Earthquake: The Big One

Dates: Spring 1989 – present

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.

It was closed in late 2023 for a few months refurbishment, possibly to have a new train and updated look. More information coming in February / March 2024. 


(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.

  • The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990) Short sequence showing the flooding side of the attraction during the aftershock earthquake
  • Beverly Hills Cop III (1993) Alien Attack ride in the Wonder World theme park.
  • Seaquest DSV (1993)
  • Bones (2009) [Earthquake scene – Season 5, Episode 15]

Behind the Scenes

(from The Home & Family Show)

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.

Attraction Credits

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