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Universal Studios Hollywood - Studio Tour

Earthquake: The Big One

(Spring 1989 - present)

Official publicity photo, 2006

As the Studio Tour tram enters Stage 50 ("the only split level soundstage in the world"), all seems quiet as the crew are on a lunch break. Then the ground starts shaking...

The attraction simulates a large earthquake, rated at 8.3 on the Richter scale. As the tram leaves, the entire attraction resets itself in just 15 seconds ready for the next tram.

The attraction has been closed twice due to real earthquakes: October 17 1989 following the Loma Prieta tremblor in Northern California (7 months after the attraction opened) and on 28th June 1992, resulting in a closure for 24 hours for safety checks.

Photo Gallery

Earthquake: The Big One Photo Gallery

1 - Entering Stage 50, 2009 (c) theStudioTour.com
1 - Entering Stage 50, 2009 (c) theStudioTour.com
 2 - Entering Stage 50, 2010 (c) theStudioTour.com
2 - Entering Stage 50, 2010 (c) theStudioTour.com
 3 - The road in the attraction showing the two tracks that the tram drives on and the large drain on the right, 2010 (c) theStudioTour.com
3 - The road in the attraction showing the two tracks that the tram drives on and the large drain on the right, 2010 (c) theStudioTour.com
 4 - View from the right side of the tram, April 2009
4 - View from the right side of the tram, April 2009
 5 - Nicely themed Minute Maid advert, 2009
5 - Nicely themed Minute Maid advert, 2009
 6 - View from the left side of the tram, April 2010
6 - View from the left side of the tram, April 2010
 7 - View from the right side of the tram, April 2009
7 - View from the right side of the tram, April 2009
 8 - View from the right side of the tram, September 2011
8 - View from the right side of the tram, September 2011
 9 - Far left corner of the subway station, September 2008
9 - Far left corner of the subway station, September 2008
 10 - Centre left area, April 2008
10 - Centre left area, April 2008
 11 - Looking back to the front left corner of the subway station, April 2008
11 - Looking back to the front left corner of the subway station, April 2008
 12 - Detail of the Directors chairs, September 2011
12 - Detail of the Directors chairs, September 2011
 13 - Looking back to the front right corner, April 2009
13 - Looking back to the front right corner, April 2009
 14 - Control room area (seen in Beverly Hills Cop III), September 2011
14 - Control room area (seen in Beverly Hills Cop III), September 2011
 15 - View from the left of car 4 on the tram, September 2008
15 - View from the left of car 4 on the tram, September 2008
 16 - View from the tram, September 2008
16 - View from the tram, September 2008
 17 - Steam pipes have ruptured, April 2008
17 - Steam pipes have ruptured, April 2008
 18 - The ceiling has collapsed and the truck is sliding towards the tram!, April 2008
18 - The ceiling has collapsed and the truck is sliding towards the tram!, April 2008
 19 - The ceiling has collapsed and the truck is sliding towards the tram!, April 2008
19 - The ceiling has collapsed and the truck is sliding towards the tram!, April 2008
 20 - The truck smashes into the pillar and explodes, April 2008
20 - The truck smashes into the pillar and explodes, April 2008
 21 - The truck smashes into the pillar and explodes, April 2008
21 - The truck smashes into the pillar and explodes, April 2008
 22 - Fire spreads from the truck, September 2009
22 - Fire spreads from the truck, September 2009
 23 - Rear view of the truck, September 2009
23 - Rear view of the truck, September 2009
 24 - View of the upper level set, April 2008
24 - View of the upper level set, April 2008
 25 - The telegraph pole swinging towards the tram, April 2008
25 - The telegraph pole swinging towards the tram, April 2008
 26 - The telegraph pole swinging towards the tram, April 2008
26 - The telegraph pole swinging towards the tram, April 2008
 27 - Rear view of the truck, April 2006
27 - Rear view of the truck, April 2006
 28 - Subway train on the way, September 2011
28 - Subway train on the way, September 2011
 29 - Subway train on the way, April 2008
29 - Subway train on the way, April 2008
 30 - Subway train on the way, September 2011
30 - Subway train on the way, September 2011
 31 - Subway train on the way, April 2008
31 - Subway train on the way, April 2008
 32 - Sparks flying from the bottom of the train, September 2011
32 - Sparks flying from the bottom of the train, September 2011
 33 - Sparks flying from the bottom of the train, September 2011
33 - Sparks flying from the bottom of the train, September 2011
 34 - The subway train breaks in two and smashes into a pillar, September 2011
34 - The subway train breaks in two and smashes into a pillar, September 2011
 35 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2009
35 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2009
 36 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2009
36 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2009
 37 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2011
37 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2011
 38 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2011
38 - Water pouring into the subway station, September 2011
 39 - Water pouring into the subway station, April 2010
39 - Water pouring into the subway station, April 2010
 

Video

(NB: The video narration refers to Stage 52 - this is incorrect. The attraction is in a building named Stage 50. The attraction never featured live performers, except for the purposes of this video.There are some additional pyrotechnic effects which aren't part of the attraction now).

Seen on Screen

The Earthquake attraction has featured in a small number of films & TV shows.

History of the site

Earthquake: The Big One was built in 1988, and replaced the Tower of London set which stood on the spot. Stage 50 was constructed for the attraction - it's not one of Universal's soundstages.

Plan view showing the Tower of London set position and Denver StreetPlan view showing Earthquake buidling and Denver Street

These sketch plans show the relationship between the Tower of London set and the Earthquake show building.The set was demolished around 1988 for construction of the Earthquake attraction.

Tower of London set and Denver Street (from Inside Universal Studios, 1978)
The Tower of London set on the right with Denver Street on the left.

Earthquake: The Big One Publicity Material

101 - Publicity Brochure (c) Universal Studios Hollywood
101 - Publicity Brochure (c) Universal Studios Hollywood
 102 - Postcard (c) Universal Studios Hollywood
102 - Postcard (c) Universal Studios Hollywood
 

Attraction CreditsPublicity photo

Earthquake Bart Universal Studios Tour 1987

Producer: Larry Lester
Technical Coordinator: Nick Drobnis
Project Coordinator: David Codiga, Cindy Pasek
Model Builders: Paul Wolfe, Peter Barnes, Steve Lodwick
Director of Construction: Ernie Capron
Construction Manager: John Knutsen
Project Accountant: Sue Heidenfelder
Architect: Altoon & Porter
Mechanical Engineer: David Chen & Associates
Structural Engineer: Kent Bingham, Hillman Biddison & Associates
Electrical Engineer: Nikolakopolos & Associates
Gas, Flame & Steam: AISCO
Controls: Anitech System
Hydraulic Model: Arctec Offshore
Soils Testing: Leroy Crandall & Associates
Sound Testing: Davy & Associates
Show Water Systems: Dunn Lee Smith & Klein
Civil Engineers: IWA
Underground Tanks (Methane Gas): Lockman & Associates
Animation Effects: Sequoia Creative, Inc.
Sound Systems: Teletechnologies, Inc.
Lighting Design: Theoria Productions
Collapsing Ceiling Effect: Wieland Machine & Effects
Special Effects: Studio
Motion Control: Royal Hydraulics

The Burning House seen in 1979 (From 'Universal Studios Shows and Special Effects' Viewmaster K74, 1979)
The Burning House taking up it's new position in June 1982 (photo by Judy and Frank)

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