While Universal Studios Hollywood, the theme park, is about a decade younger than Disneyland, the Backlot Tour (or Studio Tour) that takes guests through a working Hollywood movie studio predates the theme parks by quite a lot. While Universal Studios Hollywood has expanded over the decades and is much more of a traditional theme park with rides and shows, like the newest attraction, Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, the Studio Tour has always been the backbone of the attractions and an event that sets this park apart from all others. Now that tour is a lot better than it used to be, and the tour itself hasn’t even changed.
What’s changed, at least slightly, is the large trams that take guests through the Studio Tour. Recently, Universal Studios Hollywood debuted four trams into the existing fleet that are electric vehicles. The entire fleet will transition to electric by 2025, but until then, if you’re going on the tour, do yourself a favor and experience the electric tram, because the experience is so much better.
I recently spent a day at Universal Studios Hollywood and took the Studio Tour in one of the new electric vehicles. They can be easily recognized as the Universal Studios logo on the side is written in environmental green rather than the traditional yellow. But there’s another way to easily tell the vehicles are electric, which is key to one of the reasons they are awesome: they’re missing exhaust pipes.
The Air Is Cleaner On The Studio Tour
If you’ve ever ridden on the Universal Studio Tour in the past, especially if you’ve ridden the second vehicle in the train, you know that the air isn’t necessarily the cleanest. The exhaust from the gas engine exits the traditional tram via a vertical pipe that lets its smoke out over the top of the tram, However, if the wind is blowing the wrong way, you can be forced to experience it a bit more directly in any of the trailing cars past the first.
With an electric vehicle, this exhaust pipe is non-existent because obviously there is nothing that needs to be expelled from the engine. This makes the air much cleaner on your specific tour. It also means that, as two dozen trams traverse the same route all day long, the air on the entire tour should get better as more electric vehicles take over for the gas-guzzling models.
You Can Hear The Tour, Not The Engine
The other major benefit from the transition to electric vehicles is that the electric vehicles' engines make basically zero noise. With the noise of the loading area of the Studio Tour, as well as the crowds, video screens and the still-majority of gas-powered trams filling the space, it’s difficult to tell that the electric trams are so quiet, but when the vehicle gets going and the tour begins, you really notice.
When your tour has begun, you can hear your tour guide… and nothing else. The trams were certainly amplified to allow guests to hear the guide in any vehicle above the noise of the engine, but it’s just nice to not have to do that. When you go through an area where music is playing, you can hear it better. When Jaws jumps out of the water, he's not competing with the sound of the tour.
The Trams Haven’t Changed
One of the most interesting things about the new electric trams is that they’re not actually new trams. Universal Studios Hollywood has retrofitted the existing trams into the electric versions. On the downside, that means that the vehicles don’t look or feel “new.” If you don’t notice the signage or the lack of exhaust pipe, you won’t realize that there are new models here. The structure of the vehicle or the upholstery on the seats don’t look brand-new.
On the plus side, retrofitting the old trams is just a nice thing to do. The vehicles still function and replacing them entirely would ultimately mean a lot more waste. There's no word on if upgrades have been made to make the electric trams more difficult to jump out of during the Studio Tour.
In the past, we’ve seen Universal Studios Hollywood upgrade the classic Studio Tour with attractions. King Kong 360 3D is still a fun experience and Fast & Furious Supercharged… is also there. But it has to be said that the shift to electric trams may be the best upgrade the classic attraction has received in a very long time.
When the entire fleet is upgraded things will only get better. In the meantime, if you have the time, consider waiting for one of the electric trams; they’re worth the wait. The electric trams are just one of the new things coming to Universal Studios Hollywood in 2022.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.