by Joe Tracy, editor of Theme Park Magazine
Universal Studios Hollywood has put four electric trams into full-time rotation for its Studio Tour, making the experience more smooth for guests. The four electric trams, which went into full commission this week, are part of a 21-tram fleet that uses diesel-hydraulic engines. Conversion of the diesel-hydraulic engine trams to electric trams began in 2017 thanks to a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour takes guests through the Universal Studios backlot for a look at filming locations and several themed experiences like Earthquake: The Big One and King Kong: 360 3-D.
Studio Tour Electric Trams Launch and Announcement
Universal Studios Hollywood first tested the electric trams with guests during parts of 2021 and early 2022 to prepare for the full-time launch which happened this week.
“I am extremely proud of this innovative undertaking and our commitment to creating a zero-emissions Studio Tour fleet,” says Scott Strobl, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Universal Studios Hollywood. “This is just one of many steps we are taking to transform our business in line with Comcast NBCUniversal’s carbon-neutral goal.”
Famed meteorologist Al Roker made the launch announcement of the new Studio Tour electric trams in a 45-second video on April 14, 2022:
Conversion of Universal Studios Hollywood trams will continue until the entire fleet is electric. It is part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions and make the guest experience more enjoyable.
History of the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour
Using “GlamorTrams” to take guests around the park, The Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood first launched on July 15, 1964. It was a large step-up from the walking tours that started in 1915 for just a nickel per person.
For over two decades after its launch in 1964, the Studio Tour guides would narrate the entire tour for guests. In 1989, Universal Studios Hollywood started using CD players to provide the narration in trams. That evolved to DVD players and LCD screens a decade later.
In the late 1960s, the idea of adding more immersive experiences to the tram tour began taking shape. The first was Flash Flood where 20,000 gallons of water would rush toward the tram. Next up, in 1973, was The Parting of the Red Sea where the tram would approach a sea of water that would part for the tram to drive through.
In 1976, they introduced the public to Amity Island, where guests experienced a close encounter with Jaws. In 1979, the immersive “Battle of Galactica,” from Battlestar Galactica, opened with tram guests being caught in the middle of a laser battle between actors and animatronics. It closed in 1992.
In 1986, Universal Studios Hollywood opened one of its most famous immersive attractions: King Kong Attraction (later named King Kong Encounter). The Studio Tour tram would take guests into New York City in front of an apartment building. A breaking news report showed live coverage of King Kong destroying the city. A helicopter pilot notices the tram and warns it to move shortly before King Kong takes down the helicopter, which “explodes” to the side of the tram. The tram heads onto a bridge where they encounter a massive King Kong, weighing seven tons and towering at a height of 30 feet.
The attraction, which cost more than $6 million, opened to rave reviews. The set, sound, and smells completely immersed guests in the experience.
On June 1, 2008, a massive backlot fire destroyed the King Kong Encounter attraction, along with several other sets. In 2010, Universal Studios Hollywood would open its replacement, a much less immersive video-based attraction: King Kong: 360 3-D.
Shortly after the original King Kong Encounter opened, Universal Studios launched another highly immersive attraction: Earthquake: The Big One where guests on the tram would experience an 8.3 earthquake. It remains the most immersive part of the Studio Tour today.
Here’s a full list of past and current attractions from the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour:
- Avalanche Tunnel (1974-2001)
- Rockslide (1974-1979)
- Runaway Train (1974-1985)
- Battle of Galactica (1979-1992)
- King Kong Encounter (1979-1992)
- Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (2001-2013)
- The Fast & The Furious: Extreme Close-Up (2006-2013)
- The Collapsing Bridge (1974 – 2014, off and on)
- Parting of the Red Sea (2006-2016)
- Whoville (2008-2016)
- Jurassic Park (1996-current)
- Psycho House (1964-current)
- Flash Flood (1968-current)
- Jaws (1975-current)
- Earthquake: The Big One (1974-current)
- King Kong: 360 3-D (2010-current)
- Fast & Furious: Supercharged (2015-current)
Explore More (Videos)
Explore Further (Resources)
Website – Universal Studios Hollywood