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Universal Studios fire destroys Kong ride, Back to the Future sets & master vault


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I'm sure a number of you have already seen the news that a large fire overran the back lot at Universal Studios in California earlier today, claiming the New York exterior, a soundstage and the King Kong section of the famous tram tour. The Courthouse Square section of the back lot went down in flames too - most famous for acting as home of Back to the Future's Clock Tower and Hill Valley square.

 

There?s been no suggestion of anyone being harmed.

 

A building containing masters of the studio?s back catalogue has also been destroyed. Reports about what exactly was inside are somewhat confusing. It's been described by some as a "video vault" and by others as housing some 40,000-50,000 masters on both tape and film reels. Studio chief Ron Mayer has stressed however that duplicates exist off site and that nothing destroyed was irreplaceable (which would seem to support the suggestion this was not in fact the main motion picture vault). Even if the vault was host primarily to video masters however there?s every chance that it?s the vault where the likes of Universal?s D5, HDCAM-SR?etc tapes are kept (used for striking HD broadcasts, DVDs and Blu-rays from).

 

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ieKlEB60J43hDZ39AB9VmsPZ72sgD911DHR80

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Well, my thread can be closed... I knew that would happen.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/01/studio.fire/index.html - CNN's story which has some video of the fire.

 

http://micechat.com/ - Fansite MiceChat which has some pictures of the areas before the fire (and a nice behind the scenes look of the Facades, as well as an overhead image of the area that was on fire.

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I only posted three minutes before you did too.

 

NBC feed from a Helicopter (live apparently. Is the chap aware his mic is on?):

http://www.knbc.com/videostream/10954229/detail.html

 

I'm upset about the Back to the Future sets. That town square on the back lot had existed before BTTF, but the series was surely responsible with making it so iconic to visitors. So... Back to the Future The Ride... gone... Back to the Future sets... gone. :(

 

Kong on the tram tour was old and clumsy, but it had been there for so long. It's a shame to see a lot of the studio's heritage go like that.

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It?s been suggested that the vault fire has in fact lead to catastrophe for Universal?s music library as apparently the building played host to many thousands of original Decca, MCA and ABC masters.

 

It looks like more was damaged or destroyed in today's Universal Studios fire than anyone previously thought. I've learned that Universal Music, which is a completely separate company and owned by Vivendi (which owns 20% of NBC Universal), rents space in the huge video vault housed on the studio lot. But one source tells me that, as a consequence, inside the video vault that was billowing thick black smoke were 1000's of original Decca, MCA, ABC recording masters from the last century including a wide range of music from Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters to Judy Garland and The Carpenters.

 

"This is a tremendous loss in music history. A very sad day indeed. It's too bad they saved the videos that they have backups on instead of the master recordings in which they do not, although they may not have had a choice since the fire had already engulfed much of the music side of the vault," a source just told me.

 

Universal Studios can't confirm what has been damaged or destroyed music-wise at this point because it doesn't yet know what exactly was housed in the storage rented to Universal Music.

 

http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/update-universal-fire-burns-music-history/

 

If true then my mind will be left racing wondering what film and television score masters may have been housed in that vault as well as material from classic artists. This could be horrendous.

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One thing to note about all the sets and whatnot is that they are all just facades for the most part, not much more than painted plywood. The NY street and particularly the Courthouse Square areas have been used in hundreds, if not thousands of movies, shows and commercials. They will be rebuilt and will probably be pretty much the same as they were yesterday. There was a fire in this same area in 1990 and it was rebuilt then also.

 

It's not as if Courthouse Square was being kept for historical reasons (unlike say, the Psycho House).

 

The REAL loss is the Video Vault, and to a lesser extent the King Kong attraction. We may never know what was truly lost in the video vault building, but it seems like it wasn't all replaceable if the above story is correct.

 

For Kong, it was a classic theme park attraction which had thankfully been left alone at the Hollywood park. The Florida version of the Kong attraction had been shut down years ago (for the Mummy ride). The huge Kong torso animatronic no longer exists :(

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One thing to note about all the sets and whatnot is that they are all just facades for the most part, not much more than painted plywood. The NY street and particularly the Courthouse Square areas have been used in hundreds, if not thousands of movies, shows and commercials. They will be rebuilt and will probably be pretty much the same as they were yesterday. There was a fire in this same area in 1990 and it was rebuilt then also.

 

It's not as if Courthouse Square was being kept for historical reasons (unlike say, the Psycho House).

 

True, though what made the courthouse section particularly special was its great heritage and did in fact survive the 1990 fire whilst the nearby New York lot burnt to the ground. So it remains an unfortunate loss regardless of the many, many ways in which it has been dressed differently over the years.

 

The REAL loss is the Video Vault, and to a lesser extent the King Kong attraction. We may never know what was truly lost in the video vault building, but it seems like it wasn't all replaceable if the above story is correct.

 

I'd have thought they'd be able to work out what's gone sometime this week as they'll surely keep a log of what is stored where.

 

For Kong, it was a classic theme park attraction which had thankfully been left alone at the Hollywood park. The Florida version of the Kong attraction had been shut down years ago (for the Mummy ride). The huge Kong torso animatronic no longer exists :(

 

Definately sad I agree. As I wrote before, the Kong on the tram tour was old and clunky, but he'd been there for so long. I couldn't believe it a couple of years ago when I'd heard they destroyed all of the Kong animatronics from the Florida ride. They were vast creations.... Disney at least have a habit of putting many of their old park models/ride cars/signs…etc in storage or shipping them off to other Disney parks around the globe.

 

That decision, and shutting down the Back to the Future ride, did not put Universal in my good books. I was reading about the Simpsons ride on Saturday and watched a bunch of original video feeds from the BTTF ride which a few people - presumably park staff - got hold of. It's a shame it's gone. I think they could have rebuilt it in a smaller building (so vast was the original building that attendance/interest became so low in the past five years that they often only ran half the cars).

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Good news, everyone.

 

It turns out the reports of music masters being lost was a bit of alarmist reporting.

 

Contrary to online reports, "thousands of original recording masters" from the Decca, MCA and ABC labels were not destroyed in a fire on the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles over the weekend.

 

"We had no loss, thankfully," a Universal spokesperson tells Billboard. "We moved most of what was formerly stored there earlier this year to our other facilities. Of the small amount that was still there and awaiting to be moved, it had already been digitized so the music will still be around for many years."

 

The spokesperson continues, "Moreover, in addition to being digitized, we also had physical back up copies of what was still left at that location, so we were covered."

 

http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003810720

 

 

Here's the fire department saving the original negative to Norbit.

39509421.jpg

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Right, so the truth is looking that little bit more complicated (when is it never?).

 

According to Filmscore Monthly producer Lukas Kendall - who is doing some digging of his own - he?s heard that there were apparently music masters lost in this fire and that a lot coming publicly from Universal right now is hot air in an attempt to save face and retain stability of their stock price. Lukas? record label is responsible for the release of many classic film scores so he?s certainly in a good position to get an idea of what is really going on. It?s unlikely though that Universal will publicly reveal what has been lost.

 

Hopefully Doug Fake from Intrada will be able to weigh in at some point as his label is in the midst of a growing relationship in licensing scores from Universal?s archives.

 

In addition, it has also been said that the vault housed archival 35mm prints of many classic Universal films that the studio would license out for special screenings and many have been destroyed in the fire. These are not the negatives, just special release prints, so they could be re-created (albeit at great cost), and these may well be the type of items Ron Mayer was referring to when he spoke of duplicates being kept off site.

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http://micechat.com/forums/blog.php?b=412

 

Some very good photos in that update today of the Universal backlot after the fire. Looks like Courthouse Square made it out rather well. The Courthouse facade itself is left standing with some damage and the garden and fountain area in front of it looks pretty good considering that the buildings right across the street are nothing but rubble.

 

Lots more photos available - http://darkbeer.smugmug.com/gallery/5085044_9EUtf#306326775_Eiq4e

 

The cause of the fire has been determined also. Some workers were using a blowtorch to shingle a roof in the New York Street area, finishing at 3AM and then spent an hour watching for any signs of fire before taking a break. A security guard saw flames in the area 45 minutes later.

 

http://www.latimes.com/features/health/nutrition/la-me-studiofire3-2008jun03,0,6479128.story

 

LA Times with a good story on how it started and the lack of Water Pressure firefighters faced.

 

There are conflicting reports on the fate of Kong. The LA Times article above states that a new attraction will be built while another says Kong will be rebuilt. I would bet on the former.

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I read that they are not rebuilding Kong... instead they are going to replace it with something more "contemporary".

 

I keep thinking that the Universal guys are slapping high fives somewhere for all the insurance money they're going to be collecting to build a new ride in that location... they actually DESTROYED all the anamatronics from the Florida version of Kong when they took it apart and I've read that maintenance was EXTREMELY costly on both versions.

 

The Courthouse survives! That thing is invulnerable to all fires... this is the THIRD such in that area it has survived (1990, 1997, 2008).

 

I'm thinking anything of "relevance" to Uni would be kept in a secure fireproof location (I believe most studio locations are underground) that's not surrounded by extremely flammable facades :) Of course, it's possible that Universal stored the entire pre-1948 Paramount library in there (which they own) and a bunch of master recordings, but I am sure we'll never really know.

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Twas blowtorch killed the beast…. (sorry, but someone had to).

 

I wonder what they’ll replace Kong with. It’s limited seeing as it was never actually a ride in the standalone sense, but a segment of the tram tour (like the Jaws and Earthquake sequence. Is the latter still there?). They never went ahead with concepts to bring an attraction based on Jackson’s Kong to either park. I’m not sure what franchises they have at their disposal, not already in use, that they could add to the tour. Battlestar Galactica? The tram tour in LA went through a Battlestar themed section in the 80s if memory serves.

 

I'm thinking anything of "relevance" to Uni would be kept in a secure fireproof location (I believe most studio locations are underground) that's not surrounded by extremely flammable facades :) Of course, it's possible that Universal stored the entire pre-1948 Paramount library in there (which they own) and a bunch of master recordings, but I am sure we'll never really know.

 

The main thing they’re being rather coy about is discussion of music. Though I am sure the bulk of material wasn’t kept in that vault it would certainly appear that some important stuff was still in there - primarily LP masters and some unreleased material. The main film elements they have admitted to losing were the 35mm prints from their library that they’d frequently lease out for special screenings and so on. It’s certainly true that many studios house their most important material underground (original film elements usually end up in salt mines), but studios today still differ in opinion over what they consider “important” and music libraries still tend to be kept within easier access (either on site somewhere, above or underground – or stored off site at another facility).

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I wonder what they’ll replace Kong with. It’s limited seeing as it was never actually a ride in the standalone sense, but a segment of the tram tour (like the Jaws and Earthquake sequence. Is the latter still there?). They never went ahead with concepts to bring an attraction based on Jackson’s Kong to either park.

 

I was wondering what they'd replace Kong with also. I'm sure the only reason it was still around was because it was part of the Tram Tour and thus making it harder to rip it out and put in something new. I think a BSG attraction would be tough on the Tram Tour. You could roll onto the set of Galactica, but what would happen? If the shit hits the fan and there's explosions and whatnot, it wouldn't be that different from Earthquake.

 

They KIND of did an attraction for Jackson's Kong. They changed the parting of the Red Sea part of the tram tour to an eye level view of the real bigature of the boat and Skull Island used in the film. And there's a large Kong on the side of the road that was used at the movie's premiere. It's not much though.

 

Earthquake is still there, as is the spinning tunnel which is currently themed to The Mummy.

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  • 11 months later...

So it looks like King Kong is going to be replaced with...... King Kong!

 

A new King Kong attraction is going to be built for the Tram Tour which will be "a thrilling and ground-breaking 4-D multi-sensory marvel" based on the 2005 version of King Kong.

 

It will also come with other enhancements to the Tram Tour including the required flat panel monitors.

 

http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/16268

 

I'm guessing that it might be similar to the Spider Man attraction at Islands of Adventure in Orlando.... but less grand and exciting.

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