Universal’s Legendary Water Fountain Set

Super Trams could never make this move. The bigger tram design upgraded passengers counts from 125 patrons to 175, not counting “The Flight Crew” These old pink and white Glamour Trams allowed us more diverse mobility. Drivers wore red shirts and black polyester pants that melted to your skin on hot summer days. Very uncomfortable wardrobe. We drivers looked like “Good Humor” Ice Cream vendors.

You are here!

This set we call “Court of Miracles” has survived dating back to Universal’s Monster Movies.

Back when “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” lurked these parts.

It’s a “miracle” this set still exists.

Built of a combination steel and fiberglass…like a boat.

The stories this winged Lion has lived.

Fountain removed- photo.

The Wolfman-1941

The Court painted cheerfully-like it appeared in an episode of ‘Moonlighting,” starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd. Fountain removed for lightpost.

Looking down on the courtyard, the fountain is waiting on the next Glamour Tram photo stop. The tiny structure top of picture is a rail depot. The last stop on this line. This is where you debark from Transylvania…

Just another day on the backlot. This photo is a scene taking place in “The Court of Miracles”

“Quasimodo” still inhabits this area…

Here is the the fountain being stored over by The Spartacus set. We have a crane on the lot capable of moving this fountain to and from. The base is separate from the lions that will be inserted inside when next in use.

A family of three flying beasts inhabit this ancient relic. Water is pumped through copper tubes in their oral passageways.This fountain is large enough to put people inside the reservoir.

Notre Dame Cathedral Belltower-for Quasimodo. This set was built alongside our fountain.

Set dressing creates ambiance from the distant past.

Archways connect to-more archways. This castle style entranceway was constructed for “Scorpion King.”

These dressed sets will be filmed at night. Bon-fires will burn on the ground while torches mounted on walls will provide eerie, flickering illumination.

Props from this original film were used once again in Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein”-1974

True Blood” series film sets.

Rooftops are my favorite places... Older sets without a tar covered roof can be extremely dangerous. Desilu had the worst roofs of all backlot studios. Basically, every roof on that backlot could collapse. Universal has very few roofs left that our risky. Those would be located over at our Western Streets.

Tram picture stop…Guides repetitively talk about past monster movies here.

This building will always have a special memory for me. I was running power inside this set from a panel located inside the door on the left side when I received a call from my boss, friend and veteran Universal “40 Man” Tony Grillo. He was saddened to inform me my dad passed away. I was inside this building when I received the bad news. My dad went to two “Seagram Christmas Parties” on this backlot where alcohol/food was set up on every corner. Best parties ever thrown here. When you work here over three decades, this is your home away from home. My parents passed away during my career -but my kids were born born into this. Personal history happens…

Nighttime scene at Court of Miracles-“The spirits are ready to dance and festival”

This core area survived fire and brimstone and is most often used by caterers preparing crew meals. Tables, chairs, work lights and catering trucks all tightly position themselves inside this courtyard. When you film on Elm Street- you eat here. Mario’s Catering is still going strong as a top flight food provider for Hollywood.

Frankenstein Village was situated in this area but fire would destroy these buildings.

OktoberfestUniversal Style

Friendlier Times…

The-House-of-Fear. 1945 Sherlock Holmes- Universal-Studios European Street.

“Adam-12″…looking for a trespasser!

Below the World Famous Hollywood Sign– lies another sign. Facing out in the opposite direction, towards the San Fernando Valley, Universal City proudly represents itself here. Universal owns this hill top. The studio wishes they could lump together 25 cars and still operate like business as usual. “We will have to unhitch you here, we’ll pick you up later.” Only 4 cars can fit the animations.

Today’s version of Trams R’ Us. !

Opportunity awaits...Somehow tours rejected Whoopi Goldberg for this position and she never forgave them. I did a tour for her once and there was a serious bitterness in our little trolley. It teetered on racism. “The View” hired her, Tours didn’t!

“I wanna drive that famous 25 car tram!”…Be prepared to piss in a cup and have your commercial driver’s license “spotless” with passenger endorsements. This job comes with drug testing. This is an opportunity to join “The Teamsters Local #399.” This ship needs a Captain and a Hostess , endless fun for those lucky enough to be selected to this fast paced, passionate, inspiring environment. Drivers make substantially more than guides do to Teamster Union Affiliation. Steering wheels pay more than microphones but together, you have a studio tour.

We begin at a Picture Stop;

“Focus your camera’s on my side of the tram” says the cute guide sitting shot-gun with a microphone in her hand, instead of a rifle. Be prepared, this is a stall area where trams pace themselves. Behind us our-more trams, while in front of us is an animation that takes about 4 minutes to experience and reset itself. A San Francisco EarthQuake is in you future moving forward. But it’s here we look backwards, when Monsters roamed the earth.

Costumed Monsters greeted you as you boarded our specialized vehicle to begin your tour, but this photo stop puts you dead square where these Miracles happened. It’s a Miracle this set is still here, this is the last of our Universal Monster sets still standing. So soak it up-this area transcends time on a backlot not governed by a clock. What you see on the outside of these facades is far different than you probably imagine inside.

Set lighting has various size lamps inside adjacent to filthy, dust covered windows. These same lights create a “someone’s home feel” when switched on inside the sets interiors. Stairways and uneven walkways help you circumvent the interiors with windows looking outwards at this functioning movie studio. It’s almost “ghostly” inside these buildings. Alterations involving modifications overlap each other, like a puzzle. Stairways to the rooftops have hatches that open like some… Monster movie!

Trams never stop pulling up out front, stopping, as eager tourists snap picture after picture. It’s fun to evaluate the guides and how they present their spiel. I’ve done a million picture stops here myself with a couple stand out memories. The hit T.V Series “Moonlighting” filmed here and each tram passed by this shooting set when given clearance. Red Flags, held by security guards, stop tram traffic. Communication is done with P.A’s on walkie- talkies.Trams stop in a position that will not effect filming. When cleared, we arrive point blank on this film set.

Bruce Willis and Sybil Shepherd- in between scenes, would walk over and visit with our audience. Another time, a still shoot by Playboy took place here. This rout is critical to access Earth Quake and tours had itself in a pickle. We have to drive by here, but, this is a family tour. The photo layout involved nude models horsing around the old relic water fountain. Wet, naked Playmates on one side, fully clothed tourists on the other. Only the guide and myself knows what evils lurk just inside the make-shift curtain.

Studio operations had to make a decision to separate the actual conduct from the studio conduct code. Opaque cloth was set up to block the view of what’s going on here, we were told not to stop for photos, but if another tram is in E.Q, we have no choice but to sit, wait and watch as shapely figures move about behind barely adequate coverage.

Miracles have never stopped happening on this cobblestoned street and European Village that still provides…your own “personal picture stop.”

Written and lived by…Donnie Norden

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