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Universal Orlando gets new attractions

Nighttime 'Spectacular,' parades added in anniversary celebration

Universal revealed plans Wednesday to add new attractions to its Orlando theme park this year as part of the company’s celebration of its 100th anniversary.

The main attraction is “Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular,” a nighttime light and pyrotechnics show, narrated by Morgan Freeman, that will project images from U movies onto three screens created by waterfalls in the middle of Universal Studios Florida’s lagoon. The 20-minute show will bow this spring.

“This is very much a big end-of-day spectacular,” said Jim Timon, Universal Orlando’s senior VP of entertainment. “This is the big show we send our guests off with, with the Universal brand and message and emotion and impact.”

Concept is similar to that of Disneyland’s “World of Color,” which has proved a big draw at California Adventure, especially with families — and U is looking to attract more families to its own parks.

Playing into that theme, Universal will also introduce in the spring a daily “Superstar Parade” featuring floats with characters from “Despicable Me,” “Hop,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Dora the Explorer.” Each float is designed to work as its own show with effects and musical score that can be featured around the park when not in the parade.

Universal parks only occasionally offered character parades, primarily during the holidays; they are a staple at Disney’s locations.

The nightly show and daily parade are the most notable additions since U opened the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction in 2010.

But Universal is in the midst of opening more rides and attractions in the Orlando resort’s history, and they’ll be featured in a new “Year to Be Here” campaign.

An updated “Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” ride, at Islands of Adventure, opens in March with new 4K-high-definition 3D digital technology, character designs, new ride effects and cameo from comicbook icon Stan Lee.

“It’s really a mind-boggling presentation, when you look at the imagery,” said Mark Woodbury, prexy of Universal Creative for the company’s theme parks. “When Spider-Man jumps onto the vehicle, you’ll see every thread of his costume, and the details behind him are rich and deep and full and really spectacular.”

After already announcing plans to build a 3D ride based on “Despicable Me,” U announced that “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” will open this summer and replace “Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast.” Ride will feature the voices of actors Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove and Elsie Fisher as their characters.

Orlando’s CityWalk complex also gets a Hollywood Drive-In 1950s B-movie-themed 36-hole miniature golf course, set to open in February. And the Blue Man Group returns in February with a new show and props.

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