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Fire at the Univerisal Studios Lot

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 01, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

universalEarly Sunday morning, a fire broke out at the Universal Studios lot in Los Angeles, California. The L.A. Fire Department has released over 300 firefighters to contain it, three of which have been reported injured. The King Kong Exhibit at the Universal Theme Park is badly damaged. The Park was closed for the whole day, leaving over 20,000 visitors locked out. Buildings were left hollowed and gutted by the raging inferno. Several of the original sets for renowned movies such as the courthouse exterior from Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future (1985) have been destroyed as well as the sets for the Clint Eastwood film The Changeling (2008), which debuted at Cannes early last month.

A video of the disaster can be seen at the Florida Local 10 website.

This tragedy caused by force of nature brings to mind the sad 2006 ruination of Nick Park’s Aardman Studios that burned down its sets, props, and painstakingly hand-done clay models for the wonderful Wallace and Gromit (1989 – 2002) short films and Chicken Run (2000).

Universal Pictures’ most valued video archive has been scathed. Also burnt to the ground was a warehouse containing vaults of over 40,000 original and master versions of old Universal films. There is a great and crucial blessing that the original negatives of Universal’s history of film was located far away from the erupting fire. The damaged video stock can be replaced. The cause of the fire is still unconfirmed, but a faulty electrical error by a working sound stage for a commercial shoot over the weekend is suspect.

NBC Universal President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer was reported saying that “We have duplicates of everything. Nothing is lost forever.” Thankfully a number of sets including the back lot used for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Norman Bates’ house, is still standing. Millions of dollars have been lost, but not many people were hurt. This is the second of two massive fires at the studio within the last two decades, the first was caused by arson in 1990.

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