In 1995, Universal Studios Hollywood retired the long running Miami Vice stunt show in favor of a new IP with a troubled past. Waterworld at that point had been a punch line on how to make a movie that cost a fortune and at the same time, a new stunt show was in development. The movie itself was received rather poorly, but the show was an amazing success that transcended the source material. Called Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular, the Arena was reworked heavily for this show. The existing facility had the existing water feature extended and the jungle set replaced by what appears to be a floating metal fortress. Some effects were retained such as a few fire emplacements and the water tower that breaks were joined by very innovative ideas. The turnaround time for the transformation was quite short as the last Miami Vice show was on January 16th 1995 and on October 23rd 1995, the new production opened to the public.
Flex provided us with this picture of the production entrance sign.
The premise here is that we are after the events of the movie and that Helen is returning to the floating atoll after discovering Dryland. Alas, she has been followed by the Smokers, a group of thugs lead by the Deacon, a sinister figure with a Messiah complex who want to keep Dryland to himself and his goons. Atoll denizens play with the crowd filing in the arena by soaking them with water and things get underway seriously when the recording of the show introduction starts. The narrator explains that the polar caps melted and covered Earth continents with water, forcing survivors to live in atolls such as the one we are in. He also introduce the various protagonists and a flare from behind the 30 feet tall walls is the first effect we see in the show. Helen goes through the massive gate and it is closed right behind her as she says the Smokers are in hot pursuit. The Smokers seaplane bombards the atoll and many bullet hits go off in the water as it also blows a hole in the wall. This is the first of many fire effects and right after, a Smoker riding a jetski enter the Arena. He is pulling another goon who is water surfing and shooting around the stage.
One of the actor who plays with the crowd as part of the preshow. Thank you to Flex for this picture.
The Jet Ski Smokers making their entrance. Thank you to Flex for this picture.
The show use a crew of 8 and 4 of the stuntmen beside Helen who have the same role throughout the show. The 3 “good guys” go backstage as they are wiped out, change outfit and rotate back into the show as Smokers. The crew of the show is interesting as they are mostly professional stuntmen who do shows at Waterworld in between contracts in TV and movies. One notable exception to that is a wrestler called Christopher Daniels. In between wrestling matches in California, he plays the Deacon at Waterworld and he is recognized by some fans every show.
So after the two Smokers do a lap around the Arena, they open the massive gates and allow two more Smokers to enter, aboard a massive boat equipped with a Gatling gun. The Gatling gun is driven by an electric motor and the fire generated by a mix of Oxygen and Acetylene for a visible and impressive flame. This pretty much wipes out the remaining good guys and force Helen to do a high jump from the guard tower she was hiding in. The guard tower then collapse into the water and since fire is used everywhere in this battle, a fireball blows off next to the crowd. The Deacon is then called in with the air horn and he makes his cocky and triumphant entrance aboard his airboat. In the warmer months, he uses it to soak the crowd and then parks it to the side as the large boat segment is over. He threatens the crowd and even shoots a round of golf, so confident he is of himself.
Some Jet Ski action courtesy of Flex.
The Guard Tower blowing up. Thank you to Flex for this picture.
The Deacon disposes of the last good guy by dropping him in a vat of toxic liquid. After some more bartering between the captive Helen and the Deacon, the Mariner make his grand entrance, using an impressive underwater launch from the near the gate area. In the original script, the battle was a little longer and the Smokers survived a little longer. In the post 2014 script that follows the one used in Japan and Singapore, the henchmen are quite fragile and things break down quite fast. Among the impressive stunts seen, Helen and the Mariner ride zip lines over the water and fight goons above the crowd. The Deacon starts shooting and in the process, make a barrel explode close to the audience.
An impressive stunt is when the Deacon throws a grenade at the stage and the Mariner does a jet ski’s jump over it. Right after, the jump blows up in a wall of fire, looking too close for comfort.
Flex shot this amazing picture of the explosion right after the jump.
The show most impressive feature is the Seaplane. In the original script, a stray rocket launcher blows it out of the sky and the walls in the left section drop down a little. One of the surviving minion’s waved flags at the Seaplane “flying above us” and warns that is flying too low. In a huge wall of fire, an actual seaplane is launched with a catapult right at the crowd! No guide wires are used and the plane lands in the water in a shower of spark and fire, hitting the side of the pool. The Deacon is desperate at this point and the final grudge match is atop the walls. Helen finally gets her revenge for her crew when she shoots at the Deacon who catches fire and then jump into the water. The Deacon that catches fire is not the same one as before as in order to do the fire jump, the replacement one wears the usual Nomex and flame retardant gear that is used for such a stunt. The show climax then ends when the whole set catches fire and things blow up just as our heroes make their dramatic escape.
In this picture from Flex, you see the seaplane in mid flight.
The fire where the plane is catapulted from.
The Mariner does this amazing hanging spot at the end of the show.
During the Deacon’s rampage, he shot the Fuel Tank and the water catches fire.
Another shot of the fire on the water.
The main jet of fire from the Fuel Tank.
The old Miami Vice exploding helicopter fire spot were recycled for this show finale.
Fireworks also go off to increase the destruction.
In the post 2014 show, the Deacon climbs up the walls and after some fighting, waves his plane over with flags to request a pick up. Alas, he shoots at it with the Rocket Launcher in the meantime and he causes it to crash. The Osaka and Singapore shows (Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Singapore respectively) stages are set up differently, but the premise and plot were the ones that inspired the new one in Hollywood. The following pictures will show the Osaka and Singapore versions.
A look at the stage at Universal Studios Japan.
The fireball that breaks open the wall at the start.
The Deacon entrance.
The barrel he blows up next to the crowd.
What cause the fireball in the last picture.
The Sea Plane with the wall of fire in the background.
A closer look at the Japanese Plane.
In the finale, the stage where the Deacon did this thing starts blowing up.
The Fuel Tank blows up.
The giant explosion and pyros.
The stage in Singapore.
The stage starting to blow up in Singapore. Notice too how dirty the Sea Plane is there.
The finale is so explosive the Arena filled up with smoke as you can see in this picture from Singapore.
The show will be awarded the 2017 Thea Classic Award at the Thea Awards Gala on April 22nd 2017, hosted by the TEA association. For more details, please look at this link: http://www.teaconnect.org/Thea-blog-post/TEA-names-23rd-annual-Thea-Awards-recipients-Awards-Gala-to-be-held-in-Anaheim-in-2017/6610 .