The Special Effects Stage

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Want to learn how movies are made?

Continuing a long lineage of behind-the-scenes shows, the Special Effects Stage gives guests a witty look at some of Hollywood’s oldest and newest tricks.

Special Effects Stage


In the age of digital bonus features on DVDs, Universal Studios Hollywood needed a twist.

Enter the Special Effects Stage, where you’ll witness some of Hollywood’s most beloved and intricate techniques with a sarcastic twist. Shuffle in some audience participation, and you a really great behind-the-scenes show.


Duration: 25 minutes

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes, ask for assistance. There is special seating located throughout the theater.

Flash Photography and Video Taping Policy: Permitted.

Height Restriction: Nope!

Child Friendliness: Light parental guidance suggested. See our explanation below for more information.

Intensity Level – 5/10

The Special Effects Stage is mostly child-friendly. The show contains loud noises, PG effects and some mild humor depending on the host.

Overall, this show should be fine for most children, and content wise – it’s nothing you wouldn’t see on television if you had cable.

Show Tips & Tricks

Scheduling: Almost like all live shows at Universal, the Special Effects Stage has a set number of shows per day. Shows, like this one, should have priority if you’re on a rush. Arrive 15-20 minutes before posted show times. Remember, posted show times are when the show actually start, not a recommendation as to when you should start lining up.

Audience Participation: This show features audience participation. Typically, they ask for a couple, two men and a family of four or five. Try to arrive early if you want a spot. If you do participate, you typically get a one-time front-of-the-line pass or a drink voucher.

Seating: Center seating, near the back is probably the most preferable seat.

Our Take: From the Editors

How does it compare to Universal’s older Special Effects shows?

Jon Fu – Inside Universal Editor

With the closure of the original Special Effects Stages to pave way for the new Transformers attraction, Universal was left with one gaping hole: the lack of a full-fledged, old fashioned, behind-the-scenes show that focused on movie effects.

Now, to set things up, I’ve always considered the original Special Effects show to be a hidden jewel in Universal’s lineup. Located in the Lower Lot and nestled inconspicuously next to Backdraft, the Special Effects Stages had an excellent blend of sharp wit, sarcasm and actual Hollywood info that gave audiences a brief look at how the film industry works on a day-to-day basis.

Fast forward to today, and what do we have? Well, the show still has wit, and it definitely has sarcasm coupled with the necessarily Hollywood insider information…so in the end, what’s changed? To start off, things have been tamed down. Granted, things have improved dramatically since the show’s original premiere – and that’s a plus – but the entire production has been driven down a few notches. In the process of making the script and hosts more rigid, the show has lost its spontaneity that made the original production so great, and this – to me – really shows in the audience’s response.

So how’s the actual show? Let me start off with this: the show’s performance relies more heavily on the host now than it did in the past. What do I mean by that? Well, while the majority of hosts are fine (and by fine, I say you might get a few chuckles here and there), there are only a few that really stand out that bring back the edge that was so prevalent in this show’s predecessor. In other words, you might get an average performance or you might get one that’s genuinely funny – it’s that big of a wash.

“A great (and sometimes witty) behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood special effects.”

That said, the show’s format is pretty decent. Not only are you given a glimpse of some of Hollywood’s oldest tricks and techniques (which I won’t spoil here), you’re also given a special look at modern effects used in the trade today. While seasoned movie-buffs won’t learn anything new, the information they present is actually pretty intriguing. And it’s no surprise that Universal oftentimes donates props or models from recent releases for show demonstrations, allowing guests to see how the most modern productions tick. Best of all, the show relies heavily on audience participation, so if you’re determined enough, you’re bound to have a role in the show.

But really, I do recommend that you check this show out. While (on average) not as good as its predecessor, the Special Effects Stage does give a compelling behind-the-scenes look at “Hollywood magic.” And more importantly, the Special Effects Stage builds upon Universal’s legacy when it comes to having a behind-the-scenes show, allowing new generations of audience members to get an authentic look behind the scenes of one of Hollywood’s biggest studios.

Want more?

Want to learn more about the show? Have a question? Feel free to contact our editors or ask our friendly forum. We look forward to hearing from you.