You don’t need to be in the film or television industry to learn how movies and TV shows are made. Burbank-based NBC Universal and Warner Bros. offer exciting studio tours that take you behind the scenes to sets and various departments including wardrobe, make-up, se tbuilding and props. You can also arrange to stay for tapings of certain shows.
My daughter and I took a studio tour at NBC Studios, and stayed afterward for the taping of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He was very personable and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon!
Typically, tours steer away from working sets to avoid disrupting production, but visitors are able to walk onto empty sets. On occasion, actors will walk over to tour groups to say hello. With ongoing filming and production, no two tours are alike. So you never know what to expect or who you’ll see!
Since tapings take place in the afternoons, and “hot” sets are closed off to the public, morning studio tours are recommended if possible.
Warner Bros. Studios Tours
During this approximately two-hour VIP Tour, you’ll ride comfortably in a large golf cart but also have opportunities to walk through various departments. Tour groups meet at the Studio Tour & Center, adjacent to the Studio Plaza Café, where you can grab breakfast or lunch and dine with studio crew.
Tour vary depending on the season. Reality shows typically tape in summer, followed by fall television shows. Start your journey through the studio’s historic back lot where you’ll see sound stages, such as Midwest Street’s town square and Hennesy Street’s urban set.
The massive prop house is constantly in use so inventory changes frequently. At the Foley stage, where post production sound creation and editing take place, artists recreate sound effects using ordinary objects, such as light bulbs, to replicate the sound of breaking glass. Artists often take breaks to answer questions and demonstrate how they recreate footsteps and other sounds.
Tour staples include the Warner Bros. museum, accessible to the public only during tours. The museum houses costumes and artifacts dating back to the 1920s. The museum’s second floor is devoted to Harry Potter costumes and memorabilia. There’s also an automobile museum housing two generations of Batmobiles and an Austin Power vehicle.
Since both the Conan and the Ellen DeGeneres shows tape at Warner Bros., there’s a good chance you’ll drive through these stages.
Cost: $49 ages 8 and older.
NBC Universal Studio Tour
Wear comfortable shoes for this 70-minute walking tour of a working studio. There is no age minimum for this tour, which begins with a short video about NBC’s history.
Friendly guides encourage questions as you walk by the wardrobe, make-up and prop departments, set construction and the original NBC Radio set.
While doling out studio history, tour guides sprinkle in fun facts, like Jay Leno owns about 180 cars and motorcycles. The guide may bring you to the parking lot to point out the car Leno drove to work that day.
Typically, you will visit the sets of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Access Hollywood.” You may also get a peek at “Days of Our Lives.”
Cost: $8.50 adults, $5 ages 5–12, free under 5. (Cash only)
NBC and Warner Bros. Studio Tour and Show Tips
Call ahead to reserve your studio tour, especially if you also plan to stay for the tapings of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” or “Conan” shows. Tapings are free but require advance tickets. Book your tickets online and print them out before arriving for your studio tour.
Obtaining free tickets for shows are separate from the tours. To get tickets, go to each studio’s website and follow the online process. The studios also distribute a limited number of stand-by tickets on the day of the taping.
The minimum age is 16 to attend tapings for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and “Conan,” and age 14 for the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Photo IDs are required and minors must be accompanied by an adult.
For more travel stories and tips, follow Los Angeles Traveling Mom, @mimitravelz. Mimi Slawoff writes a monthly Let’s Go family travel column for L.A. Parent magazine and is associate editor at Santa Clarita Living magazine. Mimi is also a contributing writer for the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau and Trip Advisor.