Whoosh! Online Edition Whoosh! On The Road

Universal Studios In Florida,
Report 1
July 10, 1997

By JenahX
WHOOSH! Report
Copyright © 1997 held by author
3849 words

The Plan (02-03)
The Big Day (04-06)
The Official Dedication of "Wizards of the Screen" (07-12)
Waiting Around (13-14)
The Autograph (15-19)
More Waiting Around (20-21)
Wizards of the Screen (22-32)
Odds and Ends (33)
Top Ten Things I Learned While At Universal Studios
Thanks (36-37)

Universal Studios In Florida, Take 1.
July 10, 1997


[01] I was totally surprised when I heard that Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless were going to be at Universal Studios in Florida on July 10th for the official opening of an attraction based on the Hercules and X:WP shows called "Wizards of the Screen". I could not believe my good fortune because I live only two hours from Orlando and I was going to get to see them in person! I was not able to go to the Burbank convention last year and appreciated all the fans who posted information about their experiences on the internet. I am writing about my day at Universal for those of you who could not be there and want to know what it was like.

The Plan

[02] A good plan was in order. I wanted to take still pictures and video so I needed help. I tried to think of someone who would be willing to take a day off in the middle of the week to go to Universal Studios. Finding anyone who lives in Florida that would go to a tourist place like Disney, Epcot, Universal, etc in July is difficult. It is slightly warm here in the summer (more on that later) and tramping around a huge theme park in the heat is not an enticing thought. Now, of course, no fan of Lucy Lawless' would let a little hot weather cause them to miss something like this! The problem is I do not have friends and co-workers who are as crazy about XWP as I am! Yes indeed, I was going to have to do some fast talking to get someone to go with me.

[03] I decided to call Lisa, who lives fairly close to Orlando and told her I was going to Universal. I asked if she would like to go and explained they were opening a new attraction and Lucy Lawless was going to be there. She said, "Great...who's Lucy Lawless?" I asked her if she had ever heard of Xena: Warrior Princess and she had not. So, I launched into a short synopsis of what the show was about and how Lucy Lawless would be there for the opening of a new attraction about the show. I believe my enthusiasm may have been what won her over. She agreed to go with me and, good sport that she is, she agreed to do all the video taping!

The Big Day

[04] Lisa and I arrived at Universal at about 8:30am. It was very crowded already and we had to wait in line just to get in the gate. On the way in we saw all kinds of billboards with huge posters of Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless (as Herc and Xena) advertising the attraction. Once we got in the gate we went directly to the attraction. The entire area was roped off and there was a stage area and a large press area. The press area included a big 2 level platform that completely blocked the view in front of the stage. Lisa and I found a spot on the side of the stage with a pretty good view. Then came a lot of waiting around for the opening ceremony at 10:00am.

[05] While waiting I met Tam and her son Kenan (we had met online and had hoped to see each other at Universal). Kenan is a fan of both shows and was determined to get both Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless' autographs. Tam filled me in on what had happened prior to my arrival.

[06] There had been a run-through of the opening ceremony at about 8:00am so Tam knew they were going to ride in on chariots and where Lucy would be standing on the stage (I was in a good spot for pictures). There was a little commotion to our left and it was Kevin Sorbo going in the side door of the attraction. Kenan ran over there and got his autograph right away! Kevin was being very nice and signed quite a few autographs before going in. Shortly after that Lucy Lawless went in the same door but did not stop to give any autographs (Kenan was bummed out).

The Official Dedication of "Wizards of the Screen"

[07] At 10:00am a man went up to the podium and introduced himself as Tom Williams. He gave a short speech about the shows and how popular they had become. Then some music started and two chariots came around the corner and straight toward us. Kevin Sorbo was in the first one and Lucy Lawless was in the second. The crowd went crazy! Both of them went up on stage and shook hands with Tom Williams. Then Tom Williams said he was glad that they could come and asked them to say something to the crowd.

[08] Kevin thanked everyone for coming and said he appreciated it. He went on to say they had come a long way -- 10,000 miles -- to be there. Lucy jumped in and said, "But well worth it". Kevin agreed and said he was excited about the attraction and that he was glad he could be there "to dedicate this building to.....well to..." Lucy says, "to us!" Everyone laughed. Lucy continued, "It's a chance for the fans to have fun and be a part of the film making process...we hope you enjoy it very much."

[09] Then Lucy and Kevin were given swords for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Lucy started to do a fancy sword move but stopped because an employee was standing too close. She stood in a wide stance with her sword held out in front of her with both hands. She dropped her chin toward her chest and looked very Xena-like indeed! Lucy said, "ought to use a merchandising sword.......SWANG...." and she did a little swing with her sword. This got a good laugh from the crowd. Kevin said, "Are you ready Luce? In honor of peace." Lucy said, "In honor of peace and a jolly good time." She and Kevin crossed their swords up high between them and then swung them to cut the ribbon.

[10] The cloth covering the statue fell away and there was a little smoke and music effect. The statue (probably not really a statue but I do not know what else to call it) is a huge sword with the name of the attraction on it. It has Hercules across the handle and Xena right below it. Then it has "Wizards of the Screen" on a metal ribbon that winds around the shaft of the sword. The point of the sword is in the ground.

[11] Lucy and Kevin are asked to stand in front of the statue so the media can take pictures. While they are standing there some fans yelling, "LUCY!" and she looks their way and they cheer. This prompts Tom to say, "There is a big group of fans over here" (pointing to an area just to my right). The fans cheer again and Lucy waves at them. There is more picture taking and Kevin and Lucy got silly pointing at each other and making a muscle pose.

[12] Then a voice came over the PA system inviting the media people to come in and see the attraction. The person went on to say that us regular folks could come back at 1:00pm when the attraction would be open to the public. Kevin came down from the stage and started giving autographs. Lucy stayed up on stage and did some more posing for the media with her sword. Then she came off stage and gave quite a few autographs. Then they both went back into the attraction with all the media.


Waiting Around

[13] We got a chance to relax and sit down while waiting for Lucy and Kevin to come out for a media interview (which we found out about from one of the employees). Then the employees started moving the ropes around so we got up and got a super place right up at the rope. It was just to the side of the stage and anyone who went by would pass quite close to us.

[14] This was perfect because Kenan was becoming increasingly despondent about not getting an autograph from Lucy. I felt he had a great opportunity if she should walk past our spot. I told Kenan all this but he was not buying it. He was not thinking positively at all! So, I made a deal with him that we would both get her autograph. We got out our papers and pens and practiced as if Lucy was heading our way. He cheered up a bit and that made the waiting a little easier (anyone that has stood around with an unhappy child knows what I mean).

The Autograph

[15] Now, let me explain about autographs. I am not the type of person that would normally ask someone for an autograph. I thought it might be interesting to try it for my internet story but had passed up the opportunity earlier when Lucy was giving autographs (I took pictures instead). Now I was locked into a promise with Kenan to do whatever it took to get both of us an autograph! He was feeling much better. I, on the other hand, was starting to get totally stressed out! We waited there in our perfect spot absolutely melting.

[16] Let-me-tell-you-florida-in-july-is-hot!!! We waited over an hour in the heat and finally Kevin and Lucy came out. They had security guards all around them and they head right toward us. Kenan calls out "Lucy! Lucy!" and as they walk by Lucy says, "Hi sweetie" to him but keeps on walking. Kenan is really bummed out now.

[17] Lucy and Kevin go over to a small park under a tree for the interview. What I would give to be standing in the shade! We make a decision to send Lisa over to the park to video tape and Tam, Kenan and I will wait in our spot in case Lucy comes back the same way. I do my best to convince Kenan that I am sure Lucy will give him an autograph on the way back (I am thinking 'she saw him and spoke to him, she'll do it, right?') My stress level goes up several notches as I think of Kenan's reaction if she does not. So, after we waited around in the baking sun for another half hour, Lucy and Kevin headed back our way.

[18] Everyone was shouting "Lucy!" and she was walking quite quickly. She said, "only one" and walked right past us. Then she stopped, twirled around, grabbed Kenan's picture and said, "this one!" She went to write on it and said "the pen doesn't work." I said, "Here, use mine." She took my pen, asked Kenan his name and wrote the autograph. Figuring it was now or never, I said, "You are going to sign mine aren't you?" (hugging Kenan) "We're a team!" This got me a smirk. "Aw, c'mon, it is my pen," I kidded. She took my paper (a Universal program with her and Kevin on the front) and wrote on it and gave it back to me. I said, "Thank you," but she was already moving toward the building. Whew! I will never ask anyone for an autograph again. What stress!

[19] In any event, Kenan got a beautiful autograph: "To Kenan -- Lucy Lawless." And you can really read it, it is not scribbled. Now, my autograph is another matter. It says "L" and then about three scribble marks. I highly suspect it says "#*!" (which I probably deserve). All I know is my autograph hound days are over. Kenan was very excited that our team plan worked and he was grinning from ear to ear.

More Waiting Around

[20] Lucy and Kevin went back in the side door of the attraction. We found a little shade and rested a bit. We decided at this point we might as well wait and go in the attraction when it opened. While waiting, Kenan wandered over to the merchandise cart (for the 100th time) to look around. There were several of the Herc swords there and the employees let him play with one. Of course, he immediately came over to me and started swinging at me. Always ready for a challenge, I asked an employee, "May I borrow one of those for a minute?" He was very nice and said, "Sure!" So Kenan and I had a short sword fight in which I tried to fend off his many thrusts while trying not to drop my video camera (which was hanging off my shoulder). He beat me soundly with a stab to the gut -- I was history! Thank goodness I had not told him I was on the fencing team in college. Former fencer impaled by 10 year old, yikes!!!

[21] After that humbling experience, I had the opportunity to meet some more internet people: Sally, Robo and Kimba. Kimba (who had come all the way from San Diego) had made friends with one of the Universal employees and she was going to get us in the attraction without waiting in line. Way to go Kimba! So we waited over to the side of the doors and went in with the very next group.

Wizards of the Screen

[22] The attraction consists of four rooms.

Room #1

[23] The first room is kind of an introduction room. There is music from the shows playing and you can look around at chakrams, swords, scrolls, etc. There is a huge poster of Lucy Lawless as Xena and Kevin Sorbo as Hercules. An employee introduces himself as Frank and welcomes us. He does a short and humorous bit about the history of Hercules and introduces the major characters on both shows through video clips.

[24] Then he explains what goes on at Wizards of the Screen. He says that the film from New Zealand is sent to them and "in this building we add all the special effects and we beam it back to New Zealand...they call us Wizards of the Screen because we create all of those special effects that take our shows beyond the limits." He goes on to tell us about the current episode they are working on:"Magic of the Gods." It is a Herc/Xena crossover episode that includes fights, Gods, a creature, and an army from Hades. He shows some clips from the episode and explains how later they will add the sound, the creature, etc.

[25] Frank's lecture is interrupted by a video call from Ms. Harrington (a new Executive Producer). She instructs him to get the crossover episode done ASAP and use the people he had there with him to get it done. Frank picks a man, woman and child out of the crowd to help. They will be centaurs in the episode. Then we are all ushered into the next room.

Room #2 [26] The second room is the creature lab. A very funny lady (I did not catch her name) tells us about masks, robotics, puppets, etc. She introduces us to Sheldon, the creature being used in the episode. She gets 6 people from the audience (Kenan was one of them) to operate the creature. They practice it once and then tape four seconds of the creature in action. Meanwhile, the centaur volunteers have put on costumes and are ready to be filmed.

[27] The lady explains about blue screens and how the horse part of the centaurs will be added later. They practice their part once and get ready to film when Ms. Harrington interrupts. She tells us to get in the next room and worry about the Centaur shot later.

Room #3 [28] The third room is the digital visual effects room. A lot of technical talk in this room: computer generated imagery, digital stamps, morphing, etc. The man (who did not say his name) was quite amusing as a computer geek who said "dude" a lot. He showed examples of how he used the computer to do things like cover wires and expand three warriors into a whole army in seconds.

[29] He gets a rather unwilling guy to come out of the audience (probably because he said, "I need a big, dumb looking guy") to be morphed. The guy was awful which only made it funnier and they made a tape of him playing dead. Then the computer geek tries to film the centaurs (because they still have not been filmed yet) and Ms. Harrington interrupts. She tells us to forget the centaurs and get moving.

Room #4 [30] The last room is the sound effects/foley stage. We meet Tina, who was a riot, running all over the place trying to get the sound effects ready. She gets three people from the audience to help her and they were pretty funny. Just when she is ready to do a practice run, Ms. Harrington interrupts and says the satellite uplink is coming in, so get ready. Tina freaks out and tells her helpers to follow her cues.

[31] Then the huge screens are filled with the scenes from the episode. The sound effects people do their thing. The little mini episode includes the four seconds of creature action and the unwilling dead guy we saw filmed earlier. Then Tina realizes the centaurs were never filmed so she sends them behind the screen and they show up on the screen (with the horse part attached).

[32] Other interesting things in the mini episode: Ms. Harrington turns out to be Hera, Herc has a sword that gets knocked out of his hand and it lands on the stage where Tina picks it up, Xena leaps from one large screen into the action on the other screen, Xena catches Gabrielle when she falls from the creature's grasp, Tina throws Herc's sword back to him (actually behind the screen I guess) and he catches it on screen. The good guys win of course and the cast comes on screen and says stuff like "thanks for coming" and waves good-bye to us.

Odds and Ends

[33] After seeing the attraction we went next door to the cafe to get something to eat. It must have been something like 2:00pm and I had not eaten since yesterday! The diet coke I had this morning just was not going to be enough. Tam, Kenan, Lisa and I had lunch together and went to several other attractions at the park.

[34] As we walked to the Back to the Future ride I saw Lucy Lawless walking toward us. She was under an umbrella with a visor and sunglasses on with a Universal employee (probably a security person) but it was pretty obvious it was her. Thankfully, no one seemed to be bothering her. I hope she had a chance to have some fun while she was there.

[35] That reminds me of something I wanted people to know. Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless had an excruciating schedule of events all day. They must have arrived sometime prior to 8:00am and were there until about 6:00pm. During that time they did a practice run of the opening ceremony, then the actual ceremony, then went through the attraction with the media and did interviews. Also, they met contest winners (Orlando radio stations had contests to win tickets to Universal and meet Lucy and Kevin), came outside for interviews, signed autographs for fans outside, did more interviews (they must get tired of saying the same things over and over to those media people). Somewhere in there they ate, changed clothes and went to a couple of attractions themselves. How did they manage to remain so gracious under such circumstances? In that heat? I do not know but they did. Both of them were very polite and they tried to acknowledge the fans whenever they could.

Top Ten Things I Learned While At Universal Studios

#10 Unless you want to know what the heat in Tartarus is like -- never go to Universal Studios (or anywhere else in Florida) in July.

#9 Internet friends are as nice in person as they are on the net.

#8 Do not try to become an autograph hound late in life.

#7 There are some confused fans in Xenaland. One woman in the crowd kept calling out to Lucy, "Xena, Xena!" (Did she really think Xena was there?)

#6 Somebody needs to give Tina some valium!!!

#5 After our "team autograph" experience, Kenan and I are bonded for life.

#4 Seeing a new mini-episode on gigantic screens does wonders for the re-run blues.

#3 Never get in sword fights with 10-year-olds. They may be small, but gosh, they sure are quick!

#2 If Gabrielle should fall out of the sky -- Xena can catch her.

#1 Lucy and Kevin are a class act!


[36] Thanks for letting me share my experiences at Universal Studios with you. I hope you get a feel for what it was like to be there from my story. Thanks to Lisa for video taping all day long. Thanks to Kimba for getting us in the attraction without waiting in line. Thanks to Sally for the ribbon with the mini chakram. Thanks to Tam and Kenan for hanging out with me. Thanks to Kevin and Lucy for giving Kenan your autograph. He had a day he will never forget.

[37] P.S. I had a day I will never forget too!

JenahX JenahX
BS, MA Education. X:WP is one of those rare shows where everything comes together to create something truly unique. I have been watching since part way through the first season when during a bout of insomnia, I flipped through the TV channels(at 4am) and saw this woman warrior beating up everyone in sight! I watched the rest of the show (now I was really wide awake) thinking "What the heck is this"? Later, I found the show on a cable channel on Saturday afternoons and have not missed an episode since. I appreciate the hard work being put in by everyone connected with the show. It is reflected in the final product we fans get to see each week.

Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39); THE QUEST (#38)
Favorite line: Xena to Gabrielle: "You don't know how much I love...that" THE PRICE (#44)
First episode seen: Not sure; around THE GREATER GOOD (#21) and CALLISTO (#22) in season 1
Least favorite episode: FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (#40); ULYSSES (#43)

Whoosh! On The Road