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Mouse Tales
A “behind–the–ears” look at Disneyland
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David Koenig
Help Save a Universal Studios Landmark
The classic Disney parks get all the publicity. Coaster fans prefer the "steel" parks. But, for my money, the best theme park attraction in the world can't be found at any of them. It's at Universal Studios Hollywood: a real, live, working movie studio. Here, you can tour not only sets and props from movies and TV shows currently in production, but also settings from such classics as Frankenstein, Spartacus, Psycho, The Sting, and Back to the Future.

Alas, one of Universal's most historically significant movie sets is about to be demolished. It may already be too late. Certainly, this facade doesn't generate as much attention as the big rubber shark from Jaws or any of the slick new theme park rides. But most visitors to the park since it officially opened in 1964 probably photographed it or have at least seen it, possibly without even knowing what it was. After all, few remember the movie it was created for 35 years ago (though Leonard Maltin calls it "intriguing" and gives it three stars). To them, it's just an atmospheric, medieval- looking tower.

The walls are up already around the tower -photo taken Friday September 8th
The walls are up already around the tower. All photos taken Friday, September 8.

In truth, the Warlord Tower was built for the 1965 movie The War Lord starring Charlton Heston, Richard Boone and Guy Stockwell. In early 1966, the structure was moved to the tram entrance. For the first time, guests could touch or have their picture taken in front of a facade that was actually used in a movie. The tower was featured in advertising photos for the tour through the 1960s and 1970s.

Well-worn sign on door tells visitors about the tower
Well-worn sign on door tells visitors about the tower

In the early years, the tower was really the first thing guests noticed when they approached the park. As such, it likely influenced the first thing guests notice when they approach Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Florida: a much taller, more stylized old brick tower.

The Warlord Tower has been moved at least twice due to construction of new park features. During the last few years, Hercules, Xena and the classic Universal monsters have been using it as a backdrop to pose in front of for guest photos. The merchandise department uses the inside for storage.

Another view of the tower from below
Another view of the tower from below

Unfortunately, plans are to tear down the structure within the next few weeks … or days. The park is expanding its Woody Woodpecker Clubhouse playground area and adding some kiddie rides like those at Knott's Camp Snoopy for a spring 2001 unveiling (Universal historically has offered very little amusement for small children). As you can see in the photos here, workmen already have begun ripping up the area.

The tower, says one veteran employee, "has a lot of sentimental value for the old-timers who work at USH and some of our regular guests, too. Though it may be a little fragile after 34 years, it could still be moved again, I think. Employees have signed several petitions to save the tower, but it doesn't look good for its future."

Other front-line workers, in fact, were unaware that any petitions had been circulated. "That's funny," remarked one bewildered employee. "The tower will be gone in the next few days. No way will it be staying. It really is just a shell. I am surprised that it has stayed standing all these years. But, yes, it has been one of the only things that has been here since the park opened."

The tower today tends to get lost, this view shows its location between the Back to the Future ride and the Animal Actors Stage
The tower today tends to get lost, this view shows its location between the Back to the Future ride and Animal Actors Stage

Hopefully, by the time you're reading this, the tower hasn't already been reduced to rubble. We've included contact information on the right hand column on this page so you can let Universal know you'd like to see this little piece of movie history retained for future visitors.

Remember, public pressure is the only thing that keeps Mr. Lincoln employed at Disneyland. Let's hope Universal chooses to respect its own all-but-forgotten history.


You can write to David atthis link..

CONTACT INFO

I urge movie and theme park fans to voice their concerns by call Guest Relations at (818) 622-3735. A live operator should answer at this number during park hours of 9 a.m. -7 p.m. PST. 

Also, please contact Larry Kurzweil, (818) 622-3998, larry.kurzweil@ unistudios.com, or Mike Taylor, (818) 622-5899.

Or you may write them at Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, SC5511-6, Universal City, Ca. 91608

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.

LINKS

Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)

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