Grinchmas is of course, based on the classic book by Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Universal Studios Hollywood has hosted the annual event for years now, and while aspects of it may be losing some of its luster, guests visiting the Los Angeles theme park certainly seem to enjoy the celebration.
The star attraction of Grinchmas is The Grinch, followed by all of the Whos that populate Whoville, which has a temporary home in Universal Plaza on the parks Upper Lot, as well as the more permanent set location on the Backlot, which is seen by guests riding the Studio Tour. Visitors on the Studio Tour stop at the set from the 2000 Ron Howard re-telling of the popular Christmas tale, and are treated to a short song and dance medley which features the beloved classic, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”.
While Halloween is definitely what we thrive on around here, it should be known that we truly love Christmas and all of the associated events here in Southern California and beyond at theme parks as well as stand-alone attractions and home decorations. A natural blurring of the lines between Halloween and Christmas is definitely the makeup that is used by Universal Studios on its Who characters, as well as The Grinch. Always superb (or is it Whoperb), the prosthetics and costumes are hands-down, our favorite aspect of Grinchmas. In turn, huge props must be given to the men and women who bring these quirky characters to life, from the Mayor of Whoville, right on down to the wildly-popular gossip columnist, Hedda Whooper. And let’s not forget Max, The Grinch’s loyal dog – that pooch deserves all the love in the world… imagine if thousands of people called you by the wrong name all day long!
The tree that Universal uses for its centerpiece is still our favorite of any theme park’s – it’s huge, incredibly designed and absolutely whimsical without being out of place or too over-the-top; it fits right in, and is stunning both during the day and after the sun goes down.
Grinchmas 2016 offers good family fun for guests, including ornament decorating and a post office where children are encouraged to send a note to The Grinch. There are photo ops with Max as well as his naughty-turned-nice owner, but they’ve not been together at the same photo location for a couple of years now, which we find a bit strange – kind of like having Shaggy and Scooby or Laurel and Hardy at separate spots during the same event. The only thing I can imagine driving that decision is crowd circulation and dispersal at Universal Plaza, so it’s not a massive line for both The Grinch and Max. I get that – but still… it’s The Grinch and Max!
Once all the festivities of the day are over, the big draw after dark is the lighting of the Whoville Christmas Tree. This year, The Grinch actually joins the cast on stage to help in the ceremony – something that Universal opted not to do last year, which we thought was super disappointing and really awkward; glad that someone else felt that way, too.
So this is where I do my best not to sound like a Grinch myself. Grinchmas is an annual event that is based on a film that is 16 years old at this point. I may not be the target audience, but I have never considered Ron Howard’s version to be a “classic” or evergreen, by any stretch. That’s not to say I have anything against it – I simply don’t see it as an IP that has much steam left for Universal’s annual Christmas overlay. The original story by Dr. Seuss – that is classic, without a doubt.
There are other Christmas decorations up throughout the park; I would be remiss not to mention that. However, the big focus on theming remains Grinchmas. What we’d love to see – I am echoing many fans as well, I’m sure – is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter done up for Christmas. Nothing much, mind you – but some thematically appropriate decorations and perhaps a Christmassy soundtrack throughout the area mixed in with the regular area music, while the Frog Choir performs holiday numbers. Wouldn’t that be awesome? This is Hogsmead’s first Christmas season on the West Coast, yes – but even its Floridian predecessor has never gone the holiday route. Universal Studios Japan on the other hand, has fully embraced the fun and festive magic of the Holidays. With an interactive Christmas tree in the heart of Hogsmeade and elegant garland and wreaths placed throughout the area, it seems like Japan knows what’s up – it certainly would be appreciated here in the United States too! Maybe that’s what we can wish for next year! Note that Hogsmeade is currently serving seasonal dishes and goodies in Three Broomsticks and of course, Hot Butterbeer is flowing in rivers throughout the Wizarding World and is a huge hit with fans; if you haven’t tried it yet, you need to – it’s personally my favorite version of the delicious beverage served at Wizarding World here in Los Angeles.
If you’ve attended Grinchmas over the past several years, there’s not much new to see in all honesty. Many fans have posted that it’s the “same thing” year in and year out. We can’t argue with that; we simply love the event and adore the tremendous character interaction with the Whos. As an event, it was at its strongest years ago, when Universal offered snow play for families, and even the Avalanche Tunnel on the Studio Tour was turned into The Grinch’s Lair; do you remember that? That was by far, the peak for Grinchmas, in our opinion. The crowds get pretty thick this time of year as thousands come each day to see the Whos, banter with The Grinch, pet Max and watch the tree lighting ceremony. People also come to enjoy the rest of the park – including the mischievous Minions who are also decked-out with Christmas cheer. Prepare for lots of people, as is the case with each of the theme parks here in SoCal this time of year when schools are out and people are getting ready for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Rumor on the street is this may be the final year for Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood. IF that’s the case, we’re totally fine with it. Better to end the event while it’s still popular, rather than letting it become less unique and fresh, dying on the vine. It’ll be interesting to see what Christmas 2017 brings to Universal Studios Hollywood. In the meantime, get over to USH and enjoy The Grinch and all of his friends while there’s still time this season!
- Rick West
Universal Studios Hollywood Grinchmas 2016 Images: