If you’ve ever been to Universal Studios Florida, you’ve probably passed this gate on every single trip you have taken to the park without giving it a second glance. Located near the end of Hollywood Blvd between The Horror Makeup Show and Cafe LaBamba, directly across from Mel’s Diner is a gate that leads to support areas for the theme park.
The gate is often used to bring out parade floats, character vehicles like The Simpsons Winebago or the characters from “Madagascar.” In reality, the gate to Esoteric Pictures for guests leads nowhere. While it may look like the gates to another fancy movie studio just off the Universal Studios lot, it’s actually nothing more than a facade – a fake movie studio, if you will… which is entirely the point.
W.C. Fields was one of early Hollywood’s greatest comedic actors. The vaudevillian turned movie star originally inked a deal with Paramount Pictures, then later became well known for doing radio broadcasts with Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy. Those radio shows got the attention of Universal Studios who signed Fields on with them in 1939. Fields made some of his best pictures with Universal including “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man,” “My Little Chickadee” and easily his most famous movie of all time, “The Bank Dick.”
After completing filming on “The Bank Dick”, W.C. Fields became increasingly frustrated with the way Hollywood was making his films. In 1941, Universal Studios gave in to W.C. and let him have full control of the script, the staging and his choice of supporting actors when they produced “Never Give a Sucker An Even Break”.
“Sucker” starred Fields as himself pitching a “film-within-a-film” to the fictional Esoteric Pictures. There’s a moment early in the film where he stops in front of a billboard advertising Esoteric’s latest film, “The Bank Dick.”
If you take a look at the logo at the top of the billboard this one matches the one seen in Universal Studios Florida perfectly.
In the end, “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break” would end Fields’ career, as Universal Studios had to go back and reshoot several scenes before releasing the film and ultimately Fields as well. It was the last full-length feature “The Great Man” would star in. However, the legacy of the fictional Esoteric Pictures lives on at Universal Studios Florida. Next time you’re in the park, feel free to quiz your movie buff friends the significance of the sign and tell them you learned this little nugget at Theme Park University!