Universal Studios’ Lunar New Year exhibit promotes cultural immersion

The cherry blossom branches, paper lanterns and red envelopes rustled against the L.A. breeze on the opening day of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Lunar New Year exhibit.

Coined as the entertainment capital of the world, the amusement park illustrates its inclusive mindset through the installments of a Lunar New Year exhibition open from Jan. 21 to Feb. 5, which celebrates the Asian holiday.

Though the official date for Lunar New Year is Jan. 28, the park created a two-week-long display to ensure visitors are able to experience a full cultural immersion.

The entrance to the park was characteristically preceded with an iconic Hollywood red carpet and the Chinese characters and English translation for “Happy Lunar New Year” were written above the exhibit’s entryway in a way that suggested a symbolic double meaning to the detail.

The exhibition itself was strategically placed in the center plaza of the park intriguing the attention of guests streaming into the park with its bright red and gold banners.

At the heart of Universal Plaza sits a dome-like cherry blossom installment, surrounded with 12 banners representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Each banner depicts the personalities, fortunes and birth years for guests to discover their zodiac sign; the activity was met with much interest, especially from young children and adults, as they observed what personality traits correlated with their signs.

The area was vividly adorned with red and yellow paper lanterns, the decorations serving as cultural symbols of positive luck and fertility in the coming new year. Guests are able to sit underneath an outside patio of lanterns to enjoy the festive sight and write their new year wishes on red cardstock paper next to the Wishing Trees.

The Wishing Trees appeared to be a guest favorite; they were cherry blossom displays with clothespins, encouraging visitors to leave their written wishes for good luck.

In addition, there were a multitude of photo opportunities with Universal Studios characters, such as Tigress and Po from Kung Fu Panda, Megatron from Transformers and Curious George. Most characters will be dressed in traditional Chinese garb to celebrate the festivities, enhancing the overall visitor experience.

The most notable attraction of the Lunar New Year festivities was a monolithic Megatron. He gathered large crowds, especially among the foreign Mandarin-speaking visitors, who were fascinated by the character’s ability to speak their language.

However, despite its Mandarin mannerisms, Megatron appeared out of place with the Lunar New Year exhibit. The figure’s voice, alongside the Transformers background music that accompanied it, overpowered the tranquil cherry blossom setting.

To complete the cultural experience, the park brought a variety of limited food vendors serving Asian snacks, although at expensive prices. Many park foods became culturally themed, such as the Year of the Rooster donuts and cupcakes. Fortune cookies were also available for purchase, in addition to Sapporo beer, a Japanese lager beer and bottled green tea.