The word “unique” came up more than once when discussing the experience of bringing a set of scenes from Jordan Peele’s Nope to Universal Studios Hollywood’s iconic studio tour.
Universal Creative VP Jon Corfino explained, “We’ve never done anything before, we’re jumping into a whole new IP day and set a date for the movie to hit theaters.”
From Friday, July 22, 2022, guests will be able to experience Jupiter’s claims on location. It is a fictional theme park set in Southern California’s Santa Clarita Valley and a key location in the film.
“It’s really surreal that you’re in a movie that’s on location in this way,” Nope’s lead actor Daniel Kaluuya told me recently. “I never thought I’d get to that place in my life, but Certainly not in a film on location until the film is released or reviews. It’s a very surreal experience.”
I caught up with Corfino to discuss why Peele was involved in the project, what made it possible, and what opportunities it opened up for filmmakers, creatives, and theme park growth.
Simon Thompson: When did the discussion start to bring Jupiter’s demands to the exterior?
Jon Corfino: We started discussions less than a year ago. We’re always evaluating everything because a lot of things are happening all the time. We came to know about Jordan’s movies, so we went out to visit him. It all came together quickly.
Thompson: It’s very rare to be able to add elements of a movie to a Studio Tour before the movie is out, right?
Corfino: I think that’s the exciting part, it really comes together. Jordan is in the realm of many of our other featured attraction directors and writer-directors, like Steven Spielberg and The War of the Worlds or Robert Zemeckis and Back to the Future. A solemnity followed. We’re very good at showing Hollywood authenticity because there’s nothing more real than that. It’s another thing to bring a just-discontinued collection to life on the day and date of its release.
Thompson: Let’s talk about the process. How is it different from how you would normally use attractions like Jurassic World or War of the Worlds?
Corfino: It was unique to get out of the set during filming, to work with Jordan and the production team, to be part of the filmmaking process. We got excellent access to help understand the film and figure out how we can do it. Often, the movie has already been released, and you can customize what you want to add based on the attraction or setting. Being there in real time is very different and very exciting. Jordan was very enthusiastic and when I first went there to see him, he was very excited. This makes me even more excited. That’s one of those times when you’re like, ‘Oh boy. Don’t we have the coolest jobs in the world?
Thompson: Creating appeal from scratch was a challenge. It must be a different challenge to shoot this film from one location, break it down, and then rebuild it perfectly on location?
Corfino: Each one is going to be a bit unique, but whenever we’re building anything Tour-specific on the field, it’s a little bit different than building your standard set. This is a temporary structure that only persists during filming. Whenever we do something here that is close to a guest, or we drive through it, we have to actually build it, so it’s a permanent situation. We are very familiar with this. In this case, we are very lucky because where they build these collections and their methods, they are built in a very durable and piecewise way. I don’t want to say it’s easy because our team worked really hard on it, but it’s a lot better than people think and it’s worked out well for us.
Thompson: In your previous experience developing things in the park and as part of a studio tour, what was the most similar?
Corfino: We never did anything, we jumped into a brand new IP date and a movie hitting theaters. In all other cases, it’s either a movie or a series of previous movies. If you want to go back to Back to the Future, when we built that attraction, a couple of movies had been made. Jupiter’s claim is unique.
Thompson: When creating an attraction with a wall around it, you can make it quiet and stop snooping. Jupiter’s claim is wide open. You and your team have been building this on location, and it’s not easy to keep these things under wraps. How did you do this?
Corfino: I don’t know how successful we have been with this (laughs). We had the parking lot overlooking that area and we had some very excited guests and fans, so I think there was quite a bit of scuttlebutt in there before we uncovered and opened it up.
Thompson: With the success of the project, does this open doors and opportunities for other filmmakers to do similar things in the future?
Corfino: We’re a very large company, and it’s actually a fusion of working with our feature film team, film marketing, Jordan and our park operations team. We work closely with teams within NBC Universal, consistently. One of the things I would say that feels great is that because the time is right, we’re seeing so much collaboration and agility across many different teams, which means this executes flawlessly. I don’t get a lot of calls from outside filmmakers, but you never know.
Thompson: I knew Jordan had a chance to sign this contract and get it done. Did any other cast and crew have a chance to experience this up close? What is their feedback?
Corfino: It’s pretty amazing. Jordan and I enjoyed a moment at a recent press conference because he was there. That’s one of the things that started on his set, and we said, “You know, I think we’re going to do this,” so we could just sit there and take it. You also have to understand that he’s busy making movies and making final cuts; his life is hectic and stressful, but he’s still a partner in all of it. It was a great moment to watch it and go, “Wow, that’s great.” His production team and some very talented people were there, and the response was great. The fans and those who were there that night, anyone who saw it, were very excited about it.
No, it’s in theaters now.