For many, a hallmark of Disney theme parks has been the daily and seasonal parades that travel throughout the park, offering interaction and personalized experiences along with seeing their favorite characters. Hours before a parade begins, visitors often find a specific location on the parade route where they believe they may have the best seating options to have an up close and personal experience with their favorite Disney characters.
For Universal Studios Hollywood, the history of a full-fledged parade has always been something the park has wanted to bring to the guest experience in California.
The challenge for Hollywood has always been rooted in its past. and how the property has grown over time. As the theme park element made its debut for Universal with the Studio Tour, Universal saw the need to expand its property as crowds were constantly increasing.
In retrospect, Disneyland always had a major outline and plan for their original concepts. Disneyland streets were designed well so parades could easily be accommodated, along with necessary parade operations. Universal was the exact opposite – as they always made changes to their layout with minor adjustments, and growth focused on connecting multiple areas to create a larger footprint (i.e. the Starway Escalator). The biggest challenge that Universal Studios faced was the fact that the property was never originally planned for the growth of major theme park operations, including the idea of a parade on a scale such as Disneyland.
Universal had tried to build smaller entertainment value offerings in the past such as “On Location” – where a film shoot would take place on the theme park streets and themed vehicles would parade aimlessly, like the Marx Brothers or Lucille Ball driving a ’57 Chevy.
In 2003, Universal Studios Hollywood attempted to try their hand anyway and created a Holiday Parade. The parade route would travel throughout the entire Entertainment Center – a.k.a. the Upper Lot. The parade would have a specified route which would allow guests to find a favorite spot on the side of the theme park streets. Inspired by the “12 Days of Christmas”, the parade was appropriately named “On The 12 Days of Christmas Universal Gave to Me” Each float (or moving vehicle) was themed to a different day leading up to Christmas. The floats were as follows:
- 11 Deep Sea Adventures – SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick
- Beethoven the Dog
- 10 Feet of Reptar – Tommy Pickles, Chuckie and an inflatable Reptar
- 9 Best Pictures – With Marilyn Monroe driving a vehicle highlighting nine different Universal Best Picture winners
- 7 Scary Monsters – Beetljuice riding atop a Hearse, with the Bride of Frankenstein driving the vehicle. A static Invisible Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon.
- 6 Super Heroes – Green Goblin, Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Storm and Dr. Doom.
- 5 Live Cartoons – Curious George, Crash Bandicoot, Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy and Angelica (from Rugrats)
- 4 Stars from Shrek – Fiona, Shrek, Donkey and a puppet Dragon.
- 3 Stars from Dora the Explorer
- 2 Cars from 2 Fast 2 Furious film – Driving actors portraying Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson.
- 1 Cat in the Hat – One of the rare events where this character has been seen at Universal Studios Hollywood.
And lastly, Santa and one of his reindeer.
The parade route began at the fire road entrance near WaterWorld, turned left onto Baker Street near the Blues Brothers Stage, past Terminator 2:3D, right turn onto French Street as it continued past Animal Planet Live! into the Back to the Future courtyard. With a very tight turning area between the Tram Central gift shop and Doc Brown’s Chicken the parade would turn right to make its way back to where it began at Waterworld.
Could Universal offer a parade again?
In 2012, Universal began its epic transformation to include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the Upper Lot; which removed one of the key portions of the route this parade once took. What possible route would a parade take now with the new theme park layout? Universal Studios Singapore has been successful in creating a parade to cope with a very similar-sized, restricted footprint like Universal Studios Hollywood. Could making smaller float vehicles be a possible solution to this challenging endeavor?
Of course there’s the chance that Universal builds out a second theme park which can incorporate the walkways and paths to handle parade operations.
Either way, if a parade were to come back to Universal Studios Hollywood, below are several possibilities of what a parade path would look like in the Upper Lot.
While the route may be able to equipped smaller floats, the biggest obstacle would be how it handles crowds, especially since most logical paths are located right next to the entrance.
Whether you think a parade is an important element of guest satisfaction or not, the fact remains within the history of Universal Studios in California – it’s an ever growing environment and will continue to change for many years to come; so a parade may always be possible. As it stands now however, that 2003 Holiday parade remains the sole parade in Universal Studios Hollywood’s deep history.