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History center: Exhibit prompts Universal flashbacks

[caption id="attachment_7247" align="alignnone" width="575" caption="

Mardi Gras

costumes and props currently are spotlighted in an area of the exhibit that will rotate out with the seasons."][/caption]

I just returned from a preview of a new exhibit at the

Orange County Regional History Center

: "A Year in the Life: Onstage to Backstage at

Universal Orlando

Resort." It opens to the public for a yearlong stay at the downtown Orlando museum on Saturday.

If you've followed Universal closely over the years, you might not learn anything, but it should remind you of days gone by, to a time without the double-sided mega-garage and to eras with bizarro

Halloween Horror Nights

characters.

I counted about 150 photos in the exhibit, which dabbles in the history of Universal Orlando and demonstrates the creative process that churns out annual events through the year(s).  I liked examining three enormous aerial shots of the property: one pre-Universal, one during the late '90s boom, and one from a few years ago, pre-

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

at

Islands of Adventure

.

As visitors turn the corner in the second-floor exhibit, they'll see the stages of the creative process, including sketches of costumes, blueprints of floats and

haunted houses

, molds (and fake eyeballs) for scary masks and some finished products.

Here are a few items that caught my eye:

+ A copy of a poster promoting the first year of Halloween Horror Nights, then known as "Fright Night." (Tagline: "Dying for a good

Halloween

party?")

+ An invite to the opening of Islands of Adventure, folded to form its iconic lighthouse.

+ Sketches and plans for the Psycho House in 1999's Halloween Horror Nights.

+ A notation in the blueprints for the Hop float in Universal's Superstar Parade: "All candy and icing to be scencially painted to include shadows and highlights per color rendering."

+ A sign that says Universal buys new Christmas ornaments and decorations in January and February.

+ The story of Hurricane Jeanne blowing apart the corn that Universal had lovingly raised just days before they needed it for 2004's HHN.

+ Papier-mache Mardi Gras heads of state (or somesuch royalty) and, nearby, a small shark -- certainly not one of the big relics from the now-shuttered Jaws attraction (but wouldn't that be cool?).

"Backstage to Onstage" is included in regular admission to the history center.  For more information, go to www.thehistorycenter.org.

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