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COMING SOON AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

Universal set to serve up daily doses of parade, lagoon show

Dewayne Bevil

Theme Park Ranger

10:33 AM EDT, May 3, 2012

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Universal Studios is adding two events to its daily schedule that may encourage guests to stay into the night at the theme park.

Universal's Superstar Parade and "Universal's Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories" lagoon show officially debut Tuesday.

For the first time in the park's 22-year history, there will be a daily parade in the streets of Universal — although it has thrown Mardi Gras parades for 16 years and Macy's holiday parades for 10.

A parade is the best way to "deliver the character experience to guests," says Jim Timon, Universal's senior vice president of entertainment. Universal's Superstar Parade will focus on costumed characters from "Despicable Me," "Hop," "Dora the Explorer" and "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Each segment has a new state-of-the-art float with onboard audio systems and other amenities such as animatronics, confetti cannons, bubble machines and trampolines, Timon says. Drummers will accompany the "Hop" unit. Each float is more than 40 feet long and more than 25 feet high.

"There's tons of stuff to look for in each of the floats," he says. The floats will double as backdrops for meet-and-greets during the day.

"But then when you build up to that big parade, that's the show," Timon says. There will be two points where the caravan stops for brief performances by the entire cast.

"To use our terminology, this is not a 'roll and wave' parade," Timon says. "This is intended to be very energetic, very interactive, a lot of show energy in this parade."

The Superstar Parade will be staged in late afternoon — times will vary — just before dinnertime. In theory, guests will stay for the parade, then dinner, then the new Cinematic Spectacular.

The show, two years in the making, originally was intended to be an update of the old Universal 360 nighttime show, says show director Mike Aiello.

But Universal decided to salute its century of moviemaking by starting with a clean slate. That meant scrapping the "movie balls" that had dominated the 360 presentation, Aiello says.

Instead of projecting clips onto those globes, Universal is using three "aquagraphic curtains" on barges in the lagoon. Synchronized fountains and sprayers "connect the dots" down the waterway, Aiello says. There are fireworks at key moments during the 20-minute show.

The presentation, narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, is divided into categories such as heroes, horrors, laughter and triumph.

"I really wanted the show to follow a narrative flow that recognizes the power that film has on people," Aiello says.

The selection of clips runs from "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930) to two films coming soon to theaters, "Battleship" and "Snow White and the Huntsman."

"We were getting dailies back in from the actual shoots, and they would compile us key scenes to look at and see what we wanted to include in the edit," Aiello says.

While the action continues on the big watery screens, the fountains are choreographed to the soundtrack. Aiello says he wanted them "to act like as if you were to put a subwoofer underneath the lagoon — the show would reverberate the water."

But the film's the thing, of course.

"The entire focus of the show is the legacy of the films of Universal, so, therefore, by default, those water curtains on the barges became the focal point for the entire show," Aiello says. "Everything else beyond that supports that content."

An improvement from the 360 days is that the screens won't disrupt the sightline across the lagoon during the day. After Tuesday's grand-opening events, the scaffolding seen on the barges will fold down behind the gigantic Universal logos on the water level.

"It kind of acts as an anchor to the entire park," Aiello says.

dbevil@tribune.com or 407-420-5477