While the buzz in Central Florida is often about Disney’s expansion of Fantasyland, the latest action is at Legoland, which just reopened the newly rehabilitated Splash Island water park, and Universal, which has added its first large-scale daily parade, a nightly light and water show and miniature golf.
The second half of the year, however, will belong to Disney, which will open several key components of its Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom and a pirate attraction at Hollywood Studios.
There’s a lot going on at Florida’s theme parks, most of which will open a new ride or attraction during 2012. Some are based on new technology, which will turn us all into minions on the Despicable Me ride at Universal Studios, immerse guests in the 360-degree projection of a sea turtle’s life at SeaWorld’s Turtle Trek, transport guests through a magical mirror into storytelling by Belle and Lumiere at Magic Kingdom, and project scenes from classic movies on waterfalls over the Universal Studios Lagoon.
Other are relatively simple and low-tech, like the zip lines at Florida EcoSafaris, water slides and plastic rafts at Legoland’s water park, miniature golf at Universal and the Casey Jr. Water play area at Fantasyland.
Here’s a rundown:
Universal Studios added two entertainment attractions last month, a parade and a light-and-water show, both of them daily, that fill in some blanks in the park’s offerings.
Universal’s Superstar Parade has four huge floats representing Despicable Me, SpongeBob SquarePants and the Bikini Bottom characters, Diego and Dora the Explorer, and the crew from the movie Hop, plus a raft of smaller ones with breakout characters like the villainous Vector from Despicable Me and SpongeBob’s buddy Patrick the starfish. They’re accompanied by a couple hundred dancers and other street performers in a rockin’ joyful mid-afternoon parade that stops twice for performances, on the “streets” of New York and Hollywood. The style is similar to the longtime daily parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but its distinctiveness comes from the popular characters from Universal’s animated movies and TV shows. If you get there early for one of the scarce shady spots, the parade is a break from the summer heat and the on-your-feet pace. Each of the four units also makes a separate appearance once each day for a dance performance and meet-and-greet.
Nightfall brings Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, a tribute to a century of movie-making by Universal Pictures. Scenes from classic Universal films like E.T., Jurassic Park and Frankenstein, as well as current movies Battleship and Snow White and the Huntsman, are projected on waterfalls over the central lagoon. There is a triumphal feel to the show, which is narrated by Morgan Freeman and accompanied by fireworks, dancing fountains and a medley of movie tunes. The clips are clearer than you’d expect and visible from both sides of the waterfalls, but some are so brief that you might not recognize them before the next excerpt takes over the screen. Even so, you don’t need to be a hard-core movie buff to enjoy the show. As with the parade, you’ll want to secure a spot next to the lagoon early. But don’t expect to be able to sit once the show starts unless you’re right at a railing or the water’s edge; most of the crowd will be on its feet. Starting time for Cinematic Spectacular depends on when it gets dark, but it’s the event that closes the park.