By Dan Sarto
Our day began at Sony Pictures in Culver City. We watched a short film detailing the history of the studio dating back to brothers Harry and Jack Cohn’s 1918 partnership with Joe Brandt to form CBC Film Sales, or as it was then known as Corn Beef and Cabbage. CBC became Columbia Pictures Corporation in 1924, with original offices located on Gower Street in Hollywood. The studio’s fortunes changed dramatically with the hiring of Frank Capra in 1927, who over the next decades helped chart a course of excellence starting with their first Best Picture Oscar in 1934 for It Happened One Night. The list of legendary films produced at the studio is immense, including From Here to Eternity, Dr. Strangelove, Lawrence of Arabia, Taxi Driver, Gandhi, Ghostbusters and The Last Emperor to name but a few. Sony purchased the studio from Coca Cola in 1989, changed its name to Sony Picture Entertainment and relocated to the former MGM lot in Culver City. I’ve skipped numerous pieces of the studio’s story, including the growth of its vast TV operations, and of course, the creations of Sony Pictures Imageworks and Sony Pictures Animation, our ultimate destination for the morning tour and screening.
Our intro movie complete, we crossed the street to begin our tour. Starting at the base of the Irving Thalberg building, we crisscrossed the entire old MGM lot, rebuilt and refurbished over the years, an interesting blend of old and new, with buildings still displaying name plaques from eras long since passed.
Interesting stops included Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Production offices, complete with his Cadillac styled golf cart. We took more extended detours onto the sets of two hugely popular and iconic TV show sets – Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Both were dark, as they only film a few shows a day, a few days a week, a handful of weeks a year. Because the shows both tape before a live audience, each set includes foyers stuffed with show memorabilia and other items designed to entertain the crowd as they wait for seating. The Wheel set was being broken down to go on the road to broadcast from some distant location. Needless to say, I enjoyed regaling both Tim and Fondhla with tales of old TV show history, needling them both as I realized the extent to which they had no clue what I was talking about. Ridiculous Get Smart references were common, including the gold standard, “Missed it by that much!”
At one point, we stumbled upon a project involving Apple co-founder Steve Wozniac and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, an eco-friendly bio-diesel or hydrogen fuel cell (not sure which) powered modified Hummer that will be driven to the South Pole (the show details were sketchy, as was the premise). Not sure, but I think the reality show’s name is Zero South (or is that the project) but the rigs look pretty impressive. Would I want to travel in the Hummer and live in the trailer in a frozen wasteland with Steve Wozniac and Buzz Aldrin? – no ma’am.
Our tour complete, we hopped back in our cars and drove the few short blocks over to Sony Pictures Imageworks/Animation for our screening and lunch.