This past August I had the chance to do my first 'proper' Universal Orlando visit. I've been to Universal Orlando several times, either as an addition to a WDW trip or while staying at friend's houses. Neither offered the 'get up for gate opening, stay, see the nighttime show, leave' rhythm you acquire after a day or two on a normal WDW vacation. But this time was different, as I stayed an extra two days around the corner from Universal on I-Drive, and exclusively visited those parks.
|When Joe stays in Orlando, he stays in the Four Points by Sheraton near Orlando.|
With Disney on a tick-tock cycle of additions and Universal still working on its Potter 2.0 expansion (remember, this was before Transformers was green lit), Universal took the chance to flesh out the parks experience even more. The "Year to be Here" promotion got locals back to the parks and kept the tourists locked inside the resort longer.
Of the offerings, the new Universal Studios lagoon show, "Universal Cinematic Spectacular", piqued the interests of the fan community the most. It's no secret that Universal has had a, *ahem*, hard time bringing a lagoon show to life.
Disney is always been better at thematic, broad attractions that focused on mood and atmosphere over story and narrative. As such, Disney historically has three distinct advantages over Universal parks:
- Elaborate E Ticket dark rides that focus on visuals over thrills (Pirates, Haunted Mansion, etc)
- Worthwhile parades
- Best in class nighttime shows, and spawning the concept of 'nighttime spectaculars'
So when the domes were deflated and water screens were hoisted, the same old Universal Creative question came up: can they create an atmosphere and theme without a story? Yes, Universal has created a nighttime show that acts as a night cap and lives up to it's name.
The show whisks guests through the vast catalogue of Universal movies by focusing on the various genres that move and inspire us. The water fall screens act as the main focus as Morgan Freeman narrates our journey. The fountains and spray screens fill in the lagoon with color and movement while fireworks accent moments and action on the screen. Cinematic Spectacular embraces the best qualities of movies and how they affect us. After just one showing I was already lining my Netflix queue.
Cinematic Spectacular works because it has an anti-plot; there is no story beyond collected themed presentations. There is no Mickey battling evil, the creation of the world, or kid's dreams. It's movies, fireworks, and water.
The most hyped part of the show, the fountains, are the lowest focus of the show. The unique water droplet curtains aren't used to much effect beyond the preshow, and the fountains just go up, down, and sway. This is odd, as concept art and announcement hype compared this to "Universal World of Color", and even some internet personalities (*shivers*) dubbed it "UniColor".
Comparing Cinematic Spectacular to World of Color was highly prevalent during the announcement and installation period. But why? How can someone who sees this...
|Image Copyright Orlando Insider 2012|
compare it to this...
|Believe it or not, it's more impressive in person.|
To me this is a core problem with the themed entertainment fan community. Nothing can stand on it's own or be looked at inside a vacuum. When this is used positively, one can get guests to try new, and sometimes better things ("It's just like Space Mountain honey!"). When used negatively we get comparisons that set up for disappointment or belittlement ("It's nowhere as good as Indiana Jones Adventure.") I believe fans of themed entertainment have a desire to imagine and soak up as much as possible. It's not just good enough to see Magic Kingdom, but now you have to see Disneyland in California, Tokyo, and Paris. What are the differences? What's better? What should come 'to the states'? And what is next to be created? So when Universal announces a new show that shows concept art like this...
|Image Copyright Universal Orlando 2012|
People naturally compare it to World of Color, a known entity. Something from across the country, a show many have not seen.
Do I blame them? No. But I hope this example of expectations and comparisons will have some people looking at how they view the discussion groups and Twitter. Cinematic Spectacular is a great show that stands on it's own, and should be treated as such. Now please excuse me while I go go watch ET again...
|Image Copyright Universal Orlando 2012|