Universal Studios Mardi Gras Grand Celebration starts on Feb 8, 2014.
Today we tackle one of my favorite theme park topics: the annual Universal Studios Mardi Gras Grand Celebration. Universal’s Mardi Gras holds a special place in my heart because, back in the late 1990s when I worked in Universal Studios Florida’s entertainment department, I was a talent supervisor for the parade, and got to walk with it nightly. (I’ll never get “Iko Iko” or “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” out of my skull.) So I’m thrilled to share Touring Plans’ complete guide to Universal’s bead laden baccanalia, bringing you all the info you need to laissez les bons temps rouler!
Mardi Gras originated in the religious observation of “Fat Tuesday” (the literal translation of the name), which is the day before “Ash Wednesday” on the Catholic calendar, and the start of Lent’s 40 days of dietary restrictions. People would bid “farewell to flesh” with a “carnivale” where they would indulge in the meat and drink they were about to forswear. Mardi Gras is the New Orleans, Louisiana, variation on this tradition — which is echoed in other cities from Venice, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Over the centuries, the religious significance has been stripped away, and most Mardi Gras revelers attend for strictly secular reasons — namely, epic quantities of booze, beads, and bare breasts. About 20 years ago, Universal took a look at the festivities and said, “This will make a fine family friendly event,” and amazingly it is — minus the bare breasts, of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s inauthentic; much as Universal partnered with Macy’s for its holiday parade, Universal engages Blaine Kern Studios, the same company that’s been building floats for the real deal since 1947, to create the park’s parade platforms. And musicians and recipes imported from the Big Easy add to the French Quarter feel. Of course, the real Bourbon Street doesn’t have concerts from big-name recording artists after each parade, much less a high-speed roller coaster cruising by in the background.
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Photo courtesy Yamaha
The beautiful Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure is normally home to the excellent Aladdin stage show, an enhanced version of which will bow on Broadway next year. But tonight (1/25/2013), for one night only, the theater will be taken over by a musical icon even more mesmerizingly mercurial and outrageously colorful than the Genie.
Elton John, a rock superstar since the 1970s, and the Oscar-winning songwriter behind The Lion King soundtrack, will perform a private concert tonight at the Disneyland Resort in conjunction with the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) trade convention currently occurring at the Anaheim convention center across the street. John is schedule play a 5-song set, accompanied by a 70-piece orchestra conducted by James Newton Howard. Other performers appearing include Amy Grant, Chaka Khan, Dave Grusin, Earth, Wind & Fire, David Foster, Dave Koz, LEOGUN, Landon Pigg, Lucy Schwartz, Michael McDonald, Sarah McLachlan, Sinbad and Toto.
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