On a dark and stormy night, Universal Orlando gathered special guests and invited press at a gala grand opening for one of its newest entertainment offerings. No, it wasn’t Halloween Horror Nights this time, but last night’s official debut of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular lagoon show largely mirrored the rain-soaked 2011 premiere of that annual Halloween event.
Rolling out a red carpet, Universal Orlando provided a lavish party for those invited to attend, including a live band and plenty of delicious food, not only marking the official debut of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, but also Universal’s Superstar Parade.
As the wet weather quite literally rained on their parade, postponing both shows for a couple hours, mingling became the main event. Fortunately, there was no shortage of interesting conversation to fill the gap, as in addition to invited guests, the attending crowd consisted of many of the creative minds who created these new experiences for Universal Studios Florida. Among them, Show Director Mike Aiello was – as always – eager to discuss his latest endeavor, giving an overview of this “love letter” to 100 years of Universal Pictures films while all awaited the rain to subside.
Video: Show Director Mike Aiello summarizes Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular
But the rain kept on coming. Having already seen (and thoroughly enjoyed) Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular twice during its sneak preview run, I was curious to learn even more about its creation. Though the nighttime show features dancing fountains and colorful fireworks, those elements are there to support the carefully-assembled montages of movie clips that summarize the impressive history of one century of Universal Studios filmmaking.
And it was this most important element that I privately sat down with Mike Aiello to discuss during a casual chat inside the park’s Horror Make-Up Show theater – a fitting setting for a conversation that occasionally and unsurprisingly veered off into the topic of horror films, a favorite of both mine an Aiello’s, no surprise for the man behind all that is Halloween Horror Nights.
Video: 10 minutes with Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular Show Director Mike Aiello
Despite rising to the important position of Show Director and presiding over a project on a massive scale like Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, Aiello remains humble, quick to bring up the fact that his tenure at Universal Studios Florida began simply years ago as a skipper on the now-extinct Jaws ride. As he puts it, he “stumbled” into the high-profile position he enjoys today, but never ceases to appreciate every moment along the way, approaching each project just as wide-eyed and excited as his first. And it is this passion not only for his job but for film itself that has come across in Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, a show that shines a brightly-lit spotlight on many of the greatest moments in cinema history.
The adventure for Aiello, his talented Entertainment team at Universal Orlando, and their partnership with Universal Pictures in California doesn’t end here. Aiello moves directly from last night’s gala event into overseeing Halloween Horror Nights 22 and it’s a strong possibility both of his big projects will meet this year in a special Horror Nights edition of the Cinematic Spectacular, if all goes to plan.
As for opening night, ultimately the evening rain clouds did part, allowing Universal Orlando to mark the official debut of their new lagoon show with a fittingly spectacular showing of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, followed closely after by the official premiere performance of Universal’s Superstar Parade.
But the latter is a tale for another article. Come back tomorrow to learn more about the creation of the new parade directly from Show Director Lora Wallace.
You can read my thoughts on Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular and watch video of the entire show in my preview article. (Though it is highly recommended to see the show first, as video does not do it justice.)