I dropped in on one of Universal Studios' technical rehearsals for its upcoming lagoon show called "Universal's Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories."
The show officially debuts May 8 (along with Universal's Superstar Parade), but there will be nights before then when the crew runs the show as a dress rehearsal of sorts. Universal hasn't announced a schedule for these run-throughs, but if you're in the theme park that day, you are allowed to stay and see the Spectacular. Look for signage, both electronic and sandwich board-style around the edge of the lagoon.
Universal's description of the show is pretty spot-on: "powerful moments will be shown in crystal-clear clarity on cutting-edge waterfall screens within the Universal Studios lagoon -- surrounded by colorful, dramatically synchronized fountains and pyrotechnics and all against a powerful musical score."
An obvious departure from the lagoon show of the past (Universal 360) is the way guests will see the images. Trashed are 360's globes in favor of three large water screens anchored in the lagoon. Each has base with oversized "UNIVERSAL" on it, but I didn't find that distracting during the show.
I'm told all that scaffolding for the water screens collapses down to the water level, which should result in a less cluttered look during the day. They would be ratcheted up for the show. That could start happening before May 8.
About 15 minutes before the show, the water screens were activated. They ran through a series of tricks, spraying from the top down in various patterns. It was not part of the show proper, but it was a little mesmerizing.
The screens are flanked by a string of fountains and "misters" (water features, not young men) that snake down the lagoon and connect the three screens. They have their share of tricks, too, plus lighting effects that complement the action on screen and soundtrack. I was surprised to see a film strip projected on the low-lying screens. It looked like it was rolling out of the lagoon.
There are signs indicating splash zones where you might get wet from the misters, although I suspect that depends on how windy it is. I don't think we're talking Shamu-level splashing here.
The film is divided into categories -- horror, heroes, good versus evil, laughter and triumph. It has a "Best of" feel, a collage of a century of Universal Pictures. Universal says there are scenes from 200 films included. There's a tendancy toward sound bites, especially in the humor segment ("This one time ... at band camp," "It's not a tumor!").
There were repeated appearances of a couple of films that made me think of Orlando theme-park attractions of the past: "Jaws" and "Back to the Future." There's also a glimpse of "Snow White and the Huntsman," which isn't in theaters until June 1.
Actor Morgan Freeman narrates, and fireworks go off from atop three buildings around the lagoon. It lasted about 20 minutes.
Cinematic Spectacular is designed to be an end-of-day/ cherry-on-top event. Universal says it will be presented year-round, except during annual and special events.