Hello everyone... a couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of visiting one of Japan's finest theme parks, besides TDR of course... and that would be UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN, which has just started celebrating their 5th anniversary, with a celebration that includes festive decor, new merchandise, a new land (OZ) to be opening this summer and two (2) brand new entertainment shows... "Happy Harmony Celebration-5th Anniversary Special" a fabulous high energy song and dance streetacular (reminicing of DCA's Party Bash), and the nightime spectacular "Peter Pan's Neverland", a new lagoon show. This production was the primary reason of my visit.
On the day of my visit, USJ was very very busy. But not to the point of closing it's doors which happens often during holidays and high season. The park is lovingly decorated for their 5th anniversary in elegant purples and grey tones. Maintenance here has been stunning, almost ...or equal to TDR's maintenance quality and that is quite a compliment in my humble opinion. USJ also offer more street performances and side shows than any other park I have visited recently. More than TDL, more than TDS and certainly more than the rest. At least 15 different groups of performers can be seen doing their shows around the park at any given time. That is great and adds tremendous value to the price of admission at USJ, which is the same as TDR's passports. No news of an increase there yet as will be the case with TDR in July.
For most of the afternoon when I was there... I dedicated myself to see the new shows and window shop, or try some of the food choices around the park... such as the delightfully tasty Chocolate churros in Amity Village.
The big surprise of the day was "Happy Harmony Celebration" streetacular. A very energetic high voltage dance and song show performed in the New York area. The show brings together the most popular franchises in the park... together for a rocking romp of major proportions... Hello Kitty, Sesame Street gang, Peanuts gang and the characters from Shrek. This show rocks.. begins in high gear and does not let up for 25 minutes, culminating in a spectacular 5th anniversary salute that brough a tear to my eyes. It was Disney quality and worthy of the generous photo exposure I gave to it in this pictorial.
Then there is the "piece du resistance", the creme de la creme, USJ's nightime show "Peter Pan's Neverland". The show is immensily popular and quite difficult to watch, for reasons I will mention in a moment. But first, I have to admit I was totally oblivious about this show and took the time to watch the live action Universal film from 2 yrs ago...which is supposed to be the inspiration for this show... But frankly, I was still lost as a lost boy as I watched the show. Primarily because it is all in Japanese, and also because it doesn't seem to follow the story at all. If I was to guess... this Peter Pan story has a new take on the tale.... One that appears to go like this (for what I could grasp)... Wendy is grown up and has a daughter. Peter Pan pays her a visit but find Wendy grown up. WEndy then is forced to explain to her daughter about Peter Pan and her visit to Neverland... Seems the show becomes a flashback at this point as we re-live Wendy and Peter's trials and tribulations in Neverland.. including their dreaded encounter with Captain Hook. From this point on.. I was totally lost in the show... but all the elements from the novel are here... the indian tribe, the lost boys, Tinkerbell... etc etc. The show appears to end once we return to the beginning of the story and Wendy allows her daughter to go off to Neverland with Peter and have her own adventure.
Before the show begins.. we are treated to the music from Universal's motion picture score, same one we hear during the closing credits of the live movie a couple of years ago. So I offer my apologies if the captions in the photos do not make sense since, I had to guess some of what the show's plot was like, and I am still not sure if I am correct.
To my surprise... a good 75% of the show is acted on the stage. The lighting and effects are quite good, and so is the sound thru the show. The actors interact with pyro in some scenes and that kept the show interesting to watch, even if I was lost in the plot. However... once Peter takes to the skies towards the climax of the story... the gasps from the audience are genuine. If you ever saw Tink take to the skies above DL's Sleeping Beauty Castle.. you know what the feeling is like... Pure glee.
Now, the criticism... The show takes place in the New York corner of the lagoon and does not encompass the entire lagoon area. This reduces the audience area to a very small portion of land by the lagoon. Universal did build a new multi-level area over the water at the edge of the lagoon to accomodate those who pay for the nice viewing area... So here is a hint: GET THERE EARLY IN THE MORNING AND BUY THE "NEVERLAND CHECK IN PASS". It costs only Y500 and will allow you access to the best viewing area of the show. I hated to pay extra for the benefit but it was all worth it!! Concidering how badly set up the audience area is behind the preffered seating spots (with multiple things blocking the view etc etc..) you will be very glad you paid for the chance to seat in the dead center of the stage. It was the only way I could take these pictures for you as it would have been impossible to do if I was in the "cheap" seats.. which do not feature seats at all... nor does it have an inclined floor to allow those in the back a better view. So again: BUY THE NEVERLAND CHECK IN PASS. But you must get there as early as possible at park's opening time, as these prefered seating passes go quickly and the prefered viewing space is limited. See the photo in the album to get an idea.
BUT!!!....The work is not done even after you have bought a Check In pass for the show... NOTE! prefered seating areas open 2 hrs before show time... If you want to have the best view possible.. be there 2-3 hrs before showtime so you can claim you prefered viewing area spot early as soon as they start allowing guests in. Trust me... you won't be the only one in line waiting to get into the prefered area 3 hrs before showtime. That is better than some people waiting 6 hrs by the rail behind prefered seating to get a good view...
I can only compare this to the earlier days of Fantasmic! at DL. Remember having to wait to get the best spots by the Rivers of America??? Well... same here for "Neverland". One more thing... wanna get in the fun and participate in the show??? Buy one of the lightup clapper hands sold in the gift shops... as several times during the show.. Peter asks for help and the audience gets into the act by clapping these colorful light hands... Please don't ask me about this... I am clueless about it. All in all... I can honestly give this show a decent rate and recommend it, and if you speak Japanese, more power to you since the audience reaction at this end was quite loud and positive.
Without further ado... I now invite you to enjoy the photo album from my day at USJ...with captions that add a bit more explanation to what I already covered here. So I hope you enjoy this pictorial.