When you're someone like Lora Wallace (i.e. the show
director of Universal Studios Florida's new Superstar Parade) , and you've
spent weeks in the pre-dawn darkness teaching your young, energetic cast the
proper way to move through that theme park ... It's kind of ironic that the
light at the end of your tunnel turns
out to be the sun.
Photo by Nancy Stadler
"Yeah, the rehearsal phase -- when it comes to the
launch of a new parade -- can be pretty brutal," Wallace admitted when the
two of us talked this past Saturday night. Which was the very first time that
Universal's Superstar Parade had ever been performed in daylight and in front
of the paying customers.
"Our parade talent would typically arrive at the park
at 11 o'clock at night. We'd all get warmed up backstage and then get costumes
on. So step-off might be at 12:45. And once
that parade rehearsal had moved through the park, we'd then do another whole
different step-off at 3 o'clock in the morning. Which means that we'll be here
'til 5 o'clock in the morning," Lora explained. "But that's our
schedule for weeks at a time when we're in rehearsal mode on a new parade. The
cast typically did two full parades every night inside of an empty theme park."
But all of that dedication & determination definitely
paid off this past Saturday night as Wallace and her team got to watch
Universal's Superstar Parade roll through the New York section of that theme
park and then down Hollywood Boulevard. Where this parade then performed one of
their two in-park show stops. Where many of the characters from
"Despicable Me," "SpongeBob SquarePants," "HOP" and "Dora the Explorer" came off of
their respective floats and began boogieing to the beat.
That moment was especially gratifying to Lora. Given that
she has been involved with the Superstar Parade project back before there were
any floats or colorful costumes. Back when this entire project was just a blank
sheet of paper.
"Two years ago, we were tasked by Universal management to
come up with a parade that the entire family could enjoy, a show that would
appeal to both the littlest person as well as the oldest," Wallace
recalled. "Creating something that would cut across that many
demographics was kind of a tall order. But we jumped right in and then began talking
about which characters & franchises we should build this show around."
And to hear Jim Timon, the Senior Vice President of
Entertainment for the Universal Orlando Resort, an awful lot of thought went
into coming up with just the right mix of characters for Universal's Superstar
" That was an interesting process. We had a lot of
discussions about which characters should actually be in this parade. Who's got
that high level of kid awareness & family awareness. While -- at the same
time -- which characters would make great show. Who's interactive and got that
level of energy that we're looking for," Timon remembered.
The first set of characters that Jim & Lora settled on
were from Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's 2010 CG family
comedy, "Despicable Me."
Copyright 2012 Universal Studios. All rights reserved
"Obviously 'Despicable Me' is a huge property for us right
now and everyone just loves the Minions. So that one was kind of natural,"
Timon stated. "Given that Universal Studios has this great partnership
with Illumination Entertainment and Chris Meledandri, 'Despicable Me' and its
characters were part of this parade from Day One."
Likewise a certain cartoon character who lives in a
pineapple under the sea was a very early add to the line-up of Universal's Superstar
Copyright Universal Studios. All rights reserved
"Everybody loves SpongeBob. I mean, you can't go wrong
with adding a character like that to your parade. The demographic that SpongeBob
cuts across is absolutely huge," Jim stated." Given that he's already
so popular with our Guests, SpongeBob SquarePants just had to be part of this parade
along with all of the other residents of Bikini Bottom."
A similar sort of decision was made when it came to putting
the Dora & Diego characters in Superstar Parade. Folding those Nickelodeon
characters into this show then made sure that this parade had elements which
appealed to the youngest members of the family. Which brings us to
" 'HOP' was added to the Superstar Parade line-up
fairly late in our creative process," Timon admitted. "But as soon as
that Universal and Illumination Entertainment film came out last Spring, we
immediately saw the potential. We could use this movie and its characters as a
way to bring a lot of energy and color into our parade. So we quickly got to
work designing that float."
But for Lora Wallace ... Well, when she saw E.B. drumming in
"HOP" (the movie), she immediately saw a way to drop a piece of her
past into this production.
"I was a drummer in high school. I played marching
snare drum, so I know from personal experience how drums can fire up a crowd.
Which is why I felt that it was really important for our E.B. character -- when
the Guests see him in this parade -- that he be playing a drum set live just
like we saw that character do in the 'HOP' movie," Wallace said.
"Those auditions were kind of tough. We were looking for drummers with
lots of enthusiasm. Because we knew that -- once we threw them in that costume
-- they'd have so much fun with this part."
Speaking of fun ... The crowd at USF this past Saturday
night genuinely seemed to be having fun as they took part in the soft opening
of Universal's Superstar Parade. Which isn't to say that there weren't some Guests
complaints about this new piece of live entertainment. With the chief one being
that ... Well, Universal's Superstar Parade is kind of on the short side. Just
four highly themed floats and their supporting vehicles. Even with those two
three-and-a-half-minute-long show stops in New York and along Hollywood
Boulevard, Universal's Superstar Parade moved pretty quickly through that theme
In Universal Orlando's defense, these parade floats and the
characters that we see riding & dancing upon them aren't just going to be
glimpsed once a day. Universal Entertainment has decided to something pretty
bold with these new creative assets. Which is to regularly roll individual parade
floats out into the park over the course of the day and then park them in the
street. In essence, making them rolling stages for mini-shows that will then be
presented several times daily.
"That mini-show idea is something that we workshopped
back in November. Once we saw that it was viable, we pressed ahead with
developing four different mini-shows," Wallace explained. "Take --
for instance -- the Dora & Diego mini-show. Where we're going to teach our
Guests to count in English and Spanish by making use of these light-up
butterflies that float as props. Or when the
'Despicable Me' float comes onstage and then parks in front of Mel's and the
Pantages Theatre. After Gru and Vector get into out there in the street for a
bit, the minions and the girls will then come out and invite the Guests to come
dance to 'Boogie Fever.'"
So when you take into consideration those new mini-shows
that will be going on all around Universal Studios Florida over the course of
the day ... Universal's Superstar Parade then becomes, in essence, a victory
lap. The Guests' one last chance to see and interact with the characters that
they've been playing with all day.
Which then brings us to the big question. If you've gotta
pick a part of Universal Studios Florida to catch this parade's show stop in,
which should you choose : New York or Hollywood Boulevard?
"That all depends on the type of Guest experience that
you're looking to have," Lora said. "Hollywood Boulevard is a far tighter
street. So if you want to get up-close and personal with the characters, have
them be right there in front of you, Hollywood Boulevard is where you want to
be. Whereas in New York, the street is a lot wider in that part of the theme
park. So that's where you can stand in one location and -- by looking up and
down the street -- see more of the show. So if you want the full panorama of
performers & floats & performances, New York is probably where you want
Just be aware that -- in the coming weeks -- now that
Universal's Superstar Parade has shifted from its after-hours rehearsal
schedule to being performed daily in front of Guests in the park that this live
show may change as Wallace and her team make tweaks.
"It's one thing to roll a parade through an empty theme
park or perform your show stops in front of an invited group of Universal
employees -- who kind of know what to expect in regards to interaction from parade
performers -- and quite another to now perform in front of the public. Who
don't know what to do or where to look," Lora said. "So we'll be
making all sorts of adjustments as we go along so that we can then deliver the
very best Guest experience."
But what will make Wallace's life a whole lot easier to deal
with is that -- now that Universal's Superstar Parade is officially in soft
opening mode -- these tweaks & changes can finally be made in daylight.
"It was good today to actually be able to watch the
people watching this parade. To hear the reaction of the real Guests, not only
to the parade but also to the interactive stuff," Lora concluded.
"Don't worry. Our parade performers are just going to get better &
better as they go along here. Especially now that they no longer have to live
like vampires and can finally begin catching up on their sleep."
Great Story thanks! I don't know if this was pure luck or not but Nancy Stadler's photo of the "two fish" in that Spongebob picture is well, picture perfect! You see; that fish to the far left, the one with his leg bent up ibehind him, actually mimics a running gag in the Spongebob series in which that fish character will frequently yells, "My leg!" anytime an explosion or mass mayhem occurs in Bikiini Bottom. The odd hapinstance that the picture was taken at the exact moment to show his "LEG" is kinda funny as I'm fairly certain the performer didn't do this on purpose. If so, then kudos the the fishy performer for going above and beyond to recreate the character to a T. A great rehersal can make a or break a parade. It looks like they're having a good time regardless of the many hours they practiced. They're efforts appears to be rewarded!
Great Pictures and Article.
Wow! Costumes, floats and vehicles look fantastic! I can't wait to see this parade in August.
I'm quite impressed with the quality of those floats! Can't wait to see this when I go this summer.