Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration is now officially open at Universal Studios Florida! The new nighttime show is the perfect way to end a long day at Universal Orlando and celebrates the movies that inspire the attractions guests have come to know and love.
The show takes place on the Universal Studios Florida lagoon and features many water screens offering panoramic and multi-layer views along with more than 120 dancing fountains. That’s just tip of the iceberg. The show also features plenty of pyrotechnics, lasers, and projection mapping onto the surrounding buildings, turning a huge chunk of the park into the stage for the twenty minute show.
The technology behind Cinematic Celebration is absolutely stunning. The amount of fountains used in the show is easily the most impressive aspect. You almost feel surrounded by fountains at different points. The pyro is subtle and not used throughout the whole show, but it does help accentuate certain moments. The water projections are similar to what you may have seen previously at Disney Parks in shows like Rivers of Light or World of Color, and while the projections are clear and crisp for the most part, it only takes a bit of wind on the lagoon to distort the images being projected.
Cinematic Celebration begins with an array of fountains dancing along to a sweeping score before the big Universal logo reveal with the tail end of the fanfare, because anything involving Universal should feature the Universal globe in some form. The first section of the show focuses on Jurassic World – not Jurassic Park. You’ll hear the iconic score from John Williams being performed, but you’ll only see clips from the 2015 film and its sequel, which just released back in June. If you haven’t seen Fallen Kingdom yet, don’t worry, there are no spoilers to the plot in Cinematic Celebration.
From there, things get Fast & Furious with Dom Toretto and the family. The lush lighting and projection mapping found in the Jurassic World section shift into an energetic mixture of bright orange and red lighting as well as a flurry of purple, blue and pink lights that you’d expect to see on your Supercharged party bus. There are some cool effects during the Fast & Furious section that really benefit from the large panoramic screens.
The show slows down with a touching tribute to one of the greatest films in the Universal library, E.T. This is easily the most beautiful section of the entire show. It opens with a simple shot of E.T. before moving into shots of the authorities searching for him and his ship with the help of some great spotlights. Tears begin to flow as E.T.’s healing touch lights up in front of Elliot’s face as he lets him know, “I’ll be right here.” This section wouldn’t be complete without the iconic shot of Elliot and E.T. on the bicycle in front of the moon, so of course Universal had to put it in there.
A Dreamworks Animation montage follows E.T. and it’s actually one of the most action packed parts of Cinematic Celebration. This portion starts out with a mystical feel set to the “Fairytale” music from the Shrek score, which is odd due to the fact that Shrek never ends up making an appearance in the show. However, How To Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda are both highlighted, bringing attention to the fact that neither of these franchises have attractions at Universal Orlando, but hopefully will someday. Trolls finishes up the Dreamworks Animation portion with a ton of fun and colors all set to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”
Transformers is the next franchise in the show and has one of the coolest openings as the projection mapping on the buildings behind the lagoon seem to unfold. There’s not a lot else to say about Transformers in the show except that this portion utilizes movie clips along with actual ride footage from the attraction, which makes it pretty unique.
Next up, the iconic sound of “Hedwig’s Theme” starts building as the Harry Potter section begins. The story starts with Harry receiving his wand before the epic reveal of Hogwarts Castle. Certain spells bring along different effects throughout this portion. When Hermione correctly performs Wingardium Leviosa feathers appear to float on the buildings and in the foutains. Water is conjured when Aguamenti is cast and fire is summoned, along with Voldemort, when Incendio is performed. Projection mapped Dementors are thwarted away as Harry screams out Expecto Patronum and the sequence ends with the colors from the four houses of Hogwarts blasting up into the sky.
The Harry Potter section seems to reference all of the things you can do inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter like receiving your wand at Ollivanders and then practicing your spells in both of the lands, seeing Buckbeak on Flight of the Hippogriff, witnessing a fire-breathing dragon and Voldemort on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, and being awestruck by the beauty of Hogwarts Castle on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
“Holy moly. I feel bad for the poor schmo who’s gonna have to follow that.” Nothing could be more accurate, which makes it so hilarious when Gru comes out and utters those lines before realizing that he and the Minions are the “poor schmos” and he needs them to stall while he comes up with something impressive. What follows is a brief moment of Minion fun, followed by a twenty second nod to The Secret Life of Pets and another short portion paying homage to Sing before the stalling is over and Gru and the Minions return for the big finale, which actually leads into the real finale of the show that features the fountains dancing in all their glory, while the main projection screen features a montage of the films highlighted in the show leading up to the fireworks finisher with a subtle nod to E.T.
Universal actually built a dedicated viewing area specifically for this show. The viewing area is made up of three tiers and some grass seating. We recommend staking out a spot at least thirty minutes in advance for a great location, but the earlier you show up the better, but later doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t find a good spot.
The ideal viewing spot would be dead center on the second tier. The center spot is directly across the lagoon from Starbucks and if you have a good eye, look for the lights on the middle rear projector to line yourself up. There are stairs right near the ideal center spot viewing, but if your main focus isn’t taking photos or videos then that opens up your options. If you’re taller, first tier viewing is just fine, but there are a lot of rocks that will block the view of shorter guests unless you can get a space where there are gaps. The third tier also has great views, the further back you get the more you will see lights from phones trying to capture moments of the show. The grassy area is great for kids who need to burn out some energy before watching the show, but it just puts you slightly above the third tier viewing spot and you’ll see a lot of heads in front of you.
Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration will be shown for the rest of the summer at 9:45 pm, but the time could and will likely change once park hours are shortened in the off season and after the time change. Cinematic Celebration is the type of show that you have to see in person to do it justice. It’s the perfect way to end any day at Universal Orlando and will hopefully one day become a classic itself.