EDITOR’S NOTE: The imagery shown throughout this blog post does not represent current operational and safety guidelines at Universal Orlando Resort. Please refer to our safety guidelines here.
Natalie Lopez was a guest at Universal Studios Hollywood back in 2009. Like many guests before her, she snapped a picture posing by a display celebrating the Bourne film franchise that included a cardboard cutout of the movie’s star, a little red vehicle, and a motorcycle. She posted it to Facebook, got a few likes, and didn’t think about it again until about ten years later.
And that is because ten years later, Natalie would be one of the producers of The Bourne Stuntactular at Universal Studios Florida.
“I had no idea ten years ago when I took that photo that I would be a part of the Bourne Stuntactular some day,” Natalie says. “My favorite part is the fact that the car and the motorcycle in the picture are the same ones from the films and I got to work with the LA team in 2018 to get them delivered to Orlando to have in our queue. It’s wild; it’s almost like it was meant to be.”
Natalie, who was born and raised in Orlando, grew up in a small, close-knit family. At the age of three, she would sit under the desk at the family-owned business, watching her mother work. Natalie had an early interest in entertainment (her aunt was even a skipper at our JAWS attraction!), and was involved in theatre throughout high school. Once she got to college, she majored in theater studies and hospitality management, melding together her love of entertainment and business. When Natalie turned 18 she landed her first job at Universal — a parade performer in the 2007 holiday parade — and eventually realized she enjoyed the behind-the-scenes elements more than performing.
“It’s wild; it’s almost like it was meant to be.”
After a handful of part-time stints working as a stage manager on different seasonal events, Natalie applied for her first full-time position with the company and was offered a spot on the team that would end up developing the Universal’s Superstar Parade.
“Opening a brand new parade? Probably the most terrifying part of my career,” Natalie says. “But I jumped into it even if I knew nothing about how to manage it and ended up working on Superstar for nearly five years.”
In early 2017, Natalie applied for an assistant production manager role with capital projects (new projects that are coming into the park) and upon being told she got the job, she was also told to pack her bags and that she was going to California for a month to work on what would become the new Bourne Stuntactular at Universal Studios Florida.
“The purpose of me going out to LA was to kind of prove the validity of what we were working on,” Natalie explains. “We tested the LED screens and the moving scenery, we had the cars in for the car chase and the stunt actors flying around on different ropes — all to see that we wanted it to be was working and working right.”
Once the team got the buy-off on the proof of concept in LA, things started moving quickly for the team working on the Bourne Stuntactular. The show at the time had five key parties helping to develop it and Natalie’s role was coordinating those groups, with Universal Entertainment as the primary team that would bring the show to life. The other four groups were Universal Creative (responsible for building the facility); Renaissance Entertainment (which wrote and produced the show); Christie Digital (which built the screens for the show); and Action Horizons (which provided the performers).
Natalie explains that there are a ton of elements of the show that set it apart from others of its kind, with ‘other level stunts and an array of special effects that transport you to another time and place. And then do it again and again as the show takes you from city to city.
“Once I saw the proof of concept and how intense it was going to be and how we are doing something that we’ve never done before as a theme park — I knew that this was going to be a unique project. And when I finally got to be a part of the communications with all the different vendors and started understanding their capabilities and skills and just knowing how committed and creative they are I just was like, ‘OK, yeah, between the moving set pieces, LED screen and the stunt actors — this is going to be awesome.’”
Consistent rehearsals for the show started in September of 2019. For months, a crew of entertainment techs and stunt actors were trained to do the show from beginning to end. With so many moving set pieces and technical elements, the entire operation is extremely contingent on every person working together in tandem.
“A tech hits a button that says it’s OK for a piece of equipment to move,” Natalie says. “Or they communicate that an actor is on the lift and it’s moving them from the basement up to the stage level, and so they have to open the door, put them in there, they have to press the button that it’s all clear to go…it’s very intense. We have multiple casts and 15 techs per show that all have to be on their game for the show to run properly. It’s been really incredible to see how dialed in the show has been since the beginning. Because of the way that this show is with the stunts and the moving rooftops and buildings, everything was predetermined before we had talent running through the show. Everything had to be pretty much set before we were even in the building, which is very unique.”
“OK, yeah, between the moving set pieces, LED screen and the stunt actors — this is going to be awesome.”
The show, which opened in June 2020 to the public, has already received a ton of hype and praise for its unique technical elements, talented stunt-actors, and ability to make audience members exclaim, “HOLY SMOKES! How did they do that AND can I see it again?!”
For Natalie, the opportunity to be a part of a project from some of its earliest stages to opening has been an incredible career opportunity. Within the last three years working on Bourne Stuntacular, Natalie has seen an idea transform into a project and a project transform into a show that guests are clamoring to experience.
“You hear about this stuff in film and TV,” Natalie says. “You hear about when people have an idea, they say ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could do this?’ And then someone says, ‘…well, yeah, it would; do you think you could try that?’ That’s what happened here. It’s really cool to be able to say I was a part of that. I’ve never been a part of a show at the concepting stage and then to see it get built and open to audiences? It’s really cool.”