Review: Universal’s Cinematic Celebration

Universal’s newest nighttime show, Cinematic Celebration, is now officially open at Universal Studios Florida. It’s been a long time since Universal has had a great and entertaining nighttime show in Orlando; one could argue that the last somewhat enjoyable one we had was Dynamite Nights Stunt Spectacular, which was discontinued in 2000. The previous 2 nighttime shows were decent. The main issue was that during both these previous shows the audience was mainly focused on video screens instead of special effects such as fountains, lighting and pyrotechnics. This new show for sure fixes that issue as it features segments with just fountains, lighting and pyro. Along with that, unlike the previous shows this one is a spectacle which features massive fountains, lighting, pyro and projection all at the same time. You will be continuously “wowed” while watching this show. Your attention will not just be focused on a single water screen (as with Cinematic Spectacular).

I have to point out that I don’t really understand the name of the show. It’s called “CINEMATIC Celebration”, but the opening narration says that you will be reliving your at Universal Orlando. But then.. a good portion of the show features characters and IP’s that don’t have attraction at Universal. Odd. If we are featuring characters that simply have meet and greets, such as Trolls, then why can’t we have a MUCH more iconic and timeless IP’s like Back To The Future in the show? It has a meet and greet at Universal. If Trolls can fit then so can something like Back to the Future or JAWS.

When the show first opened I felt it needed narration at the beginning to tie it all together and give it a purpose, because during the soft opening phases the show would just start without explanation. Thankfully they added narration to the beginning of the show and overall it really tied the show together.

Now lets dive into the show itself, the introduction is AWESOME! It’s very in-your-face, it has huge fountains and a fantastic soundtrack. I love the custom score made for the show. The intro is a great opening which doesn’t reveal too much, it keeps many surprises to “wow” the audience later in the show. Following the intro we go straight into a Jurassic World segment. In my opinion this is the weakest part of the show and hopefully it will see re-tooling. It uses the Jurassic Park soundtrack but only features footage from Jurassic World (some of it just looks cheesy, such as when Owen is training the Raptors while the iconic JP theme is playing). The segment has a break in it where it switches to footage mostly from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this makes the segment feel extremely long compared to others (although it is around the same duration). I have to say that I really like the ending of this segment with the T-Rex roaring over the land.

The show then beautifully transitions into Fast & Furious by using a segment featuring only fountains and lighting. This segment is upbeat and exciting. It also has a massive “wow” moment as it is the first segment of the show to use pyrotechnics. Speaking of pyro.. not to get off track but this show uses it nicely. The pyro is layered, small low level pyro on a dock in the water (flames, comets and mines), then slightly bigger mines and comets are used on the rooftops closest to the lagoon, and lastly larger scale pyro is shot off farther back from the Mummy. This creates a nice layered effect and makes the scale of the show look much bigger than it really is.

After Fast and Furious everything fades to black and we go into the E.T. segment of the show. I love the use of a classic IP here. The film is nicely portrayed in this segment with a fantastic use of projection and lighting, along with massive fountains. This segment makes fantastic use of projection mapping on the waterfront facades and the fountains have a beautiful mix of colors (orange, red, purple and pink!). The show then flows into a great segment featuring fountains and Dreamworks music. This leads into a How To Train Your Dragon segment. This segment uses all of the water screens as one gigantic projection surface to create 1 massive image. It looks really good. We then see a decent Kong Fu Panda section. The highlight here is Po using his powers to throw a flaming ball lookin’ thing (sorry, don’t know what its called) across the whole show area.

Then we get to see my favorite section of the show… Trolls. It features LOADS of pyrotechnics and most importantly, “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. It’s a huge crowd pleaser. The lasers, lighting, pyro, fountains and projection all combined make this spectacular. The Transformers section which follows opens with a VERY cool projection mapping segment on the building facades. This part of the show has the best use of lasers compared to all the other sections. Really breathtaking for a nerd like me.

Up next is the Potter section. Really nothing groundbreaking in this segment. It uses flame pots~ which I think will be the first effect to go as they don’t really add much to the show. Hopefully in the future we will see real flame jets added to the lagoon (similar to Ignite! and World of Color). The last segment, Illumination is very fun and bright. The Minions add great humor. Gru then introduces the finale in a very creative way! (No spoiler here folks). The finale itself is great. Easily comparable to some of the best nighttime show finales (looking at you Fantasmic!). Overall Cinematic Celebration is a great show that will hopefully keep guests into Universal Studios Florida later into the day. Eventually as time goes on I’d love to see upgrades such as flame jets and maybe modified segments; but for now, Cinematic Celebration is a fantastic show that is sure to delight guests.

  • Universal's Cinematic Celebration
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