Universal Orlando will unveil a bundle of attractions — including its first daily parade, an after-dark salute to movies, a new Blue Man Group show, its “Despicable Me” production� and high-tech enhancements to its Spider-Man ride — during the next few months.
Although these multimillion-dollar additions are sprinkled across Universal property, the bulk will be inside the Universal Studios theme park, which has stood in the shadow of its sister park, Islands of Adventure, since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened there in 2010.
This spring, the Studios will introduce “Universal’s Superstar Parade” and the nighttime “Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Moments,” Universal executives announced Wednesday during a live webcast. They were flanked by Blue Man performers and yellow “Despicable Me” characters at Universal CityWalk.
Precise debut dates were not given. Universal would not discuss the price tag for these projects or whether they would lead to higher ticket prices.
Additional entertainment is a plus for Universal and its guests, said Matt Roseboom, publisher and editor of Orlando Attractions Magazine.
“It’s something to stick around for,” he said. “It will entertain people and keep the lines for the [other] attractions down for a little bit during that time.”
The webcast addressed attractions that will open this year — not the announced expansion of Wizarding World or the unannounced future of the area where the Jaws ride operated at Universal Studios until earlier this month.
“I think this seems like a big push for this year: to get people here this year, this summer,” Roseboom said. “I think the big expense is going to be whenever they announce what’s happening with Jaws.”
Increasing the profile of the Studios is essential after the company’s success with Potter, said Scott Smith, a faculty member at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality, where he teaches theme-park management.
“When you have two gates, you have to keep the value the same in the mind of the customer,” Smith said.
The parade will spotlight characters from “Despicable Me,” “Hop,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Dora the Explorer,” plus street performers and elaborate floats.
“These are, by far and away, the largest floats we’ve ever constructed,” said Jim Timon, Universal’s senior vice president of entertainment.
Universal creates floats for its Mardi Gras parade, which runs each year from February through April. The new parade will run year-round and make stops so that characters, dancers and other performers can engage spectators, Timon said.
A parade is a feel-good, cost-effective addition, Smith said. “It has bang-for-buck in that it’s big, it’s loud, it’s noticeable. Even if you’re not a parade watcher, you’re going to say to yourself, subconsciously, ‘There’s a lot going on at the Studios.’ ”
Movies and mayhem
“Cinematic Spectacular” is a salute to Universal Pictures’ history, projected on both sides of a series of water walls on the park lagoon at the end of the day. It is supplemented by colorful fountains, fireworks, lasers and narration by actor Morgan Freeman.
The 30-foot-by-30-foot “waterfall curtains” have never been done in North America, Timon said.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, the attraction based on characters from the 2010 film “Despicable Me,” is scheduled to open this summer at the Studios.
Its story is neither a rehash of the movie nor a preview of the sequel, set for theaters next year, said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative. Rather, it’s a new story based on the characters and “true to the spirit of the franchise,” he said.
In the attraction’s story, guests will visit the house of Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and train to be minions, the yellow, goggled, worker-bee creatures seen in the film.
The first batch of attractions will be the retooled Blue Man show and the miniature-golf courses called Hollywood Drive-In Golf. Both are set to open next month at Universal CityWalk.
In March, Islands of Adventure guests will see changes aboard the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride, which is receiving technological upgrades: reanimation and a new projection system.
“We basically had to start from scratch because we went from film to digital media,” Woodbury said.
Spider-Man’s story will remain as it has since the popular ride opened in 1999, but passengers will spy more details in the new high-definition version — plus extras such as people running down streets in the Doc Ock scene and a (computer-generated) cameo by Stan Lee, co-creator of the Spider-Man character, Woodbury said.
“When Spider-Man lands on the hood of the car, you’ll see an entirely new Spider-Man, just like you’ll see in the motion pictures, with a level of detail and richness in the picture [so] that you’ll see every thread of his costume — a totally different texture,” he said.