That backlot blaze at Universal Studios ironically may prove a boon for Disney, which was in the process of filming two movies there when the fire roared through earlier this month. The flames destroyed Universal’s famed multimillion-dollar New York Street set, where Disney’s Oscar, a slapstick comedy directed by John Landis and starring Sly Stallone, was filming. The blaze also set back production on another Disney feature, Newsies, which was to have been shot on the same set. Sources say Disney might use the insurance it may collect for both Oscar and Newsies to build its own New York Street.
Universal’s set had been the home of Dirty Harry and Dick Tracy. It was there that John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd played The Blues Brothers, where buildings rocked in Earthquake. Also lost was Sting Alley, home to movie hoodwinks Robert Redford and Paul Newman. ”They’ll rebuild it,” Newman says philosophically. ”It’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile, the fire (a guard on the lot has been charged with arson) has caused a dozen productions to scurry to find other locations. A Universal vice president refused to identify which projects would be affected. But Universal’s King Kong is okay. Though the flames brushed the computerized Kong and sprinklers wet his whiskers (fire fighters even had to tap water from the studio’s The Ten Commandments Red Sea exhibit), the ape was saved. Says spokesman Jim Yeager, ”I could have kissed him on the lips.”