Monday, December 22, 2014

A Unique Hollywood Experience

Last week we headed to Los Angeles to meet up with my cousin, Rob, on his lunch break. Rob works for 20th Century Fox and he invited us to come take a private tour of the lot and facilities. When we arrived at the parking structure we had to give our IDs to the parking attendant and she gave us a series of visitor passes and rule sheets. It was very official stuff. The first rule on the sheet was NO PHOTOGRAPHY WITHOUT WRITTEN CONSENT FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX. So, if you feel this portion is lacking original photos, take it up with the folks at Fox.

We weren't expecting much. When Rob initially invited us it just sounded like we were gonna walk around the lot and he was going to point out things to us from afar. He met us at the elevator and we followed him across the Fox lot which, for the record, doesn't give tours. You just have to know someone.
This is Rob. Rob likes Voltron. 

The first place he took us was the poster and prop archive room. There were two girls working there and I'll be damned if I can remember their names. Rob's boss had called down and told them to pull some stuff and have it ready to show us. So, since they were doing a favor for their boss, we were suddenly important guests. Thanks Rob's boss!

The first girl showed us some classic posters. They were inside of these special drawers and they were protected on either side with poster board. She wore white gloves when handling them and the whole thing felt kinda bad. Like we were defiling these priceless movie artifacts with our curiosity. The first poster was a Return of the Jedi poster but the title read: Revenge of the Jedi. As many die hard Star Wars fans know, this was originally going to be the title of the movie but it was changed prior to release because the creators didn't feel that revenge was a very Jedi-like recourse. Later, they would use the name Revenge of the Sith as a nod to this classic working title. I consider myself to be a relatively big fan of Star Wars but this was all news to me.
Click Here to buy your own RotJ poster on eBay. Signed by the cast and given to Mark Hamill. Only $6,000!

She went on to show us the original poster from The Mark of Zorro. I was having trouble understanding why she would show us this poster until she pointed out that this was the movie the Wayne family was seeing when Batman's parents were killed. She said it had recently been checked out by the Batman vs Superman crew and we could expect to see it in the movie. I wanted to look through these drawers all day but, after seeing a few really cool (and literally priceless) posters, we were handed off to the prop girl. 
The poster we saw was hand painted. 

This part of the tour couldn't have been scripted any better if I had written it myself. The prop girl invited us into her secret room and we gathered around some brief cases on a table. The girl leaned over and asked Noah, "Do you know who the X-Men are?" 

He nodded

"Who is your favorite member of the X-Men?" She inquired

Since she was talking about a favorite subject of his, he loosened up and explained, "Wolverine! I have a wolverine costume and I wore it for Halloween and it has his claws." 

"Well" she said, "I think you'll like what I have in here." 

She opened a wooden box and inside of it were two metal (adamantium) claws. She picked one up and it had two letters engraved on the handle, R and H. She explained that the R stood for 'right' because it was the claw the actor wore on his right hand. She went on to tell us that the H stood for 'Hugh' because these claws were the exact ones that Hugh Jackman used in the X-Men movies! Like the girl before her, she too was using white gloves to handle the goods. Then she asked Noah, "Can I trust you to be really careful?" 

Noah's face lit up and his eyes got really big and he replied, "Yeah."

"Okay" she said, "You just need to put one of these white gloves on first." 

She helped him put a glove on his right hand and then lowered the Wolverine claw down to his level. The claws have a small handle that you nestle into your palm with the blades sticking out between your fingers. She instructed him to make a fist and then she let go. I wish I could have taken a picture of this moment because there was Noah, turning his fist back and forth, admiring his wolverine claw. He was thrilled.  
This is how Noah felt while holding the Wolverine claws. 

She pointed out all of the other props around the room. There were signs and knick knacks from cut scenes that never made it on film but were too cool to throw away so they used them to decorate. Needless to say, the decor kicked ass. She also pointed out some props that had just arrived. One of them was a tent from the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon. This movie has significance because both Jessica and I have read that book while on this trip. And it's a tent and we love camping. I just felt connected to this prop. We thanked these fine ladies for showing us around and walked to another part of the building where Rob's friend, Dane, works. 

I totally got to see that tent. It's a Wenzel.

Dane has a desk that is surrounded by film reel and Darth Vader action figures. He is a big Star Wars fan AND he just happens to be the guy who takes care of the film vaults at Fox. We shook hands as Rob introduced all of us and he invited us to follow him to the vaults. 

The first vault was cooled to a temperature of 34 degrees with 30% humidity. He said that the computer that controls the temperature was SO sensitive that it was already adjusting to our presence in the vault. While inside of the vault we were actually breathing the cleanest air in California. He showed us some reels that were from classic films from the 60's. He held up a reel and said, "This reel is worth about $550 a foot and there are over 1200 feet on this reel." 

It's freaky watching someone handle something so sensitive and valuable. It really was a trip. 
Reminder - Internet stock photos. I was not allowed to take pics. 

We walked across the hall to another vault and Dane walked backwards while giving us the inside scoop on the business of storing and de-storing masters. You can't just take them out and hand them to people. They would start to thaw too rapidly and be destroyed by condensation. You have to move them from vault (freezer) to vault (slightly warmer freezer) first. He stopped at a shelf that read STAR WARS ONLY on the side. He cranked the wheel that moved the rolling shelves and exposed a bunch of tattered leather film cases. Holy...crap. The master reels for the original Star Wars Trilogy were sitting in front of me. He opened one and held it up to the light for us. I was mind blown. Here are these films, possibly the most celebrated movie franchise in history, and it's just me and my family getting a glimpse of them in a temperature controlled vault at Fox Studios. I know at least a hundred nerds who would have killed for this opportunity and we just stumbled into it while visiting my cousin at work. How kickass is that? 

We walked outside onto the lot and Rob showed us places where they film things like How I Met Your Mother and Bones. They basically just use the entire lot in a very resourceful way. One day the Fox employees might come to work and find that their entrance has been turned into a set for a TV show. We saw the buildings where the staff for The Simpsons work and watched some set builders hammer away on a big set. It started to rain so we had to wrap things up. We checked out the gift shop and headed back up to our car and Rob went back to work. Rob has a cool ass job! 

We did some hiking this week. One of the hikes was in the Hollywood hills at a place called Runyon Canyon. Jessica had found it online and when she read about it she learned that it was a popular spot for celebrities to walk their dogs. On the last stretch of the 2 mile hike we walked right past Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly fame. I didn't recognize her but Jessica pointed her out as iCarly and I was like, "Oh yeah, Miranda Cosgrove." I only know this information because I have an adult, male friend who once went to a concert of hers and he refers to her as 'MirCo' (pronounced Meer Coh).
"OMG! Is Miranda Cosgrove standing on the hill behind me?!?!"

Photobombed by the Hollywood sign. 

We enjoyed our Hollywood Hills hike so much that we went hiking again the next day. This time to a place real close to our campground in the San Fernando Valley. It is a place where I have been mountain biking called Towsley Canyon. It is a beautiful trail and the boys hiked the entire 5 miles with very little complaining. I think they are getting used to being little outdoor adventurers.
Yum Family at high altitude. 

We spent the rest of the week hanging out at or near the campground. We finished up our Christmas shopping and finalized our holiday plans. We only bought a few gifts for the boys because we don't have a ton of space. We also believe that one of the benefits of being nomads is we get to trade our material possessions for real experiences. We all love Christmas though so we thought presents were appropriate and I think we found a nice balance.
We took the boys to Six Flags Magic Mountain. It was cheap and super close. 

These next few weeks will be difficult for us. It is the first time we have spent Christmas without our huge families. It's really bittersweet that we get to spend Christmas surrounded by palm trees and swimming pools yet, we will be dearly missing our loved ones in Michigan. When it's all said and done though Christmas 2014 will be about as memorable as they get.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

- The Yums 

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