Sad but true - and that's one reason why I created this website: to show people just how many different ways there actually are to see a real star, in the flesh. You don't have to settle for wax.
But what Movieland does, it does very well indeed.
This, the largest wax museum in the United States, gives the public a chance to walk within inches of realistic wax figures of famous Hollywood movie stars, to look them in their incredibly lifelike eyes, and to view some extremely handsome sets.
And frankly, I think the place is under appreciated. Far too few visitors were there when I paid my last visit, on a warm Friday in April. It's a shame, because this is a first-rate act. The Hollywood Wax Museum (Movieland's only competition in Southern California) pales by comparison.
The nearly 300 wax figures at Movieland are, for the most part, remarkably lifelike. The clothing worn by the figures are often original costumes, donated by the star himself or by his studio, as are many of the props used in the scenes. Other costumes have been painstakingly re-created for the displays (Garbo's costume cost $35,000, and took 125 hours to sequin by hand).
The museum is brightly lit, spacious (with mirrored walls making the rooms appear even larger than they are), and colorful. The sets surrounding the wax figures are large and handsome, with lush attention paid to even minor details; they faithfully re-create well-known scenes from famous movies. Musical themes and sound effects enhance the experience, as do artificial trees, flowers, rainfall, chandeliers, ... even a gold Rolls Royce!
A surprising number of movie stars have visited Movieland in person.
Mary Pickford herself dedicated the new museum when it first opened, back in 1962. Over the years, Jimmy Stewart, George Burns, Dudley Moore, Ed Asner, Buster Keaton, Carol Burnett, Mae West, Sammy Davis Jr., Roger Moore, and the entire cast of "Star Trek" (to name just a few) all showed up in person to help unveil their own individual wax likenesses. Even reclusive megastar Michael Jackson put in a personal appearance when his wax figure was unveiled here. Vincent Price not only came to Movieland, but he even stood-in for his wax likeness and scared people!
Even more stars have donated original costumes to the museum. Hence, the tuxedo worn by Tom Selleck comes directly from the movie "Three Men and a Little Lady," and the wax figure of Christopher Reeves wears an authentic costume from the movie "Superman."
Several of the sets here are ambitious in scale, especially the those of "The Poseidon Adventure" (which re-creates the interior of a half-sunken, upside-down ship), "Ben-Hur" (which captures the movie's dramatic chariot race, with Charlton Heston driving a team of horses), and the "Superman" set (featuring the Man of Steel's frozen Fortress of Solitude, complete with chilly winds). "The Wizard of Oz" diorama features a yellow brick road leading through an enchanted forest up to Judy Garland and friends, and the "Star Trek" set puts us on the bridge of the Enterprise, along with the entire original crew at their posts.
But even the smaller sets can hide some delightful surprises.
Take, for example, the re-creation of a key scene from Hitchcock's classic "Rear Window." While the wax likeness of star Jimmy Stewart is mediocre, the attention to detail is impressive. The set is designed so that we are looking in through the very window Stewart looked out of during the movie, as he spied on a suspected murderer across the street. The cast on his broken leg has the same autograph given in the movie by his co-star, Grace Kelly, and there's even a copy of the threatening letter which Stewart's character writes and sends to the suspect. Look carefully, and you'll spot photos of Grace and director Alfred Hitchcock on the bookshelf behind Stewart. (Incidentally, the original camera Stewart used in that movie is on display at Planet Hollywood.)
Many of the wax figures are wonderfully realistic. You can walk within inches of the Tom Selleck figure, and still almost expect him to move. The likenesses of John Wayne, George Burns, Ed Asner, Whoopi Goldberg, Jean Harlow, Laurel & Hardy and William Shatner are all exceptional works of art.
In my opinion, though, with the exception of Tom Selleck, most of the newer figures don't seem to measure up to the quality of the museum's older wax characters. My vote for the worst figures goes to the new "Andy Griffith Show" scene: the likenesses of Don Knotts and Jim Nabors are just awful. And in my opinion the figures of Michael Landon, Fred Astaire, Alan Ladd, Dick Clark, Michael J. Fox, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, President Clinton and Lucille Ball could all be a lot better.
But half of the fun of visiting a wax museum is deciding for yourself which figures look realistic and which do not.
They have vastly expanded the Chamber of Horrors since my last visit (and have completely eliminated the religious section). It is now a long, winding tunnel, filled with cobwebs and flashing lightning, taking the visitor past a dozen or more sets recreating scenes from famous horror movies: Frankenstein looms in his lab while electricity crackles about, the Creature from the Black Lagoon wades neck-deep in bubbling water, and Linda Blair's head revolves on her vomit-covered wax figure from "The Exorcist." There's nothing very scary in here, actually, but the new "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" set may be a bit too gory for some tastes: it has a blood-spattered Leatherface wielding a bloody chainsaw, in a landscape littered with severed heads and other body parts.
The most recent new additions to Movieland's roster of stars are twins Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liza Minnelli, John Lennon, Jennifer Lopez, Robin Williams, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, Britney Spears, Jim Carrey and Ricky Martin.
Other recent additions include Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, Donny & Marie Osmond, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Jackie Chan and Geena Davis. The museum has also a section for pop music stars, featuring Michael Jackson (backed by an endless screening of his videos), as well as new figures of Billy Ray Cyrus and Madonna.
Still more recent additions to Movieland include Whoopi Goldberg (dressed as a nun from "Sister Act"), Sylvester Stallone (as "Rocky"), Arnold Schwarzenegger (from "Terminator II"), Tom Cruise (from "Far & Away"), Michael J. Fox (from "Back to the Future"), Eddie Murphy (from "Beverly Hills Cop"), Julia Roberts (from "Pretty Woman"), Bette Midler, LeVar Burton, Chuck Norris, Elvira, Mr. T, wrestler Hulk Hogan, Roseanne and the cast of "Green Acres" (Eva Gabor, Eddie Albert and Arnold the Pig).
But the museum hasn't neglected the classic actors of the past. You'll find figures of all of the superstars here: Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, the Little Rascals, Marilyn Monroe, Garbo, Valentino, Abbott & Costello, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, James Cagney, Shirley Temple, and many more.
As a side note, however, do you want to know just how fleeting fame can be in Hollywood? Well then, take a close look at the "Spartacus" set, and you'll notice that one of the "extras" is actually the figure of former "Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson, now sporting a new hairdo...
Take the time to read the small signs posted near each set. They not only include the names of each of the wax figures, but also provide fascinating facts about the movies, props, costumes and actors involved. (For instance, Gary Cooper's mother not only donated his costumes to the museum, but she also showed up each year on his birthday to visit his wax figure on the "High Noon" set.)
The museum chooses four new figures each year, based on popularity polls taken among visitors to the museum (who are asked to list the top five personalities they'd like to see added to the museum). Not all stars agree to have their likeness cast in wax, though...
The museum does little in the way of advertising (just a few brochures here and there), depending instead upon the proximity of the nearby Knott's Berry Farm to attract customers.
When you first arrive, they will sit you down next to a seated figure of George Burns and take your photo. After your visit to the museum is finished, you will find your personalized photo posted on a wall, and will be offered the chance to buy it.
The box office is open every day of the year, including holidays, Mon-Fri: 10 AM -6 PM; Fri-Sun: 9 AM - 7 PM. (The museum remains open for an hour and a half after the box office closes.) There's a free parking lot.
Getting there: Movieland is located in Buena Park, about 30 miles southeast of Hollywood, and about five miles northwest of Disneyland. It's just one block north of Knott's Berry Farm, on the west side of Beach Boulevard, across the street from Medieval Times. / From Disneyland, take the Santa Ana (5) Freeway north to the Beach Boulevard exit, then head south on Beach to the museum. / From Hollywood, take the Hollywood (101) Freeway south to the Santa Ana (5) Freeway. Take the Santa Ana Freeway south to Buena Park and get off on the Beach Boulevard exit. Head south on Beach about a mile, then turn right (west) into the museum's parking lot. Look for the huge Movieland sign. You can't miss it. / Alternatively, take the Artesia/Riverside (91) Freeway to the Beach Boulevard exit, then head south about half a mile.
more information on this subject, you can access Movieland's official website
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