28th May 2011 was not an ordinary day marking the start of the June school holidays in Singapore. It was the Grand Opening day of Universal Studios Singapore (USS), ending the Soft Opening phase for the park.
Being a pioneer Annual Passholder at USS, I am curious to know what is in store for the park’s future – especially when my Pass is near expiry now and essentially, I had a year’s access to a park that has been in “beta testing” for the longest time. You might recall a rather critical entry which I wrote on the park’s actual anniversary.
2014 Remaster – Happy USS 3rd Anniversary!
In Celebration of Universal Studios Singapore’s 3rd Anniversary, this entry has received the Remaster Enhancement treatment. I have revisited the digital negatives and re-processed the photographs taken back in 2011. Apart from improved colour, clarity and consistency with my current visual aesthetic, there are also some photos that are published for the very first time. This is an opportunity to relive the magic of the Grand Opening Celebration. Enjoy!
My doubts were relieved when Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) finally unveiled plans to move on and hold the grand opening ceremony for the park. It was also when things finally looked like they are improving – starting with the iconic Universal globe being taken apart for major repairs. There are also various minor improvements around the park (especially with signage) and the attractions are finally operating reliably enough to last an entire day.
So here’s my report about the Grand Opening ceremony of Universal Studios Singapore. Since it is a GRAND opening, this will be a GRAND entry with an obscene amount of photos. Enjoy!
And before I lose you completely into the sea of words and photos: Many thanks to Matthew from RWS for the inviting me to be part of the grand opening ceremony!
Hollywood Boulevard: Grand Opening Mode
I arrived at the park entrance a little after 9AM with my sister, who is also an annual passholder. We were greeted at the gates and received our lanyards – which looked rather awesome in black and gold. The crew at the gates gave us a warm welcome, leading us to the cordoned viewing areas and somehow, we ended up with Superstar Passholders and… eventually told that we could “walk anywhere but please refrain from loitering in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard”. Beyond this minor incident of miscommunication, it seems like the issue of park admissions was not well represented on the website – the grand opening ceremony appears to be like an invite-only event that take places within the park, but it actually isn’t. Any passholder or day-ticket holder could enter the park and stand at the viewing areas to watch the parade – it is just that certain areas are restricted for people with certain passes (VIP, for example).
We then went on a stroll around Hollywood Boulevard area, drinking in its grand, celebratory mood. On the programme card given to us it was said that we could enjoy a breakfast reception in the China Bistro, but it seems like it was not true – we were just given the cards meant for the VIPs! So anyway, we just continued walking around the until we found a good spot for photographs. I decided to forgo the comfortable seating areas to get as close as the grand procession as possible later.
At 9:55AM sharp, loud and dramatic fanfare signaled the arrival of celebrities, executives as well as VIPs for the opening ceremony, hosted by Denise Keller. The event started off with short speeches from three very important people, namely: Lim Hng Kiang (Minister for Trade and Industry), Tom Williams (Universal Parks and Resorts Chairman and CEO) and Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay (Genting Group Chairman). Fun fact time! The restaurant in New York zone, KT’s Grill, is actually named after him!
The speeches ended a short exchange of gifts. Suddenly, a stuntmen dangled from nowhere to hand over a clapboard! After a count of three, guests yelled ACTION! kicking off Grand Opening Stunt Show!
The Stunt Show
The show immediately starts off with a sports car zooming through Hollywood Boulevard. Some (supposedly) terrorists have taken control over the stage and it is up to our unnamed Heroine (who looks like one of the Helen performers from WATERWORLD) to save the ceremony. She fires a few rounds from her shotgun, before her driver takes the car forward for a stunt drift right in front of the stage! A lot more boom and martial arts moves later, the antagonists were defeated and our Heroine blasts a few more rounds in a dramatic fashion.
It sets off even more pyrotechnics around the Universal Studios Arch, causing the black curtain (see top photo) to fall, unveiling – rather breathtakingly – the Universal Globe and the GRAND PROCESSION!
The Grand Procession
The main highlight of the grand opening is a 15 minute spectacle of a parade. Unlike the underwhelming description on RWS website, the parade was quite extravagant and did not feature JUST the park’s most popular stars, but a lot more, in fact! Every themed zone in the park has a segment in the parade, with a few extra surprises!
Quite surprised by the appearances of horses in the parade!
I am impressed by this parade and I am not exactly sure why – one might say i’m on a fence towards sarcasm or something – Disney parks usually have the best parade shows, from the costuming, float designs to most importantly, parade music. For USS, the grand procession just has costumed characters walking through the route with some small “floats”, which can’t hold a candle to even the simplest (and cheapest) Disney float.
Maybe it’s because this was so unexpected in a park that doesn’t even have a parade show. Or perhaps it was because the performers seemed very passionate in their act and there was very ample representation of the park’s stars and even team members (although, obviously not the actual attractions crew who were busy preparing at their attractions). Or maybe because it was a great concentration of an overall “grand opening” feel that has been bombarded for the entire morning. Before I get lashed by Disney Parks fans, let me just say again that by USS standards, the parade is quite good. But when it comes to an international scale.. well, there’s a lot of work.
The parade ended with the final segment, representatives from each group of park crew walking behind a “GRAND OPENING 2011” banner while giving out RWS/USS mini-flags.
Paula Abdul was in Singapore to grace the park’s grand opening. She actually made several groups of park guests overexcited when she walked close to the barriers to interact with them! Crowd control becomes hectic when overexcited guests just swamp and bulldoze for a photo moment. Eventually the park used buggies to quickly transport her around the park safely. Apart from her appearance on the red carpet the night before at the Grand Opening Gala as well as in the morning festivities, Paula created a handprint for the park in the afternoon.
After Grand Opening
Right after the Grand Procession, barriers were finally lifted and parks guests can finally explore the park and enjoy the attractions. There was a hold-up at Madagascar due to Paula Abdul (and other VIPs) causing the entire area to be closed for quite some time. While I understand it was for security and safety reasons, perhaps it could be managed more professionally as a lot of people were swamping around the barrier in hopes of seeing Paula Abdul or get onto the newly opened Madagascar: A Crate Adventure ride.
It was also raining colours in the park, especially in Hollywood and New York zones. Children loved playing with them – throwing them up into the air (and everywhere!)
While most of the park crew have always been very courteous and cheerful, they went beyond an extra mile today. I saw nothing but smiles almost everywhere I went – Was the park spraying some euphoric chemicals in the air or something? Kidding kidding.
Now that the park has finally moved out of soft opening, what should we expect? Most of the Pioneer annual passes are set to expire in a month. I would feel that the park needs to start making an effort in keeping its long term customers, starting with offering not just attractive renewal options, but promises of seasonal entertainment throughout the year and probably taking some of the attractions down for rehabs or retooling (Revenge of the Mummy is in need of repairs, and some changes should be done for Monster Rock show). Perhaps another good place to start would be to prepare for a full-fledged Halloween Horror Nights event, as well as Christmas and a Countdown that involves theme park guests and passholders.Subscribe to dejiki.com or Like our Facebook page for notifications of updates: