The SATURDAY SIX Takes at Look at the Mardi Gras “Float Factory” Tribute Store at Universal Studios Florida
This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the 2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store! Yes, Dear Reader, the day has finally come. the oft-promised trip into the Mardi Gras Tribute Store is here.
Universal Creative has been producing one great Tribute Store after another throughout the theme park year. We’ll get one for HHN in the fall, followed by a Christmas-themed one, and then Mardi Gras. We even got a Jurassic World Tribute Store when the VelociCoaster had its grand opening last year. The stores in general have all been fantastic in their own way, with each one being better than the last. This year’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store continues that trend with a store that is fully themed with a running #story throughout. As a “float factory,” guests entering this year’s Tribute Store are meant to be experiencing a venue that produces Mardi Gras parade floats and get to see the entire design process. Let’s check out some of the stuff you’ll see in this store, shall we? Starting with…
# 6 – The Details
Entering into the Tribute Store, you’ll quickly discover a desk that is loaded with sketches, blueprints, and other materials related to designing the actual tribute store itself.
For several projects, including the façade of the Tribute Store, you’ll see physical models of what you had earlier seen designed on paper.
Elsewhere in the store you’ll see this desk with design work for a Mardi Gras parade float.
I just can’t get enough of the concept art you’ll see throughout the store.
There are so many small touches which are never going to be noticed by the average guest walking through the Tribute Store, such as this paper explaining the pallet racking system which will be used in “rooms 1-3″…
…and in those rooms you’ll see this pallet rack system in place.
Some of the boxes being “stored” in the Tribute Store have some wonderful references and gags.
# 5 – Storylines
T0 give an example of what type of #story you will almost subconsciously encounter when walking through the Tribute Store, we will follow the design process of the Space Gator float. The Tribute Stores themselves are essentially a four room store that you are making your way through, and each room of the store has a different part of the design process.
The process starts at the very early stages, showing artist sketches.
It’s truly a fascinating look at the process behind theme park design, especially when you compare something like the computer model of the Space Gator float that you see in the photo below compared to the final build of the float (the final photo in this section).
A full look at the completed Space Gator float.
There are multiple progressions to follow throughout the store, such as this Peacock Float-themed point of sale location.
# 4 – Fans are super served
The Universal Tribute Stores always pay fan service to the nth degree, and this year is no different with some wonderful callbacks to things guests have enjoyed over the years, including HHN Bear…
I personally love seeing how things go from sketches to final product, and even did an entire article of with last year’s 2021 Turkey Addendum showing the creative process at work here at the SATURDAY SIX. As a theme park fan, I can’t get enough of stuff like this at Universal or Disney and just wish we had more of it.
Keep your head on a swivel, because on shelves you’ll see references as well, such as the sign below which was used in the HHN Tribute Store façade last year.
Before leaving this year’s Tribute Store you’ll see an amazing tribute to the iconic “bead tree” outside the Universal parking garages.
# 3 – The History
One of my favorite parts of any Tribute Store is the use of a hallway that is often filled with some amazing pictures from years past.
If the recent “People’s convoy” that tried to shut down Washington DC had been using Mardi Gras floats like the photo below, I might have just driven up from Florida myself and joined in.
Banners in this year’s Tribute Store reference previous Mardi Gras events as well. A small touch but very appreciated from someone like me who never experienced this events.
# 2 – Earl the Squirrel
Our pal Earl the Squirrel is quickly rising up the character ladder. No one is ever going to overtake the popularity of Figment at EPCOT, but it is so nice and refreshing to see a new character introduced into the theme park world who isn’t tied to a previous IP. While Earl has generally been used solely for Universal’s Christmas season, this year’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store uses him in a variety of ways throughout the store, so hopefully we are inching closer to a scenario where Earl is represented in the park all year long like he deserves.
While it has driven me personally crazy trying to find time in my schedule to work on this Tribute Store article, in the long run it was a good thing because the store has had some changes from the very first day it opened (when every other Universal blog covered it like a normal person). For example, the opening picture of this article shows the façade of the Tribute Store with the colorful words “Mardi Gras” on the wooden door. That was just added within the last couple weeks. Small changes can be seen throughout the store as well, such as this plate below with a subtle Earl the Squirrel reference. When the Tribute Store first opened, the plate was decorated with a sandwich prop.
However, not too long afterwards, the food props on the plate were removed.
The plate was then moved to a different area of the store…
…before ultimately being removed completely. See, this is exactly why the SAT SIX on the 2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store had to wait. It was destiny. The Readers Needed To Know This Story.
# 1 – Merch and Food
As fun as they are from a design perspective, ultimately all of Universal’s Tribute Stores exist for one reason: to get us to buy stuff. Let’s take a look at some of the items available this year, including several fantastic glass options, wild “Planet Mardi Gras” designs, and colorful treats…
Huge fan of the Planet Mardi Gras merchandise line.
Longtime readers of this fine blog series know how much I love Universal Orlando’s Pressed Pennies, but as far as medallions go, I don’t mind the ones being offered because they are always event specific.
When my family was taking me to the theme parks as a kid, we didn’t have that much money for souvenirs so I always appreciate when Disney or Universal offer mementos at a value price point.
One of the few theme park collectibles I enjoy more than pressed pennies are the “wax molds” that Universal has brought back to the theme park world after a long absence (they were ubiquitous in Florida when I was growing up). Despite being labeled as “wax figurines” by the manufacturer, these are actually made out of plastic. In fact there is even a warning on the machine that reads: caution, may contain hot liquid plastic. Two new mold machines are located at the Tribute Store, with one offering a Riverboat design.
While the other offers a tribute to granddaddy of Universal Mardi Gras parade floats, King Gator.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself with all the wonderful molds Universal has released in such a short amount of time. Universal merchandise fans like myself are truly blessed.
The snack cases at the Tribute Stores are always a hit. Macarons, candy apples, chocolate dipped bacon and much more.
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX *Finally* Looks at the 2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:
The SATURDAY SIX Takes a Spooky Stroll Through the 2021 HHN Tribute Store
6 Reasons We Love Universal’s MARDI GRAS 2021
Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer, Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.