The Warner Brothers Studios offer excellent tours of their facilities in Burbank. This tour gives you an up-close and personal look at the large studio lot that has been producing films and television for 80+ years. Many popular current shows produced at WB include Ellen, Bob Hearts Abishola, Young Sheldon, Mom, and Conan.
Many past shows including The Big Bang Theory, Full House and Fuller House, Friends, ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, Gilmore Girls, and The Waltons were all filmed here as well.
Based on the size and history of the studio, this is perhaps the most popular of the studio tours. It is also the most expensive, although I consider it well worth the money. The tour begins in the Welcome Center where you check in, and then watch a short video on the history of the WB studios.
Once the video ends, you’ll meet your tour guide and board a cart to start the tour. The tour itinerary varies depending on availability on the lot that day. WB Guides seem to also have a lot of freedom to tailor the tour to the guests. The guide will ask what TV shows and movies people are interested in. If there is a specific show or set you are interested in seeing, speak up. If you love the Big Bang Theory, let them know, and they may bring you to that soundstage as opposed to another one. You may get more of a chance to walk around and see Stars Hollow if you mention you are a Gilmore Girls fan. If you don’t share, the guide won’t know what you want to see.
Warner Brothers Studios has a large collection of backlots. These are are outdoor areas built to resemble many different locations. Using different angles and set decoration, the same street can appear to be a storefront in Baltimore, a residential street in Brooklyn, or even a PT Barnum Circus back alley in the 1850s.
New York Backlots
A number of streets are designed to resemble New York City. This includes residential areas, such as brownstones and apartments, and some commercial spaces as well. Friends filmed a number of scenes in this area. Different angles make it look like a different location every time.
French Street is a line of building inspired by Parisien architecture. This area features a cafe storefront that was used in the movie Casablanca, the last set still existing from that film.
The Midwest Street resembles a town square, with buildings surrounding a small park with a gazebo. On the north side of the street has a series of shopfronts. To the east is a church, used in the Waltons. On the west is a generic municipal building that could be a city hall, courthouse, college, or many other possibilities. This area was used to film some scenes for the final episode of Seinfeld, even though it was primarily filmed at CBS Studio Center.
To the south of the park is a residential street with a number of houses including the house used on Growing Pains. Unlike many house facades, these few houses have interiors that can be used for filming as well. This entire area of midwest street and the residential houses was the home of Stars Hallow on the show Gilmore Girls.
There are also a variety of other buildings, like a courthouse, a small park, a cinema, and the café from La La Land.
The Jungle is a wooded area with a pond that can be filled with water. This area was used in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, as well as True Bloods for the exterior of Merlotte’s Bar. This is also where the Walton’s house was located during the run of that series. Sadly, every time I’ve visited the studios, the Jungle has been closed off for filming, so I’ve never seen it.
Warner Brothers Studios has a large number of soundstages on the lot. These soundstages are essentially large warehouses that house sets for various productions. Normally, any TV show being produced has it’s own soundstage for the duration of filming. Occasionally, a show will be very successful and run for so long, that WB will name the stage after that show. Stage 1 is known as the Ellen Stage, Stage 24 is known as the Friends Stage, and just recently Stage 25 has been named the Big Bang Theory Stage.
Warner Brothers also has a plaque listing some of the major productions that have been filmed on all its stages.
During the tour, a visit inside a soundstage is generally included. The visit can vary depending on the shooting schedules of the different shows, as well as the tour groups interests. When you go in the studio, the tour guide will show you around and explain how filming works. Photos are not permitted inside the soundstages.
One exception to this rule is Stage 1. Ellen Degeneres is kind enough to allow tour groups to take photos of the studio. If you are on one of the tours that visits her set, you’ll be one of the lucky few to have photos from the studio. You aren’t permitted to go on the stage or sit in the chairs. Otherwise, you can take photos of everything else.
The Archives is one of the self-guided museum stops you will make during your tour. Generally groups are given approx. 20 minutes to visit this area. On the ground floor currently is a collection of costumes from various DC Superhero productions, including Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, and The Flash.
On the second floor is a collection of costumes and props from the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter was filmed at the WB Studios in England, however these are genuine props and costumes from the movies.
Another stop on the tour is a display of vehicles from various Batman productions. These include a number of Batmobiles as well as some others, including the BatPod and BatHammer. You have about 10-15 minutes to explore.
All tours at Warner Brothers Studios conclude at Stage 48: Script to Screen. The guide will leave you at this point. This area is self-guided and you can explore at your own pace. This is more recent addition to the tour experience, where you get to see the evolution of a production. As you enter, there are a number of displays about preparing a production, including script-writing. Then you enter an area with a number of costumes on display.
Next up is the attraction I consider one of the biggest highlights of the tour, the Central Perk set from Friends. You can see the set, take photos on the famous sofa, and even participate in reenacting a scene from Friends. They do sell the professional photos, but also allow personal photos with no charge.
Next you will see some more costumes from classic productions. Following that is a spot where you can take part in a special effect from Harry Potter. The technique of forced perspective is a way of making sizes appear different without using CGI. You and a friend can sit at a carefully designed table, and it will appear that one of you is much smaller than the other.
Next up is the awards room. In the centre of this room is a glassed-in display with a collection of awards that Warner Brothers has received over its history. You can take a photo holding an Oscar Award statue. To protect the statue, they make you remove your jewelry in order to hold it.
In this room are numerous props from various productions. Examples are JR’s boots from Dallas, Phoebe’s guitar from Friends, a napkin used in a pivotal scene from The West Wing.
The Gift Shop
As you exit, there is a Central Perk themed cafe where you can grab a drink and a snack.
Before leaving, you have access to the gift shop. This shop is quite large and has a lot of souvenirs from Warner Brothers Studios as well as many of it’s properties, including Harry Potter, Big Bang Theory, Friends, and DC.
Once you finish in the gift shop, you head outside and a cart will come by to bring you back to the visitor centre where the tour started.
Overall, while WB is the most expensive of the Hollywood lot tours, it’s also the most bang for your buck. With everything you get to see, plus a visit to Stage 48, it’s really worth a visit! I’ve done the tour several times, and every time is different. Even tours leaving at the same time don’t follow the same route, so every experience is unique.
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