USJ MAIN STREET
In April 2007, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) invited Stufish to create the self-propelled scenery for a new outdoor street show. Planned for USJ Main Street, the daylight production would be staged several times each day.
Conceived as a high-energy mix of aerial, acrobatic and dance action — ingredients well-known to Stufish, through its work with Cirque du Soleil and the Millennium Show — Fantastic World required 13m tall stage machines to move into place under their own power and unfold to create a multimedia performance space running the length of the street.
The creative team met for the first time in May 2007. Norm Kahn of Utopia, the L.A.-based production company, brought together Kahori Kanaya, a Tokyo-based live show director, Mike Davis, head of entertainment at USJ, and Ray Winkler from Stufish in London, whose work has spanned projects for Muse, and Take That, as well as last year’s Live Earth.
During the course of one day, they sketched out the show concept and set design. At the end of the meeting, Davis gave the team the go-ahead to deliver the 20-minute show by March 2008.
The main scenic elements had to be compact (for storage in the back lot and to navigate the streets between the garage and the show site), dramatic (to attract maximum attention as they moved into position), and capable of forming a linear stage in the middle of the street that could support both acrobatic rigging and dance platforms.
Winkler’s final design consisted of three mobile stages. The two largest were nicknamed the Portable Performance Units (PPU). Weighing in at 35 tons each and shaped like lotus blossoms, each one has six inner and six outer petals that unfold individually to create 20m diameter canopies with areas for aerial and dance performance.
Grids of Barco OLite LED tiles cover the outer surfaces of the petals. They allow video to run on them even during bright sunshine. A third mobile stage connects the two PPUs, forming a central bridge between them. David Mendoza at Show FX in L.A. fabricated the PPUs and the connecting bridge, while Frederic Opsomer at Innovative Designs of Belgium managed the video installation.
The self-propelled stages allow the infrastructure for a vibrant in the round street performance to move into position quickly and safely through the middle of a busy theme park. Once in place, an audience of more than 5,000 gathers around the performance space, and the elevated dance decks ensure that they all get a great view of the action.
At the end of the show, the stages fold away and return to the backlot, leaving the main street free for public circulation. The show performs three times each day, and it is credited with a substantial increase in USJ daytime attendance.