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  1. #1

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    Thumbs up Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    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)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=http:...eature=related

    Part 2 (9 mins long)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= <a h...View Part2</a>

  2. #2

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Thank you for the videos of Universal Japan's Magical Starlight Parade. I felt magic and warmth throughout the entire procession. A salute to Universal for the brilliant lighting, imagery, costumes, music and simple, personable energy.

    Disney has no monopoly on the royal pagentry that famed faairytales lend themselves to. Collectively, the Disney and Universal parades are an entertaining element that makes me want to visit both parks ..even more than I did previously.
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  3. #3

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Thanking for sharing that with us. I have never been a fan of the universal park here in Hollywood and enjoyed the Orlando ones greatly but always felt there was something missing. It seems like the people in charge of the Japan park have been able to accomplish getting my attention. They have brought together the interest elements of a studio park along with the entertainment elements that really make a visit to a theme park complete.

    Great job Universal Japan maybe someday the US parks will follow your lead

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    After seeing the videos, I have to say I'm impressed and irked at the same time.

    I'm flat out impressed by the whole parade, it has a lot of creativity, whimsy and energy that makes it pretty magical. The floats are very well done and for me each one has a nice little surprise to make it stand out. (IE, the dancer inside the camel float, the projections on the wheels of the pumpkin float etc.)

    There was also a nice mix of elements that were stunning in their own way, such as the moving magic carpet...to the flock of doves which give off a very heavenly feel.

    As for the thing that has me irked, well from looking at this and TDL's Dreamlights...would it kill WDW to update SpectroMagic? Seriously, while the parade was great when I first saw it in 2001...it is far beyond outdated at this point. The only thing they have changed is making the guy's out front creepier.
    Last edited by AE_Fan; 03-07-2009 at 10:51 PM.
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  5. #5

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    I just finished watching the parade video and I am impressed with the effort that Universal Japan put into this parade, Six Flags took a stab at an "Electrical Parade" and it's wasn't very good but this is really well done. It does make me a bit mad that Disney's U.S. electric parades are very outdated and it does not seem that they will be revived anytime soon, even with the additions of the new floats DEP has run its course, I think 37 years is a good amount of time for a parade, especially with all the new technology that is available.

  6. #6

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    I checked out the video of the parade and have to say too that I was very impressed.

    Itís a curious challenge to compare a Universal production to a Disney Production because Disneyís greatest asset are their characters. At Disney, we show up to a park with a love the characters. The success of their shows is built of the hallmark of us loving these characters before the production ever begins.

    To truly compare the quality of a new production on an equal playing field you would have to eliminate "the home field advantage" of the Disney characters to look more closely at craftsmanship and execution.

    Though the choice to adopt fairytale brands for their park was a highly unusual surprise for Universal, their execution was masterful.

    A better comparison of parade to parade would be Universalís Magical Starlight Parade and the late Disneyland Light Magic. Both parades represent a departure from their respective brands. In Light Magic, Disney focused on cutting edge technology of fiber optics and presented non-Disney pixie characters. As demonstrated by the brief run of the parade, Disney's audiences were not tolerant to non-Disney productions because they lacked the heart and magic of characters from their movies. Even later, when the characters were added, they seemed to be an afterthought to a concept that left them in the dust early on.

    What surprised me the most with Universalís Magical Starlight Parade is that they truly captured a magical experience. Without the power of a real Disney Cinderella, or a real Disney Aladdin, fairytales are just fairytales.

    I think it would have been very easy for Universal to fall into the trap of going for the boldest and aggressive technologies. Instead, they opted for imagination, whimsy and artfulness. It looks like they are on their way to decoding the Disney heart.

    Even through the video, I could feel the heart and magic of the Universal parade. I especially loved how each separate story they presented had a unique palette and really successfully captured the essence of each tale.

    Every show at each park is unique and different. If we were only to judge success by not comparing, but each project on individual merit, I believe that Universal has really hit it out of the park with a project that has great heart and a real Joie de Vivre that they have been missing for a long time.

    Congrats Universal!

  7. #7

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    thank you for sharing that reviews and that nice video...
    thanE

  8. #8

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    After seeing the videos, all I can say is "Wow!" It was surprising to see such a focus on what many would consider traditional Disney stories: Cinderella and Alice & Wonderland. Of course, those are nothing more than long out-of-copyright stories and characters that Disney has famously taken advantage of, but that others are free to do so as well. The Arabian unit could be considered a copy of the Sindbad/Aladdin worlds that Disney has used, but less so than the others due to the genericness of the theme.

    It's a very bold move by USJ to do something like this. As someone else pointed out, the one thing that's a bit odd is that aside from the opening units, the parade doesn't seem to have much to do with the "lands" in the park or otherwise associate with what the park is about. But as a stand-alone entertainment offering, it appears that they've done an outstanding job.

    I had no idea this was coming out. I visited USJ during its 5th Anniversary and didn't think I'd need to go back anytime soon. I just might have to alter my travel plans for my upcoming trip to Japan to check out this parade and the other recent USJ additions.

  9. #9

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinkerbell View Post
    A better comparison of parade to parade would be Universalís Magical Starlight Parade and the late Disneyland Light Magic. Both parades represent a departure from their respective brands. In Light Magic, Disney focused on cutting edge technology of fiber optics and presented non-Disney pixie characters. As demonstrated by the brief run of the parade, Disney's audiences were not tolerant to non-Disney productions because they lacked the heart and magic of characters from their movies. Even later, when the characters were added, they seemed to be an afterthought to a concept that left them in the dust early on.
    Interesting opinion, even if I feel Light Magic was totally a different experience. Also, correct me if I am wrong but I saw DL's LM just days after it's official premiere and if I recall, the Disney characters were there and the storyline involved them getting ready to go to bed and the Pixies taking over? Of course, with the current Tink movie and likewise push for Pixie Hollow... maybe, just maybe, the good folks at DL should revisit the Light Magic project, which I didn't find as horrible as many do.

    And Thinkerbell... was that a nice post on your part. This is not the first time that Universal has played with chracters that many associate with Disney first and foremost... great example is the current "Peter Pan's Neverland" lagoon show. It kind of speak volumes about the current Hollywood offerings when USJ much rather use tried and true fairy tales to wow their guests. Then again, those japanese love the Disney brand, so why not offer a similar lineup from a more traditional point of view.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuperDry
    It's a very bold move by USJ to do something like this. As someone else pointed out, the one thing that's a bit odd is that aside from the opening units, the parade doesn't seem to have much to do with the "lands" in the park or otherwise associate with what the park is about. But as a stand-alone entertainment offering, it appears that they've done an outstanding job.
    Actually it was me who pointed that out in my initial review.

  10. #10

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Quote Originally Posted by TDLFAN View Post
    This is not the first time that Universal has played with chracters that many associate with Disney first and foremost... great example is the current "Peter Pan's Neverland" lagoon show. It kind of speak volumes about the current Hollywood offerings when USJ much rather use tried and true fairy tales to wow their guests. Then again, those japanese love the Disney brand, so why not offer a similar lineup from a more traditional point of view.
    I wonder if this is more confusing to Japanese guests than it would be to westerners? People from the west might at least be vaguely aware that many of these tales are based on stories or legends that are hundreds of years old from various European countries. I would be surprised that many Japanese guests were aware of this, and probably view Alice In Wonderland and Cinderella as any other modern fictional character. Then again, now that I think of it, the distinction would probably be lost on 99% of Americans as well.

  11. #11

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Quote Originally Posted by AE_Fan View Post
    After seeing the videos, I have to say I'm impressed and irked at the same time.

    I'm flat out impressed by the whole parade, it has a lot of creativity, whimsy and energy that makes it pretty magical. The floats are very well done and for me each one has a nice little surprise to make it stand out. (IE, the dancer inside the camel float, the projections on the wheels of the pumpkin float etc.)

    There was also a nice mix of elements that were stunning in their own way, such as the moving magic carpet...to the flock of doves which give off a very heavenly feel.

    As for the thing that has me irked, well from looking at this and TDL's Dreamlights...would it kill WDW to update SpectroMagic? Seriously, while the parade was great when I first saw it in 2001...it is far beyond outdated at this point. The only thing they have changed is making the guy's out front creepier.

    About USJ's parades: WOW! Thanks, TDLFan, for posting the videos, here!

    My comments are almost exactly like AE Fan: Love the way the magic carpet moves, The carriage wheels are amazing. The lighted doves flying at the end of the parade. Creative, whismy, full of energy! absolutely yes! And the music is done very nice, too. Although for my tastes, it could have more energy, and less of an etherial sound. It sounds too much like Spectro Magic, albeit a little better.

    It's too bad DL in Anaheim doesn't have this to compete against from Universal Studios in Hollywood. USJ new parade also leaves be frustrated that DL has not upgraded ANY segment or floats to it's MSEP in decades. And even with a new Tink float, and adding back Snow's float, later this year, it's too little and WAY too late. they need more segments that appeal to boys.

    I never really thought that adding Aladdin to the MSEP would fit too well, BUT after seeing Arabian Nights, Now I'm just plain jealous that Universal got it right before Disney. Now I would LOVE to see an entire Aladdin parade segment added to MSEP, with Abu as an elephant, and camel dancers. And again, the way the magic carpet moves! yeah DL had a daytime Aladdin Parade, but they never had a parade like this!

    Oh, and an added comment, the way they did the ladybugs flying was very clever, too!

  12. #12

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    the parade looks awesome. letīs hope disney can make it as good as this in the future.
    but... it sucks that universal tries to be like disney

  13. #13

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Quote Originally Posted by TDLFAN View Post
    Interesting opinion, even if I feel Light Magic was totally a different experience. Also, correct me if I am wrong but I saw DL's LM just days after it's official premiere and if I recall, the Disney characters were there and the storyline involved them getting ready to go to bed and the Pixies taking over? Of course, with the current Tink movie and likewise push for Pixie Hollow... maybe, just maybe, the good folks at DL should revisit the Light Magic project, which I didn't find as horrible as many do.

    And Thinkerbell... was that a nice post on your part. This is not the first time that Universal has played with chracters that many associate with Disney first and foremost... great example is the current "Peter Pan's Neverland" lagoon show. It kind of speak volumes about the current Hollywood offerings when USJ much rather use tried and true fairy tales to wow their guests. Then again, those japanese love the Disney brand, so why not offer a similar lineup from a more traditional point of view.


    Actually it was me who pointed that out in my initial review.
    I'd sure like to see USJ's Peter Pan's Neverland lagoon show. Do they currently offer it as part of their entertainment lineup?
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  14. #14

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Wow, that was out of nowhere! Of course I haven't been keeping up with USJ, so it would be unexpected to me.

    Thanks so much for posting your review, and the video links, TDLFAN! I agree with everybody else here, it's a great effort from USJ. It just makes the US electrical parades so dated in comparison. Between what TDR and USJ offer, it's pathetic that we're getting a "reworked" MSEP as something new later this year. It's obvious that there is so much more you can do with lighting tech these days. Just look at the costumes from the "Magical Starlight Parade" and you can see that we've come quite a long way from lightbulbs on clothes...Disney, PLEASE create something new like this or Dreamlights!!!

    It's also interesting that Universal decided to go with fairytales that aren't represented in the park, and an obvious stab at Disney. I liked the concept, but to be honest, I think I would have liked more "park specific" floats. What about a whole "OZ" unit, or a Marvel character unit? There's a lot of stuff going on in the park, and it's not really represented in the parade. Still, there is a lot of fantasy and whimsy going on, and USJ deserves credit for not going the over-the-top US version of things...it's very tasteful.

    Disney, you better look over your shoulder, quick!!

  15. #15

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    Re: Universal Japan's "Magical Starlight Parade" review

    Thank you for the review TDLFAN! I was wondering what your thoughts were on the parade after seeing the video. I think the parade looks very nice especially the Arabian Nights and Cinderella! I've never been to USJ or cared about going but this parade really makes me want to check it out! I think it really makes some floats from Dreamlights like the Lumiere cake cake look old and tired and it would be nice to either see TDL retire and replace some more of the older floats again.

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