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.

The 2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Binders labeled for HHN and Holiday Tribute Stores. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Designs for Mardi Gras Tribute Store façade. Arrow pointing to design which ultimately was one used for 2022 version. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

For several projects, including the façade of the Tribute Store, you’ll see physical models of what you had earlier seen designed on paper.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Elsewhere in the store you’ll see this desk with design work for a Mardi Gras parade float.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

I just can’t get enough of the concept art you’ll see throughout  the store.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Space lobster with ray gun. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Reference photos for King Gator float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
King Gator float concept art. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
King Gator float details. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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″…

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

…and in those rooms you’ll see this pallet rack system in place.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Some of the boxes being “stored” in the Tribute Store have some wonderful references and gags.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The process starts at the very early stages, showing artist sketches.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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).

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Physical mock ups of Space Gator float. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Testing structure of Space Gator float’s capsule. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Sculpting of the gator head begins with a flat drawing to visualize a plan. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
The gator head then becomes sculpted out. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
With details such as the scales added on. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
The gator head in it’s final form inside the capsule. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

A full look at the completed Space Gator float.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There are multiple progressions to follow throughout the store, such as this Peacock Float-themed point of sale location.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 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…

Everyone’s favorite bear at Universal. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
I think we can now say the Tribute Store also includes a meet-and-greet opportunity… (photo by Scott Sanders)

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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2021 Tribute Store façade. (photo by Michael Carelli)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2020 Mardi Gras Tribute Store façade. (photo by Scott Sanders)

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.

Tribute Store “stained glass” sign. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2021 HHN Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Before leaving this year’s Tribute Store you’ll see an amazing tribute to the iconic “bead tree” outside the Universal parking garages.

The bead tree. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
This is why you need to use those new Express Lanes on I-4 when in Orlando. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
How me and the gang arrive at USF. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
How INCREDIBLE is this photo of King Kong himself getting into the Mardi Gras festivities?! (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store.  (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

However, not too long afterwards, the food props on the plate were removed.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The plate was then moved to a different area of the store…

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

…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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 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…

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Huge fan of the Planet Mardi Gras merchandise line.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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.

Riverboat figurine. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Riverboat mold. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

While the other offers a tribute to granddaddy of Universal Mardi Gras parade floats, King Gator.

Gator mold. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
The true king of Mardi Gras. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Riverboat and Gator molds from 2022. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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 full collection of all the plastic molds Universal has offered to date. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The snack cases at the Tribute Stores are always a hit. Macarons, candy apples, chocolate dipped bacon and much more.

2022 Mardi Gras Tribute Store snack case. (photo by Hedgehog’s Corner)
Mardi Gras Trifle Cake. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Shake Cakes. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)
Mardi Gras brownie. (photo by @HedgehogsCorner)

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.

Motto of the SAT SIX. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

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