If you were to ask me what I think one of Universal Studios Hollywood’s greatest strengths is, I would say the character interactions and meet & greets. Every time I enter that park there seems to be a large amount of characters in a fairly small area with lines of guests waiting to interact with them.
Many characters, from a Kung Fu Panda to a Troll, Minion, or even Marilyn Monroe, can often be seen welcoming guests. But sadly, as we’ve seen at Shanghai Disneyland, one of the last things to come back to theme parks once they reopen will likely be close interactions with our favorite characters. But what if we could experience fun interactions with characters in a socially distant way? I propose to you a character-filled Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour.
The “World-Famous Studio Tour” is a flagship attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, and it could be the solution to making sure we get to see our favorite characters once the park reopens. In the following paragraphs, I’ll share with you some ideas of how these characters could be integrated into the already-existing tour while remaining at a safe distance. I’m going to use characters we’ve seen in the Universal parks before and areas that are often visited by the tram tour.
One of the most famous areas of the Universal Studios backlot is Courthouse Square, where they shot iconic scenes from “Back to the Future.” Doc Brown can still sometimes be seen hanging around the park in recent years, but it would be so great to see him along with his DeLorean in Courthouse Square. Heck, if you wanted to make some sort of stunt demonstration out of it, I’d love to see him dangling from the top of the clock tower. That would be heavy.
Another well-known area of the backlot is Little Europe. Although in more recent years it’s better known as “The Good Place,” years ago it was used for numerous Universal Monster films. It would be so much fun to see this area overtaken by Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy, etc. As you turn the corner into the Court of Miracles, I’d love to see Beetlejuice hanging out there for a “Rockin’ Graveyard Revue” reunion.
Over on Colonial Street/Wisteria Lane, it could be fitting to see Lucy Ricardo from “I Love Lucy” hanging out. Although her TV home isn’t located there, the street does feature homes from many shows of a similar time period like “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Munsters.” At the other end of the street, they could take one of the already existing homes and give it a paint job with some minor changes so that it could become the home of “The Simpsons” with the whole gang hanging out on the front lawn.
For years now, we’ve seen Norman Bates performing suspicious acts at the Bates Motel, but I think there’s even more opportunity there. Let’s still see Norman Bates at the motel, but once he’s out of view, I would love to see Norman in his Mother’s wardrobe surprising us up at the Psycho House.
The Scooby-Doo gang and Mystery Machine would be fitting somewhere near King Kong 360 3-D. The Transformers could work near Fast & Furious – Supercharged. “The Walking Dead” could take over the “War of the Worlds” crash site, very much like they do during Halloween Horror Nights. I would love to see the dinosaurs and their trainer from the meet & greets near the entrance to “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” vehicles and props.
If we were to get really wild here, I’d say let’s bring back the Flintstones characters from the Universal stage musical many years ago and have them in their foot-powered cars at the picture car area. For a bunch of the kid-friendly characters, I think it would be fun to drive by an animated dance party. There could be Minions, Trolls, Po, Shrek, Woody Woodpecker, Curious George and others rockin’ out to “La Bamba” on the Mexico backlot.
Universal also does a good job with characters that aren’t necessarily based on intellectual property. I always get a good laugh watching the improvisation actors up in the windows of the New York street area near the entrance of the theme park. I say, let’s throw them in the New York backlot along with one of the park’s police officer characters. And in the Six Points Texas western area, some action with cowboys on horses could be a nice addition.
I know some of these ideas may seem pretty far-fetched and perhaps even impossible in some cases. But my point is that a staple attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood could get a nice temporary upgrade (which is great for marketing) and solve the problem of what to do with beloved characters during this time of social distancing.
What do you think? Would having a plethora of characters added to the tour make you more interested in visiting Universal Studios Hollywood? Would it appease your appetite for character interactions? What are some characters or scenes you would add to the “World-Famous Studio Tour?”
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.