It's been a well known fact that Universal and Disney have always been like cats and dogs, fighting for the tourist dollars at all cost, especially in the Florida market where the good folks at Universal waste no time making fun of the Mouse House down the street.. and we all know imitation is the best kind of flattery there is. The situation seems to be no different in Japan, where Universal Studios Japan in Osaka has always tried to run a tight ship to compete with Tokyo Disney Resort, and with TDR's ultra high standards, the good folks at USJ have no choice but to run full speed to meet that level of excellence. Therefore we have the best Universal Studios theme park here in Osaka, JP.
This week marks the lastest attempt by USJ to compete with TDR. To celebrate the Studios 8th anniversary, USJ has officially premiered their first ever new night time spectacular, the "Magical Starlight Parade". That new electrical parade, in addition to their night time lagoon show "Peter Pan's Neverland", positions USJ for a fabulous spring and summer season ahead.
My impressions of the new parade, and please be advised there could be some spoilers ahead...
When it comes to classic Disney entertainment, I expect no one to top the efforts from Disney and I am happy to say that TDL's Electrical Parade Dreamlights is still the best and most technically impressive of them all. However, with the new "Starlight parade" USJ has invested in a decent effort that, while not as grand as Dreamlights, somehow it retains that certain classic feel of the original MSEP we all have loved for decades... but with a dash of new and improved eye candy.
The 20 minutes long "Magical Starlight Parade" begins with a small salute representing this park's most visible characters..Snoopy, Elmo, and Hello Kitty. All brilliantly displayed with that same elegance and simplicity that made the old MSEP so special. The music opening the parade is a decent effort and well orchestrated...especially when the music changes to reflect the other "chapters" or scenes in the parade. I hope they sell this soundtrack on CD and knowing USJ's merchandise practices.. I am sure they will soon if not already. The first few floats offer extravagant simplicity and in a very subtle way, introduces the spectacle to come.
The next scenes are based on some of Disney's most popular tales... Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and there is also an Arabian Nights sequence.
The Alice sequence is very colorful and animated, with wonderful costuming and charming sights. Costuming as a matter of fact was one of the best aspects of this parade I have to admit.. as good as what we get on TDL's Dreamlights. Here, we meet Alice riding on a tea cup, the Queen of Hearts..in an animalistic form.. and other creatures of Wonderland. A very decent effort.
The 2nd scene recreates Arabian Nights... with harem girls and other Sinbad/Aladdin-style scenes. The floats here are superb in fabulous neon colors. My favorite was the peacock scene where a sillouette of a dancer can be appreciated within. Simply gorgeous. Again, the costuming and rubberhead characters that popular this sequence are very well done. This was a very solid mid-point in the parade. Lavish and just colorful
The 3rd and final scene is Cinderella (at an Universal park?). Again, this sequence of the parade resembles more what a Disney parade would be like. The floats here are extremely elegant and in true royal (Disney?) fashion, everything sparkles and shimmers, like a dream sequence on wheels. You see Cinderella's dress being prepared for her by her animal friends. We get a glimpse of an animated version of this Cinderella projected on the float. In fact, one of the things that impressed me most was the use of projected images on the floats here. The pumpkin float for example, have projections of horses and other scenes... it was quite elegant. Of course.. the MK's SpectroMagic (a parade that itself looks more outdated after this effort by Universal) did try the projected trick on tv when we see Tinkerbell through windows in the final float there. And we all know who disastrous the use of projected images was when integrated into DL's Light Magic streetacular. Here on Starlight Parade, the use of animated sequences on the floats are integral to the storyline and front and center... and guess what? Universal pulled this off quite well. The last float of the parade is preceeded by a beautiful flock of white doves that appear to fly above the scenes, and these are actually hand-pushed props (there are several of these throughout the parade) that add greatly to the spectacle. The parade ends in typical Disney style.. with a banner that reads, "May all your wishes come true".
What do I think of all this? Well, the "Magical Starlight Parade" is a very very decent effort for Universal and one that I would even say is good enough for any DL park out there. The parade manages to capture the essence of the MSEP and tell the story it wants to tell. However, the stories here are totally disconnected from the park. This is not Disney, and there is no Alice in Wonderland, nor Cinderella characters around. Even the Arabian Nights sequence is not one that would come to mind in an Universal park. Therefore the only fault I can find with this parade is the excessive imagery that is so blatantly taken from strories that are for better or worst, associated more with the Disney empire, even if these stories are more of folkloric nature and no company should ever stamp their names to them. I guess this is why Universal felt compelled to use these characters and their respective stories in creating this new night time parade. That and also to compete with TDR 3 hours away.
Still, I can not deny that the effort put into this production and the results we see on the show are formidable for an Universal Park. If I had seen this at TDL, I would probably think of it as a small step backwards..and like I said before, "Magical Stralight Parade" is NO "Dreamlights", but it is a wonderful parade and one not to be missed if you go visit Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. With so much neon glow and fiber optic wizardry, fabulous costuming and props, great musical score and production values, this parade will become a classic offering for Universal and one parade that Universal fans all over will cherish, me thinks. I know I enjoyed it a lot and...
TDLFAN rates it a 4**** and a half stars, out of possible 5***** rating.
Go check it out!!!
Can't get there anytime soon? Check it on video below, compliments of YouTube's MoviemanPJC, and may I suggest you click on the "HQ" logo to view these 2 clips in fabulously clear High definition.
Part 1 (10 mins long)
Part 2 (9 mins long)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= <a h...View Part2</a>