Despite severe weather in the area, which threatened to disrupt the proceedings, Jimmy Fallon and a gaggle of his closest friends – both of the real and Universal costumed variety – arrived in a mini-parade down the street in front of his brand-new, now-open attraction, Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.
The event was short but memorable. A marching-band version of the Tonight Show theme song played as the party made its way down the boulevard, stopping in front of the ride’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza façade. Once there, Carson Daly – the host of many an NBC production, ranging from The Voice to Last Call with Carson Daly to, perhaps most (in)famously, New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly – introduced the man of the hour and allowed the current face of Tonight to make a brief speech.
Fallon’s short remarks were of the standard Hollywood fare – thanking his family, who was there with him, and many individuals involved in the creation of Race through New York – and then it was on to another of the traditional Tinseltown tropes: the cutting of a rope with giant scissors. From here, the major players proceeded on into the show building, leaving the revelers to dance outside for a bit longer.
The festivities were short and sweet, but that was still long enough to allow us to make two observations.
First and foremost, we had been told before that Jimmy Fallon has a genuine love for theme parks, and his behaviors both here and on his television show this week – don’t forget that he’s been filming new episodes here at Universal Orlando since Monday – have only proven this in spades. There seems to be an earnestness about the whole experience, an I-still-can’t-really-believe-this-is-all-happening to him, which was perhaps the most apparent when he addressed the Steve Allen section of the Tonight Show museum on the attraction’s first floor: “Steve, we have arrived! Look at what you made. We have a ride at an amusement park.”
It’s exciting, gratifying, and, yes, humbling to see the recipient of a themed attraction actually get it. We imagine it’s just as rare behind the scenes as it is in front of them, and say what you will about the actual Race through New York itself, such unbridled enthusiasm makes us happy to welcome Fallon to Orlando’s version of New York.
Our second observation revolves around the makeup of the opening event’s parade: not only were a collection of Tonight characters (and New York City fixtures) assembled around their progenitor – Steve Higgins, The Roots, the Ragtime Gals, a troupe of tight-pants dancers, NYC police officers and pizza delivery boys, the Statue of Liberty, and, of course, Hashtag the Panda himself – but a motley crew of Universal Studios Florida denizens were present, as well, ranging from the Minions and SpongeBob SquarePants to Shrek and stilt walkers. It was an eclectic hodgepodge of faces, a seemingly random selection from an equally random lineup – but, then again, the whole point of the ride is, as Jimmy himself noted in his speech, to be a little like life: unpredictable and, hopefully, fun.
So, congratulations, Universal. You took a tiny little space in the park and made it stand out, and then made it stand out even more wildly this morning, even if for only a little bit.