In the spirit of those old-time Saturday matinee specials, Universal serves up a special treat just before the park closes on those sultry summer evenings. Itís designed to send you off into the evening towards CityWalk in a good mood and it succeeds pretty well.
Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular
Rating: * * * *
Type: Multimedia extravaganza
Time: 15 minutes
Short Take: A pleasing punctuation to your day
Those four large globes you saw floating in the lagoon all day come to life at night, just before park closing, in this seasonal show that runs only when the park is open late. As the sky darkens, they look quite lovely as projectors inside fill them with scudding white clouds and blue sky, all of which is reflected in the water below.
When the show begins, the globes become circular movie screens (hence the 360 of the title) on which a kaleidoscopic survey of Universal film history is projected. Covering “almost a century” of Universal movies, the clips range from silent classics like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (that’s Lon Chaney under all that hideous makeup) to recent studio releases like Frost/Nixon (that’s Frank Langella under all that hideous makeup).
The film editors, who collaborated with director John Landis, have assembled the film clips in a series of thematic montages: action movies open, followed by patriotic and inspirational films, horror flicks, comedies, romances, and epics. Some find it hard to discern a throughline to all this, but what the show may lack in coherence it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. The rapid-fire selections range from Hellboy to Hitchcock and from Gregory Peck to Rowdy Roddy Piper. The screens (all four show exactly the same clips) are filled with monsters and mobsters, aliens and astronauts, comedy and carnage, heroes and the Holocaust. Fireworks punctuate key screen moments, ingenious projections appear on the walls of buildings around the lagoon, and laser lights pierce the night sky, creating fun effects in the smoke from the fireworks.
The show seems to come to a touching end with E.T.'s famous line, "I'll be right here," suggesting that all these films reside forever in our collective memories. But then John Belushi appears in a clip from Animal House to say, "Over? Who says it's over?" which cues a razzle-dazzle, slam-bang finale that fills the sky overhead with fireworks. Considering that Universal sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood, it's a pretty amazing display.
The best seats in the house. First, understand that you will probably be standing for this show, although some people find places to sit, especially on the rocks on the World Expo side of the lagoon. The most comprehensive view is from the deck behind Richter's Burgers, which sits directly below the show technicians' control booth. Standing near Bull's Gym, where the New York set meets Production Central, offers a fun view of all four globes and an excellent perspective on the fireworks finale. Another good option is the second floor balcony above Lombard's Seafood Grille. A late meal at Lombard's and a friendly server may open the right doors. From here you have an especially nice view of the facade of the Men In Black building, which is completely filled with projections at points in the show.
Note: This show is only presented on nights when the park is open late, which means during the summer (usually July 4th through August), from Christmas time through New Year's Eve, during Spring Break, and at other times of peak attendance.
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