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Issue: Fall 2014

Super Heroes-Up Close and Phenomenal

By Karen Yin

Superheroes, everywhere. Caped or otherwise, crusaders born of comic-book lore have overtaken pop culture in every form.

Screen Rant, a movie-news website, counts over forty DC and Marvel films slated for release by 2020, including Joss Whedon's Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Gotham, Flash, and Constantine are hitting television airwaves now or soon. And it isn't just film and television that have combusted with superhero adoration: upwards of 130,000 people alighted on San Diego for Comic-Con in July, a month that also saw multiple records set for comics sales, according to industry number-cruncher Comichron.

Doing their part to sate the demand, two Hollywood institutions have new attractions catering to superhero-lovers: Warner Bros. Studios and Madame Tussauds Hollywood.

 

The Batman Exhibit

Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour, Burbank

Fans will love this rare look at all seven films featuring the world's most famous superhero without superpowers, Batman. A temporary installation extended through 2014, The Batman Exhibit is included in Warner Bros. Studios' VIP Studio Tour. It is part of Warner Bros. Entertainment and DC Entertainment's yearlong celebration of Batman's seventy-fifth anniversary.

Senior tour guide Brad Taylor filled us up on trivia about the 110-acre studio lot for much of the two-hour-plus tour, with a lot of humor thrown in. One of the highlights was the spontaneous dance-off between Brad and another guide, who threw themselves into a reenactment of a Pepsi commercial shot on the same spot.

Each tour is tailored to current guests' interests--in our group, it was Pretty Little Liars. Just hearing about a few of Warner Bros.' achievements in film, television, animation, interactive entertainment, and home entertainment was mind-blowing. For example, the lot boasts the biggest costume department in Hollywood, with nine miles of costumes. Bugs Bunny was born in the animation building, as was his rival Daffy Duck. Hiding on the back lot is part of Bon Temps from True Blood. And from the tram, you can see locations from Batman films, like the Hall of Records where Penguin learned of his parents' identities.

On the first floor of the Warner Bros. Museum, a wall of fifteen cowls with built-in scowls--worn by Batmans from Michael Keaton to Christian Bale--set the tone for The Batman Exhibit. (The Harry Potter exhibit is upstairs.) On display are six Batsuits plus costumes worn by Robin, Catwoman, The Joker, Batgirl, The Riddler, and Poison Ivy.

The newest additions are the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics, no. 27, with Batman's first appearance, and the premiere issue of Batman, launched a year later. Worth a cool $3 million combined, these issues are believed to have once belonged to Bob Kane, the artist who created "The Batman" along with Bill Finger.

You can also examine concept art, models, gadgets, and other props from the seven Batman films, including Batarangs, Joker's cards, and Penguin's umbrella.

"People come from all over the world," said Brad. "Both men and women love it. Little kids go nuts, grandparents go nuts. I've had people propose in front of the Batman statue. There really is an emotional tie to the property."

On the awesomeness scale, nothing beats the Batcave, aka the Picture Car Vault, an immense sound stage where legendary Bat vehicles have been brought together. It's an extraordinary chance to check out the Batmobiles, Tumbler, and Batgirl's Batblade in person.

"The Batmobile is what makes them freak out the most," said Brad of fanboys and fangirls. "When they find out they're real cars, that really brings it home. Every kid has a fantasy of driving a Batmobile."

Back at the tour center, don't miss the newly acquired cowl exhibit unveiled at Comic-Con, featuring Ben Affleck's cowl in the 2016 film. Brad confirmed that items from Gotham and Batman v. Superman will be added to the museum, saying, "I wouldn't be surprised if something happens this Halloween."

For information and tickets, call 877-4WB-TOUR or visit WBTour.com.

Marvel Super Heroes 4D

Madame Tussauds Hollywood

Out-of-towners and locals come to Madame Tussauds Hollywood to be transported to a different time, a different place. The new Marvel Super Heroes 4D theater expansion is a multi-million-dollar collaboration with Marvel. In addition to the interactive area with wax figures, this attraction features a ten-minute animation which pits Marvel superheroes against a common villain. The advanced 4D technology transforms the film into an immersive and multisensory experience.

A proper Madame Tussauds experience starts on the third floor and lets you wind your way through the themed rooms at your leisure. Whether you're into Marvel superheroes, old Hollywood, pop icons, or Star Trek, your fancy will be tickled. There are no velvet ropes to keep you from putting your head on Conan O'Brien's lap--his wax replica, that is. Though the faces and hands are off-limits because of the delicate nature of wax, the staff encourages physical interaction with the 120 figures in-house. So go ahead and grab Brad's butt even though Angelina is, like, standing right there. (When Lisa Huynh--marketing events coordinator for Madame Tussauds Hollywood--was asked if people try to kiss the wax figures, she said, "All the time. Especially Justin Bieber.")

These uncannily accurate wax-and-fiberglass figures take four to six months to create and cost $300,000 each. Every freckle, mole, wrinkle, dimple, and tattoo is meticulously reproduced; every hair and eyelash inserted by hand. Don't be surprised if you apologize as you step around them: they're so realistic. Credit goes to the skilled Tussauds artists in London who sculpt, mold, create, color, and costume wax figures for all Madame Tussauds locations. The striking realness of the wax figures makes it that much more poignant to see so many celebrities who have passed, including Robin Williams and Joan Rivers.

A lot of thought goes into every detail of the set design, costuming, and poses to create an emotional impact, often capturing a scene from a celebrated performance; other times, celebrities are presented in their natural glamorous habitats. Footprints indicate where to hit your mark for the best photos, and you are encouraged to ham it up with hats, jackets, canes, and the other accessories.

Before the Marvel 4D theater experience, you can interact with most of its stars in the Marvel Super Heroes room: Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Thor, Tony Stark, and Iron Man. In wax form, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is as fierce as ever; you can almost hear the snikt of his claws. If you're curious, step behind Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark to see what's on his screen. For Chris Hemsworth's Thor, Madame Tussauds worked with Marvel and the costume designers from the movie to design the outfit--an example of the never-ending quest for authenticity.

"For our Marvel 4D grand-opening party, a lot of people came in their Marvel shirts, Captain America shirts, Spider-Man shirts," said Lisa. "It's being able to see their superheroes in real life, almost. Being able to take that picture and say, 'Oh, I met Wolverine today.' Bringing the screen to life. That's what we have to offer that's unique."

For information and tickets, visit MadameTussauds.com/Hollywood.