Universal shakes things up with the return of ‘Earthquake-The Big One’ to the Studio Tour

We were invited to take a sneak peek at the newly refurbished and updated “Earthquake–The Big One” special effects attraction on the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal Studios Hollywood - Earthquake
Photos by Joseph Spencer

“Earthquake” has been taking guests on a wild ride through a magnitude 8.3 quake since its opening in 1989. In honor of the 60th anniversary of the world-renowned Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, the special effects showcase has been completely renovated, including updated and remastered technology, enhanced lighting, and a new audio score that will make the experience even more memorable. 

Originally, the set was meant to mimic a San Francisco subway station, but new set decorations and aesthetics bring the attraction out of the late ’80s and into the modern era, including electric bicycle charging stations and updated scenic design elements. The attraction also focuses on its role as a “Hot Set,” featuring design elements such as director’s chairs, hair and makeup departments, and even a craft services table.

This update came as a part of a push to make the attraction seem a little more timeless and not tied to any particular part of the country; however, the attraction itself will remain very similar to the version that opened in 1989.

As guests arrive at Stage 50 to tour the hot set, they’ll find themselves in the middle of a “Universal Mass Transit” station being used to film a scene in an upcoming feature film. As the Studio Tour guide explains how sets like this are used, things suddenly start to go very wrong, very fast. The ground beneath the tram begins to shake, the pavement collapses, and sparking electrical cables thrash wildly as an 18-wheeler crashes down from the streets above. Suddenly, as 60,000 gallons of recycled water flood the station, the tour exits the experience, watching as the set repairs itself around them.

Universal Studios Hollywood - Earthquake

Easter Egg Hunt

The attraction’s new look provided an opportunity for the Universal creative team to hide quite a few Easter eggs throughout the set. Here are a few we spotted:

We were told Universal created all these brochures for fictional tours and destinations. Could Terror Tours be a reference to the park’s Terror Tram for Halloween Horror Nights?

Universal Studios Hollywood - Earthquake
Universal Studios Hollywood - Earthquake

And is “Back in 10 minutes” a reference to the Jaws ride?

Universal Studios Hollywood - Earthquake

If you look at the Art Director’s work table, you can see concept artwork for the subway station set you just entered (the “Jon” on the post-it note is likely Universal Creative VP Jon Corfino).

Universal Studios Hollywood - Earthquake

Universal Studio Tour 60th Anniversary

This refresh of “Earthquake–The Big One” is part of Universal Studios Hollywood’s celebration of the world-famous Studio Tour’s 60th anniversary, which will take place from April 26 through Aug. 11, 2024.

Check out our story for all the details:

Click here to plan your visit to Universal Studios Hollywood.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *