Discovering the History Behind Universal Studios Hollywood

How ‘Laemmle’s Folly’ became a world-class theme park that changed the industry forever.

Austin Carroll
23 min readApr 15, 2019


One of the original “ Glamour Trams” exploring the Western Sets of the backlot. [Security Pacific National Bank Collection at Los Angeles Public Library]

Welcome to the World Famous Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour! Today, we are heading way back into the archives of Universal Pictures to discover how they came to own a mountainous crop of land smack dab in the middle of what would become the famed Hollywood Hills. Please keep your hands, arms, and feet inside the vehicle at all times and watch out for rouge directors, movie stars, and ever-changing landscapes. 🎥

The lasting ramifications of Universal Studios Hollywood and its original theme park studio tour still reverberate across the theme park universe (pardon the pun) with theme parks around the world including Disney’s Hollywood Studios still taking cues from what Universal Studios Hollywood was doing way back in 1915 when films didn’t even have audio — much less audio-animatronics.

Since its humble beginnings, Universal Studios Hollywood has always been an enigma. This paradox of a fully-functioning top Hollywood film and television studio that sits just feet from one of the world’s top theme parks could exist nowhere else except in the Hollywood Hills.

The founder of Universal City, Carl Laemmle envisioned a city dedicated to the movies. The studio tour, once simply a method of attracting audiences and publicity to Universal Films, transformed over time into a worldwide empire with revenues in the billions. While most early film studios are now mainly fading celluloid and memories, “Laemmle’s Folly” continues to grow in popularity, offering new generations of film lovers the chance to go behind the scenes of their favorite films.

A Rebel Filmmaker With a Dream

Carl Laemmle [Getty Images]

Before prohibition and the Great Depression rocked the country, even before Walter and Cordelia Knotts started selling their fried chicken dinners at their berry farm in Buena Park, Carl Laemmle was faced with a conundrum in March of 1912. Two years after leading a massive merger, his film…



Austin Carroll

Hello! My name is Austin & I am a product manager, career coach, and podcast host.