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Universal Orlando nighttime water show celebrates movie history

May 08, 2012|by Brady MacDonald | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • "Universal's Cinematic Spectacular" at Universal Orlando in Florida.
"Universal's Cinematic Spectacular" at Universal Orlando… (Universal )

Universal Orlando's salute to 100 years of filmmaking history replays more than 200 clips from the movie studio's vault on a watery canvas in the theme park's lagoon.

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Creative Director Michael Aiello and his team at Universal Entertainment spent two years culling the studio's archives down to 18 minutes for "Universal's Cinematic Spectacular," the new nighttime water show officially debuting Tuesday at the Florida theme park.

"I'm a huge movie fan," Aiello said. "It wasn't a chore for me at all."

Aiello was searching for iconic film moments that would transport viewers back to the first time they saw each movie.

"I still remember the first movie I ever saw: E.T.," Aiello said. "The experience stuck with me. Those moments are like sign posts in your life."

There were some no brainers. The big budget extravaganzas, award winners and blockbuster hits: "Back to the Future," "Jaws," "Jurassic Park,"  "Psycho" and, of course, "E.T."

But Aiello wanted to make room for other films rarely seen anymore like  "The Sting," "Spartacus" and  "All Quiet on the Western Front" as well as cult classics like  "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and "Shaun of the Dead."

And then each film needed to be boiled down to a single moment lasting only a few seconds.

"I asked myself, 'What would a movie fan want to see?'" Aielo said. "I knew if we could win over the hard core fan, then we would be able to win over everybody else."

Once the symphonic score was completed by combining recognizable Universal film music, the team set about marrying the biggest movie moments with the high points in the music.

With the foundation set, Aiello filled in around the supporting structure with a story that broke the show into a series of sections based on genres and archetypes - heroes, villains, humor and horror. After a climactic clash between good and evil complete with plenty of cliffhangers, "Cinematic Spectacular" concludes with a finale filled with triumphant moments.

A narration by Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman stitches the whole thing together.

"Cinematic Spectacular" plays out in high definition on a trio of 100-foot-wide waterfall curtains set in the theme park's lagoon.

Lighted fountains change colors and shift intensities based on the moods expressed on the screens. For the "Jaws" scene, the fountains form a fin that cuts through the water. Pyrotechnics punctuate the action during the battle between good and evil.

In the end, Aiello hopes "Cinematic Spectacular" serves as both an anniversary celebration and a film history retrospective.

"I want the guests to walk away with the history of films Universal has produced," he said. "I want them to say, 'I forgot they made that' and 'I have to see that again.'"

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