It’s Been a Year, But We Still Keep Finding Hidden Secrets of WandaVision!

A whole year ago the MCU launched its first streaming TV series with the ambitious and quirky WandaVision. As many readers will recall, I offered a series of articles at that time, detailing “hidden secrets” behind the shooting locations, sitcom roots, and odds and ends of the series. I even offered WandaVision Bingo for the final two episodes. What more could there be to say about Wanda Maximoff and her misadventure in Westview, New Jersey?

As it turns out, there’s a lot more. A first anniversary look back at the final episode, as well as a few fresh mysteries solved and mysteries posed are in order. And, as far as spoilers go, if you haven’t seen this series through to its conclusion, what are you doing here?

The biggest mystery explained in the series final episodes is exactly how Wanda and Vision ended up in their cozy dream home in the sitcom-perfect world of Westview. Wanda’s grief and pain unleashed some powerful magic, and the next thing the audience saw, a house and husband sprang into existence. But unexplained is why, in the flashback retelling of this in episode eight (“Previously On”), we see Wanda apparently creating… the wrong house.

Compare this house with the one seen in episode one (“Filmed Before a Live Audience”). Glimpsed briefly as Wanda unleashes the “Hex” that would encompass Westview, it is the two-story green house that is seen in episode seven (“Breaking the Fourth Wall”). The one-story house seen in episode one is not only in black and white, its front door is framed by simple clapboard.

As the camera pulls back through the front door during Wanda’s creative magic, we see that the front door is framed by fieldstone. This can also be clearly seen when Wanda and Vision return home with Billy and Tommy after their final battles in episode nine (“The Series Finale”).

The sequence seen inside the house also makes it clear that Wanda is creating the black and white dream home of episode one. Vision is formed in what is clearly the living room of that very house.

This Vision is a black and white version of Wanda’s desire, gazing with first surprise and then delight as Wanda completes her transformation.

First seen in color in her contemporary guise, Wanda steps forward to reveal herself as a black and white, sitcom-perfect newlywed wife.

Perhaps the explanation lies in the structure of episode eight, which is a series of flashbacks. But it is nonetheless a source of some confusion that Wanda’s first(?) sitcom house is actually her last.

A few other mysteries are also posed, as well as a few solved, in looking back at WandaVision. A minor one concerns the neighborhood surrounding the Westview Swim Club in episode two (“Don’t Touch That Dial”).

There is an establishing shot of Dottie lecturing the committee. The ladies are seated on three sides of a central table.

The camera shot directly toward Dottie and Beverly reveals houses directly across the street.

The background of the shot toward Wanda and Geraldine takes in the pool and clubhouse beyond.

But it is the rather prominently placed house in the shot (seen briefly only twice) behind Dottie’s other three handmaidens that was initially confusing to me. You see, in the reality of the Warner Brothers backlot, they would be seated in front of a distant view of storefronts, seen across an expanse of lawn. Where, exactly, are they?

Sharp eyed viewers of episode six [“All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”] may have spotted that house on the street where Wanda and “Pietro” have taken the boys trick or treating. The problem is, that street is many miles away at Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch. So did the producers take those three demurely seated ladies all the way up to the ranch to shoot two reaction shots? Or (most likely) are they seated before a green screen, with the house, street and hillside digitally inserted?

Also seen in episode six was a distinctive cul-de-sac with three radiating driveways. This same location turns up again during the aerial battle between Vision and White Vision. As they plummet to earth, literally locked in each other’s arms, they leave a fairly substantial impact crater at the intersection. It is so deep that Vision must climb out, before he is again caught by the relentless White Vision.

Moments later White Vision beams a powerful energy bolt against Vision. But at the entrance to the cul-de-sac there is now no trace of the impact crater.

As noted in one of my previous articles, there is a technical term for this in the film industry. It is called a mistake.

One thing is clear, based on clues from episode six. This battle is taking place near Ellis Road, the original boundary of Wanda’s hex, far from the center of town. So it is something of a surprise when the twins, gazing through an upstairs window at the house across the street, suddenly see the Visions flying above their neighborhood.

Just how far from downtown is the Vision residence? Although there are few wide shots of the area around town square, at least one shows what appears to be the house across the street very close by. (It can be seen in the upper right-hand corner of this image.) But that cannot be the house across the street, because this one has a house next door… that looks a lot like Wanda’s dream home.

A view from far, far above Westview is also of little help. Aside from the fact that the hex cannot be seen, there are no truly recognizable landmarks. Except, perhaps, for that water tower that looms over downtown.

As readers here already know, that water tower was digitally inserted into the screenshots of Westview. Any lingering doubts about this may now be definitively laid to rest, thanks to the documentary featurette Assembled, dealing with the making of WandaVision.

In this behind-the-scenes production shot, we can see that there is not only no water tower, but that the production also digitally erased the nearby hills, along with the conical roof of the brick building on the right.

In another screenshot of the broadcast, we can more clearly see the tower, as well as the digitally inserted billboard on top of the appliance store where Agatha has chosen a vantage point to threaten Wanda’s hold over the townspeople.

Another behind-the-scenes production shot even more clearly shows Agatha’s perch, along with the hills and without the billboard.

Wanda and Agatha’s flying sequences revealed perhaps more than the producers may have wanted of the curious geography of Westview. Angled streets and oddly shaped buildings may be masked by artful camera angles on the ground. From the air, it requires a lot of digital wizardry.

This shot clearly shows the corner tower, whose roof has been digitally removed, as well as the digitally inserted billboard on the roof of the appliance store.

From the air, we see the Coronet Theater, Vision’s office building, and the distinctive roofline of Wentworth’s Department Store.

From the ground, the same view, seen here as Wanda is closing the hex, is quite different.

But let’s get back to that water tower and see if it offers further clues about the geography of Westview.

In this broadcast shot from episode nine, the tower appears to be quite a distance from Sherwood Drive. We also see the other end of the street for the first time. There is a cross street and the edge of a house with an RV parked at the side (here shown after it has been destroyed in the battle of the Visions).

Curiously, the actual location, Blondie Street on the Warner Brothers Ranch Lot, does not have a cross street with a white house at this location. In fact, as seen in this Google Earth view, there is a fairly open area here, with a small parking area and some production offices.

We are treated to a more expansive view of this end of Sherwood Drive during the sequence in which Wanda throws Monica out of her house. More of that substantial white house can be seen, along with the RV. Interestingly, there is actually a rather large brick building just to the left of this behind the trees. It appeared as the college campus in the TV series The Middle. But that white house does not exist.

Here is a closer view, showing the moment that White Vision is hurled into the parked RV by Vision.

Vision turns his back on the explosive results of his maneuver and glides to the ground in front of a stunned Wanda.

While they could have built, then destroyed a house and RV at the end of Blondie Street, it still would not have provided a distant view of that water tower. The actual answer to “How did they do that?” was answered in another screenshot from Assembled.

As Paul Bettany in his Vision suit is lowered to the ground, with some help from a green-suited crew member, a large blue screen in the background provides a perfect canvas for whatever the digital wizards need to deliver.

These pyrotechnics, and the reemergence of White Vision, did not take place on a backlot in Hollywood.

The far end of the street could also be seen at the beginning of episode nine, as Agatha holds Tommy and Billy captive. With just a tug on her magical lassoes, she yanks the boys to the ground, before she herself is hit by a well-aimed attack by Wanda.

Another screenshot from Assembled reveals that the boys and Agatha were not treated quite as roughly as it appears on the screen. The padded cushions, of course, would be digitally removed in post-production.

This shot also gives the answer to another question: Was a car actually thrown through the window of “Dottie’s” house? The large green screen covering that section of the house answers the question.

Is it real? Or is it digital? Only the filmmakers know for sure (although we have some fairly persuasive clues).

As for these two shots, I am certainly not the first, nor will I be the last, to congratulate the makers of WandaVision for reaching all the way back to The Wizard of Oz to provide definitive proof of whether a witch has truly been crushed. (Perhaps next time, Wanda should drop an entire house on her instead.)

There were apparently questions in certain quarters whether the doctor’s home and driveway, seen briefly in episode three (“Now in Color”) was a studio set or location in Georgia. A screenshot from Assembled lays all doubt to rest.

The “easter egg” during the end credits of the final episode found Monica accompanying an FBI agent into the town cinema. That exterior is, of course, at Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Valencia. Once inside, however, viewers were treated to a rare view of the Disney Studio theater, part of the original facilities built under Walt Disney’s watchful eye in Burbank.

It is interesting to note that actress Teyonah Parris was interviewed in costume and on the studio lot for her portion of Assembled. The steps behind her are attached to the Hyperion Bungalow, with the studio commissary in the background.

Assembled also offered a tantalizing glimpse of something that might have been. Perhaps.

During an on-screen discussion of the design process, a series of conceptual sketches are shown. For an early concept of Westview’s town square, a distinctive building with a clock tower is shown. Fans of Back to the Future and several thousand other film and television programs would recognize this as Courthouse Square on the famous Universal backlot.

Close examination of the street scene rendering reveals that this is the street opposite the courthouse. Even the distinctive gas station is there, although as of this writing it is concealed behind a quaint log structure, part of the extensive set dressing for the streaming TV series Rutherford Falls.

It really doesn’t matter if we will ever know why the producers chose to shoot WandaVision on Disney’s own lot at the Golden Oak Ranch, as well as at the Warner Ranch in Burbank. What is important is that each decision made a major contribution to the MCU’s successful foray into streaming series. For its fans, Blondie Street will forever be the location of Wanda’s dream home.

This could have been the final word about this. However, as they say on TV, “But wait, there’s more.” In one of those complicated real estate transactions that happen far too frequently in Hollywood, the Warner Ranch property is scheduled to disappear forever within the next two or three years.

The Ranch was originally acquired by Columbia Pictures in 1934, and within the next few years was the home of Frank Capra’s Shangri La, the Kirby estate from “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” the cozy suburban neighborhood of Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead, as well as a host of westerns, crime dramas, and comedies from the golden age of film.

The lot was just as active for television series. Here Superman foiled crime on the streets of Metropolis. The Partridge family rolled out in their psychedelic bus. Samantha Stevens evaded her nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz. And for Gidget, the entire Pacific Ocean was here.

In more recent years these homes have been seen in such feature films as Lethal Weapon, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, True Lies and Pleasantville. TV series include Young Sheldon, The Middle, and Friends. In fact, the fountain visible in the middle right of the image above was seen at the beginning of every episode.

Lest there be any doubt about this backlot’s fate, in the summer of 2019 Warner Brothers quietly removed the fountain and placed it in a small park on their main lot, where tour guides now point it out as the “original Friends fountain” as part of their tour.

What will replace all that? That complicated deal mentioned above involves the complete removal or destruction of every structure and facility on the lot. Replacing them will be sixteen soundstages, built in four sets of four stages. Two new office buildings and a parking structure will complete the ensemble. When the developer has finished the work, the whole facility will be leased back to Warner Brothers.

Here is how the nearly ninety-year-old Ranch looks as of this writing, as seen on Google Earth.

And here are the “improvements,” scheduled to take place between 2023 and 2025. No happy Hollywood ending here…

But, not wishing to end this final look at WandaVision on an entirely negative note, bear in mind that Blondie Street will forever be the location for the dream home of Wanda, Vision, and Billy and Tommy. Although we may not visit it in person, it will always remain in our hearts.

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