The Ellen DeGeneres Show, taped at Universal Orlando CityWalk on Sunday, April 3, 2011, will hit the airwaves today featuring special guest Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”) and a musical performance by Kelly Clarkson. It’s the second of two “Ellen” episodes taped at the popular theme park destination this year, the fifth consecutive year DeGeneres has brought her show to Orlando. And I was at the taping for today’s episode.
Photos were not allowed during the taping, but I brought my iPhone and Nintendo 3DS along to capture the before and after of what became roughly five hours of fun in the sun. Below I bring you a report from the day’s events, as I saw them, with 2D and 3D pictures along the way. So get out your red and blue glasses (or Nintendo 3DS) and take a trip to Universal Orlando to see Ellen DeGeneres with me.
(And yes, the 3D photos are completely gratuitous but I figured they’d be fun to see anyway. Click “Red/Blue 3D” below each each picture to view in 3D with anaglyph glasses or right click, Save As… the “Download MPO” links to view glasses-free 3D on the Nintendo 3DS. More instructions here.)
Before the Show
With tickets to the 3 p.m. taping, we were told to arrive by noon to check in upstairs at the Groove club. Getting to Universal CityWalk at 11:30 a.m., we immediately spotted signs pointing us in the right direction, indicating no more tickets were available.
Along the path to check-in, we passed behind the music stage where Duran Duran would be performing soon for the noon taping.
We arrived to our ticketed check-in line, which had around 30-40 people ahead of us already. It ended up being good timing because we comfortably stood in the shade until noon. Plus, by noon, a long line of hundreds of ticketed people had formed behind us. Despite what the sign says, seats are assigned (more or less) on a first-come, first-serve basis. Those who are near the front of this line generally get better seats during the taping than those who show up later, so I highly recommend getting there 30-60 minutes before the “required” check-in time for future tapings.
Once through security (metal detectors), plenty of “Ellen” merchandise was available for purchase. Everything was reasonably priced, with T-shirts at $15 or $20. It’s mostly women’s apparel (naturally, given Ellen’s demographic) but one or two men’s shirts were offered as well.
By then it was a little after noon and time to wait. The noon taping had begun and was being shown live on the big screen inside the contained area.
Only those with tickets to the 3 p.m. taping were allowed in this area, which offered access to the Groove club and Latin Quarter restaurant, which was not serving food. Next to the Latin Quarter is the Latin Express location which offered hot dogs, pretzels, and danishes.
Inside the Groove, free sodas were handed out at the bar.
Back outside, many gathered to watch the noon taping as it happened.
LL Cool J was the first guest on the noon taping. Yes, he’s wearing the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter.
Nearby, several large trucks were parked throughout CityWalk, carrying equipment for the show.
We moved as close as we could to the music stage to hear Duran Duran perform three songs live while watching them on the big screen.
We wish we could have had the view below, but hearing them live was still great, especially for free:
After the noon taping wrapped, everyone with orange tickets (the majority of those in attendance) were asked to pile into the Groove club while those with blue tickets (VIPs and contest winners) entered the Latin Quarter.
The club’s balcony offered a great view of everyone lining up outside as ticket numbers were called. First it was blue ticket-holders, followed by orange. This part took around 30 minutes and caused many to become antsy, pacing around and not following directions. I was more than happy to wait inside the club with air conditioning, where they wanted us, but some simply couldn’t stand still for that long, opting instead to check and recheck the line while waiting for their numbers.
Finally at around 2:15 p.m. we walked in an orderly, guided fashion through CityWalk to take our seats for the show.
It’s an exciting moment to sit down in front of the “Ellen” stage after hours of waiting nearby. Rows and rows of seats are set up and each guest is told where to sit. The first three rows seemed to be for the blue tickets (VIPs, etc.), so we were fortunate enough to end up in the fourth row on the right side (stage left).
Both sides of the stage had large monitors for the audience to watch prerecorded video clips and live shots during the taping. Before it began, highlights of past “Ellen” shows were played, with an emphasis on dancing, of course.
Looking to the right, we could see the entrance to Universal Studios and the famous Universal globe.
Further to the right is a grassy area that ultimately would become filled with overflow ticket-holders and those in standby.
To the left was a view of the Islands of Adventure lighthouse and Incredible Hulk coaster.
No photos were allowed during the taping, but you can watch the show as it’s aired on TV today. Special guest Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”) was quite funny and, along with Ellen, painted a couple audience members as clowns for a gag. Kelly Clarkson performed, though from the stage seats we could only watch on the big screens, as the music stage was out of view. 7-year-old Dinosaur expert Riley was in attendance as well, having toured the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure the day prior with hilarious results.
After the Show
After taping wrapped, Ellen came out one last time to thank the audience for putting up with the hot sun. And it was definitely hot. Sunscreen is highly recommended to sit out in this audience. Likewise, the most welcome part of the taping was when I received a direct hit from one of Ellen’s many water cannons placed around the stage. This has become an annual tradition for her Orlando tapings and I was thrilled to have it aimed right at me.
When the taping concluded, audience members could get closer to the stage and take pictures.
On the way out, I snapped the below photo of “CityWalk the Plank,” a contraption set up for both tapings that sent audience members and celebrity guests into the lake.
And Ellen had the controls to dunk them. Funny stuff.
All in all, from the moment I left my house to the time the taping ended was a little more than 5 hours. Most of it was sitting and waiting, but for the price (free!) it was worth every second. I’d gladly attend another “Ellen” taping at Universal if she returns next year – and if I can score tickets for guaranteed seats once again.
Since it’s likely that Ellen will return to Universal Orlando with her show again next year, it’s possible that you’re reading this in 2012, hoping to find out how to secure tickets to see a taping. I had searched online to find out the details of this year’s taping. As it turns out, it can be quite easy, if you’re either lucky or willing to stand in a very long line.
There are three basic ways to see a taping of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” at Universal CityWalk. The easiest is to simply watch for the announcement of tickets becoming available online. This year, it happened in the middle of February. I submitted my information on the show’s web site and two weeks later got a call that I would be receiving guaranteed seats to one of the two tapings. Simple! Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for everyone, as there are only so many guaranteed seats to go around. There are somewhere around 600 of them. And that leads to the next way of seeing the taping: wait in line.
Those without tickets can arrive to Universal Orlando early in the morning and wait in the “standby” line. When I arrived at 11:30 am, there were at least a couple hundred people in the standby line hoping to get in to the 3pm taping (which I had tickets for). If some ticket-holders don’t show up, they’ll pull people from the standby line. There are also a few overflow areas on the grass that the show wants to see packed with people. These areas don’t have seats, but still offer a good view of the talk show stage. The music stage is set up in a completely different area of Universal CityWalk from the talk show stage and no tickets are offered for this year, so those wanting only to see the musical acts can hope to get into this area.
The third way to see the show is to simply linger around CityWalk. You won’t get up close to the stages, but you’ll still be able to see and hear the show from a distance. Of course, other VIP tickets are given out for various reasons (contests, etc.) but those details vary from year to year.
You can view all these 3D photos plus more from Universal Orlando CityWalk and Walt Disney World theme parks in our new gallery, Theme Parks in 3D! There you’ll also find handy ZIP files that allow you to download all the MPO files for viewing on a Nintendo 3DS, as well as instructions on how to transfer the files.