As days of festivities reached their peak, a carnival parade paying samba-fuelled homage to Hollywood hits including "Avatar," "Jaws" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" roused cheers in Rio de Janeiro.
The colorful procession by the Unidos da Tijuca samba school wowed a crowd of 70,000 packed into Rio's Sambodrome stadium from late Sunday, on the first night of the city's spectacular annual parades.
AdvertisementIt was one of six shows put on in an all-night climax to Rio's Carnival partying, which began late Friday and ends Wednesday.
Another six shows were to round out the parades on Monday night, finishing before dawn Tuesday.
The parades themselves are in fact a fierce competition between the samba schools, with the winner feted like a triumphant football team
Unidos da Tijuca is the reigning parade champion, having carried off last year's event with a pastiche of stage delights including Batman on skis and a Michael Jackson impersonator dancing on a float inhabited by aliens.
This year, the school was looking to outdo itself with its long bow to US blockbusters.
Thus -- in addition to the requisite dancing queens wearing little more than feathers and tiny g-strings -- the school put its $5 million parade budget to innovative use.
A roar went up from the crowd as the opening act came out: a group of ghouls modeled on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" whose heads seemed to drop from their bodies before rising up their bodies to snap back into place in a nifty optical illusion.
From there, the crowd-pleasing hits piled up: a troupe of Freddy Kreugers scaring up a "Nightmare on Elm Street" moment, a giant dragon from Pandora flapping its wings atop a mountain of blue Avatars, an army of "Star Wars" storm troopers, an Indiana Jones ducking a boulder -- and most spectacularly of all, a mechanical shark bursting out of a moving pool with a live boy in its mouth in the style of "Jaws."
The other schools dancing the same night, in contrast, stuck to classical themes, such as myths like Neptune or Lady Godiva (the latter of course being a near-naked woman astride a giant mechanical horse).
Not even Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who played the goddess Venus in the parade put on by another school, Unidos de Vila Isabel, won as much attention as Unidos da Tijuca's entry.
As a result, Brazilian media immediately said Unidos da Tijuca stood a good chance of carrying off the Carnival parade title for the second year in a row.
The reaction from the crowd bolstered that prediction, with the public, normally effusive anyway, going wild at Tijuca's showing.
Among the VIPs watching the parades was Canadian actress Pamela Anderson.
"I love it. I think about this all the time. It's nice to see it live," she told AFP from one of the hospitality boxes.
Elsewhere in the Sambodrome, some of the 800,000 tourists in Rio for Carnival also cheered and danced along to the parades.
"It's manic -- completely off the wall," said one British woman in the stands, Joey Whineray, 27. "It's buzzing."