) and a t-shirt each (white with a huge red design on the back, and the company's logo on the front in the top right corner.)
Ray was waiting to take us back to our hotel. We got to talking about the Halloween season, and the events held at Universal, Knott's, and Santa Monica. He told us that the Halloween mazes are set up in the soundstages out in the backlot, which I hadn't known before, and got really excited about, as those soundstages can be huge - imagine all the scares awaiting one in there! ... Hang on - I can barely cope with the year-round present House of Horrors - why am I getting excited about an even bigger scare zone?! Ray's favourite Halloween celebration is the big party at Santa Monica, where the whole main street is closed off to traffic.
Strangely enough, the day's smog was still a bit on the heavy side around our hotel. Ray said if it had've been clear, he would've been able to point out the house used in Charlie's Angels and The Flintstones, situated on the hill opposite.
Back in the hotel, we undertook preparations for tomorrow morning's departure to Orlando. We began by quickly dropping into the Business Centre to ensure our flight departure time hadn't wildly changed itself by ten hours like it had in Sydney (thankfully, it had only changed by ten minutes.) With that information, we then went to the concierge desk to enquire about a shuttle to the airport. "Will it be for just you and your son?", the lady on duty enquired, to which I responded, "No, just me and my brother." She then continued to dig herself deeper into a hole, saying, "It's just that he looks so young ... not that you look old." I could tell Nest was looking very gleeful about the latter, as he's always stirring me about that himself She ended by laughing about how she wouldn't take her brother anywhere
As we'd be leaving for the airport at 6.30am (if we thought that getting up at the times we did over the last couple of days was hard, then I'm sure we were really going to have something to complain about the following morning! ), we checked at reception about express checkout procedures, as we wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible.
With the boring and unavoidable tasks of the day over with (with the exception of packing), we then went and dumped our stuff in our room, picked up Nest's video recorder, and headed straight to the park, where we devoted its remaining opening time of two-and-a-half hours to rides
Nest shouted me to a nice fresh churro from the Dodger Dogs food cart, on the way down to the Lower Lot. As Nest paid with exact change, the guy serving said that we must've just come from the subway. The real reason is that we've just been too lazy (and self-conscious about holding the line up) to stand there and count it out before.
Naturally, our first ride of choice was Jurassic Park. After a while of the long line not moving, a message eventually filtered its way up to us, that the ride had temporarily broken down, and to try back again later. With only a little over two hours till closing time, I began to worry about whether we'd have the chance to ride it again before leaving, as goodness knows how many years it will be until we're able to make it back again
To momentarily forget our sorrows, we went and rode The Mummy twice. The first time sounded as if the attraction was inhabited by ghosts, as the peoples' screams were being distorted as they filtered their way through the tunnels. The second (and sadly last for the next couple of years) time was just as memorable, as there was so much smoke effects at the end, that you literally didn't know what was what. It must've been to make up for the lack of smoke effects the previous time.
Jurassic Park was still closed for business when we went back to try our luck, so we ventured next door for a meal, seeing as we had been existing on VIP helicopter snacks and a churro up until that point. Nest dined on chicken tenders and fries, while I dined on a cheeseburger and fries. Our beverage of choice was bottled water, and we shared a giant choc chip cookie for dessert. I simply loved the dinosaur murals on the wall, and did my best to take photos of them without being obvious about it, seeing as there were people eating in front of them.
There was rejoicing all around when we found Jurassic Park was operational after our meal! We rode in the front seat both times, which was awesome. There was thicker than usual fog effects in the lagoon, which gave the ride that little more excitement, especially with the evening light. Thankfully the large dinosaur that erupts from its underwater hiding place, spraying water everywhere in the process, was 'asleep', which saved me from a heart attack, as I definitely wouldn't have been able to see it coming in this thick fog! Surprisingly, I discovered a small dinosaur I hadn't noticed before in all our times of riding. Perhaps it had just been quietly unveiled, as there were little screens up here and there previously.
Nest got absolutely drenched with water during our first go of Jurassic Park for the evening, and I got absolutely drenched during our second go. When I looked at Nest after he got drenched that first time, he had a really stunned look on his face, which made me laugh. I thought he was just trying not to make a noise due to filming, but I think he got a genuine shock, even though he knew what had been coming.
We returned our drenched selves to the Upper Lot, where we went on the Simpson's Ride one last time. We had a whole vehicle to ourselves, which was totally awesome. Maybe we should try drenching ourselves on Jurassic Park beforehand, more often
We could've caught the last screening of Shrek 4D afterwards, but Nest wanted to go to the House of Horrors in preference, which filled me with dread at what awaited us there. 'Unfortunately', its gates closed just as the attraction came into view, which was such a shame Too late to double-back to Shrek, we had no choice but to head back to the hotel. On the way up to our room, we stopped off at the hotel's shop, where we bought tissues, cashew nuts, and Coke.
We decided to live dangerously, and leave the onerous task of packing till the following morning, so we could make the most of our last night in our luxuriously relaxing surroundings. We just layed back on our beds, watching TV for the first time since our arrival night a couple of days ago (the other nights we just looked out the window at the great view, and spotted limos. Seeing as this was a week night, we knew that there wouldn't be many to spot. See, we were getting very experienced in such matters )
We watched about a second of The Biggest Loser (Nest can't stand Bob Harper, only because I used to go on and on about him in the past), a variety of cartoons, Comics Unleashed, and some comedy talk shows hosted by Jon Stewart and Robert Cobert.
The Cobert Report was funny, as he was reporting on one of the top stories at the time, how they're making alcoholic energy drinks, to which he replied, "You'll have the energy to fall off your bar stool all night." The funniest segment though, was when he showed some genuine footage from a security area of an airport, where you hear a TSA Officer request to search a guy called John Tyner, and John responds, "You can search me, but don't touch my junk!" We also got to see the Mastercard ad starring Mr T, in full, which we thoroughly loved also (we had only seen a snippet of it on our arrival night.)
As we hadn't had a healthy meal all day, and to make up for the previous night's disastrous dinner experience, we decided to let ourselves loose on the room service menu, ordering up a huge Mandarin cuisine storm!
Nest started off with vegetarian spring rolls accompanied by little pots of sweet plum sauce and hot mustard. He followed this up with a stir-fried chicken and mango dish, also containing green bell peppers, red bell peppers, onion, and a side of boiled rice. I had what turned out to be a massive serve of stir-fried beef with broccoli, mushrooms, baby corn, red bell peppers, oyster sauce, garlic, and a side of boiled rice. It was absolutely mouth-wateringly delicious! I was even impressed with the broccoli, as it still had a nice crunch to it (I can't stand over-cooked broccoli, and how it just mooshes up in your mouth - eew!)
We didn't realise at the time, that since we had both ordered Mandarin dishes, that they were automatically accompanied by Chinese tea and soup of the day. From the one spoonful of soup I had, it tasted like a mix of chicken, ham and corn, which was nice, but the clear thick gluey consistency was unusual and off-putting for me. Nest didn't have his, as it contained pork. I drank all the Chinese tea, as Nest had a sip but didn't like it. It was a novelty for me, fiddling around with the little teapot, strainer, cup and saucer, as I'm not a tea drinker usually, except on work training days where I'm desperately trying to keep awake
I was massively full and contented after such a big feast at the end of our eventful day, but Nest was able to keep the party going that little bit longer, in the form of a generous slice of New York cheesecake
As I went to sleep shortly afterwards, I looked back on the super fantastic time Nest and I had had in LA, and how massively excited I was to be finally returning to WDW after five years, and wondering what Nest's first impressions of the place were going to be.