Universal have always liked to do things differently – witness Halloween Horror Nights! – and that’s also the case at Christmas, when there is still plenty of tinsel and garland but also a lot of razzamatazz and a touch of irreverence.
There are certainly more trees than you can shake a festive stick at – we lost count after 30 in Islands of Adventure alone – but it also takes a special kind of imagination to make Seuss Landing the seasonal centerpiece, only this is not so much Seuss Landing as Whoville, a re-theming around the town from the 1957 story How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
The Whos of Whoville are out on the streets en masse for a wide-ranging celebration, from carols and high-jinks to a full character breakfast experience (each Fri, Sat and Sun through the holiday season) and the signature large-scale stage show.
It all comes together under the banner of Grinchmas, an extensive presentation throughout Seuss Landing that lasts until January 1 and gives the whole area the air of Celebration Central. The big archway into the colourful world of the Dr Seuss books is given a tinsel makeover and draws you in to this make-believe realm of the dastardly villain who, in the words of the book…
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season.
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
Step into the purpose-built theatre behind the Circus McGurkus – where The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular tells the rest of the story up to eight times a day – and enjoy a superb 30-minute musical of song and dance, with the music specially written for Universal by Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller fame (more of him soon!).
We were given our own sneak preview last week, and it came with a special privilege – the chance to interview The Grinch himself. And, behind all the green, grungy exterior, we discovered he had a heart of pure – green.
First we asked if he knew about the country of England. “Ing-Land? Un-Gland? ENG-land. I got it, right? See. That’s the place with the Things and the Stuff, right?” We assured him it was, indeed, a place with things AND stuff, and we asked if he had any special message at this time of year. “Oh, yeah. Come see me. Cos, if you miss me, you’re gonna cry-y-y-y-y-y-y-y. Cos you’ll see something later on down the road and be like this, ‘Wha? Huh? I could’ve seen that? In PERSON?’ And then you lose it. There will be tears.”
We did have to break it to him, gently, that there is the very small possibility that some visitors from Eng-Land might not have heard of The Grinch, seeing as it is a particularly Seussian world. He was not impressed. “Whoa. Whoa. What? Are you serious?” We assured him it was, hypothetically, possible. “First and foremost,” he added, “For those hypothetical people out there, if you want to see the most glorious spectacle of a What you have ever seen, picture The Yeti, but green, and glorious. Right? Right!”
Susan also asked about how he discovered Max, his dog, and also about his penchant for stealing Christmas presents. “Junk. It’s all junk,” he insisted. “Every bit of it. But I love stealing it. Except for the Christmas tree. Those are hard to get out.”
With that, our audience with The Grinch was over after three minutes of pure Grinchian fun, and we can assure you the show is just as good, with plenty of songs, too. So don’t miss it! If nothing else, you should definitely stop by the Grinch’s own photo opportunity (in the Seuss Landing Bookstore) for a chance to meet the cantankerous creature himself.
Over at the Universal Studios park, there is another (huge) tree, and plenty of photo opportunities, including a Spongebob Christmas scene and a giant inflatable elf (yes, really – be sure to see him on your way in). The festive sounds – both traditional and modern – emanate from the Music Plaza Stage next to the towering Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller-coaster and extend to every corner of the park in beguiling fashion.
There are also special seasonal shows with both the Blues Brothers (on Delancey Street, in the New York area) and at A Day In The Park With Barney in Fievel’s Playland (purely for the pre-school brigade).
However, all the park’s festive fun is really geared towards the Big Event of the day – the Macy’s Holiday Parade, a New York tradition that is now in its 15th year as a special Universal feature, in conjunction with the big department store itself.
It runs daily at either 5 or 8pm (depending on park closing time), starting in the Hollywood area and circling around Production Central and New York before returning to its start point, and taking a good half-hour to pass by. This is a BIG production in every sense, as it uses many of the actual elements from the famous Big Apple Thanksgiving Day parade (which started in 1924).
Giant inflatables, elaborate floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, dancers, costumed characters and showers of confetti are the trademark elements, along with a final float that features Santa and Mrs Claus in a beautiful red-and-green setting. It’s fun, whimsical, amusing, glitzy and, above all, larger than life, and there is simply nothing like it – unless you go to New York for Thanksgiving itself!
Finally, on December 10, 11, 17 and 18, the day concludes with a special Christmas concert featuring Mannheim Steamroller, conducted by Chip Davis himself. The Steamroller has become synonymous with Christmas in the USA and, while you may not have heard of the band in the UK, you have probably heard their neo-classical rock style at some stage, and it is hugely popular, hence you need to arrive at the Music Plaza Stage early if you want a good view.
Once again, it all adds up to a full and festive day out at Orlando’s great array of theme parks and other attractions. In the last couple of weeks we’ve taken you to a Walt Disney World Christmas, explored the fabulous ICE! exhibition at the Gaylord Palms Resort, enjoyed Holidays Around The World at Epcot, and highlighted the wonderfully festive style of SeaWorld.
And there’s no escaping the over-riding thought that it really is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year here in Orlando.
Want to know more about Christmas in Orlando or anything else about Florida, be sure to go online and ask Susan and Simon on the ATD forums, on this link.