Universal Studios Hollywood has announced that the world-famous dance crew known as the Jabbawockeez will be the headlining show for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event here in Los Angeles. Immediately, social media was ablaze with negative response from fans of the Halloween event, ranging from, “Not very impressed – wish Bill and Ted was coming back,” to “So what does this have to do with horror? Murdy is going soft on me.”
On the flip side of that, there has been a lot of positive reception to the announcement as well, which evens things out for the most part. Here’s the official release from Universal Studios Hollywood, and then I will weigh in on why we think adding the Jabbawockeez to the HHN 2015 lineup is a smart move:
Jabbawockeez, the highly-accomplished, award-winning hip hop dance group, universally recognized as America’s best dance crew, will bring their innovative choreography, intricate synchronized style and signature white masks to Universal Studios Hollywood in an electrifying new show during Halloween Horror Nights, beginning Friday, September 18, 2015.
Currently starring in the acclaimed PRiSM show at the Luxor in Las Vegas, and following up with a newly reimagined performance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this fall, the Jabbawockeez are considered dance movement pioneers having shattered the glass ceiling for dance groups worldwide as the first dance crew to ever headline their own show in Las Vegas.
The all-new, high energy Jabbawockeez show, created exclusively for Halloween Horror Nights, will transport guests into a new realm of gravity-defying choreography accompanied by stunning special effects, pulse-pounding music and the Jabbawockeez unique brand of humor. This Halloween Horror Nights show will also mark their introduction into horror-themed entertainment and will take place at the park’s Castle Theatre venue, performing multiple times per night throughout the event.
“The Jabbawockeez are the perfect complement to Halloween Horror Nights as we continually seek to elevate our event with compelling, cutting edge entertainment,” said John Murdy, Universal Studios Hollywood Creative Director and Executive Producer of Halloween Horror Nights. Their progressive art form parallels our groundbreaking approach to creating movie quality haunted attractions and we are excited to collaborate with them to infuse their energetic Las Vegas show into our Halloween Horror Nights event.”
Halloween Horror Nights 2015 at Universal Studios Hollywood kicks off on Friday, September 18, 2015 and continues on select nights through November 1. The popular event brings together the sickest minds in horror to immerse guests in a living, breathing, three-dimensional world of terror. Featuring an all-new slate of unrivaled film production quality mazes, frightful scare zones and a fully re-imagined Terror Tram experience uniquely themed to today’s most definitive horror properties, Halloween Horror Nights will taunt, terrorize and torment guests with spine-chilling haunted attractions during Southern California’s most extreme Halloween experience.
Recent maze announcements include, Guillermo del Toro Presents Crimson Peak: Maze of Madness, based on Legendary and Universal Pictures’ much-anticipated Crimson Peak film directed, co-written and produced by celebrated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro; The Walking Dead: Wolves Not Far, based on season 5 of the critically-acclaimed, Emmy Award-winning television series, and Insidious: Return to the Further, based on the bone-chilling Insidious film trilogy.
Jabbawockeez has developed a one-of-a-kind style that has positioned the group as the most influential dance crew in the world, effectively changing the way people view dance entertainment. Known for their creativity, choreography, athleticism and intricate synchronization, each member of the dance crew brings a different technique and perspective to form the original style that makes the Jabbawockeez so distinct. Dressed in ubiquitous white masks, they guide the audience’s attention away from individual identities and towards a unified group. They were crowned the original champions of America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV and their fan base grew with their first production in Las Vegas, entitled MÜS.I.C. which opened at MGM Grand in 2010. Their most recent production, entitled PRiSM, opened in 2013. They have appeared on numerous television shows including Dancing with The Stars, 2009 NBA All-Star Game, So You Think You Can Dance, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and most recently, I CAN DO THAT on NBC.
Jabbawockeez PRiSM runs through August 30 at Luxor, will debut at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood on select nights beginning September 18, and returns to the MGM Grand, as a newly re-imagined show in the Jabbawockeez Theatre, in mid-October.
When we received this announcement from Universal, I knew immediately that it would draw fire from Halloween Horror Nights fans, and that cries for Bill and Ted would instantly go up online and on social media.
Adding the Jabbawockeez to the Halloween Horror Nights lineup is a really smart move, I believe. They are extremely well-received and popular in Las Vegas (full disclosure – we have never seen their show in Vegas because, well, Vegas), and they have managed to flourish in an entertainment hotbed that is extremely hard to do so in. In fact, MGM Resorts, International is building the dance crew an entirely new theater for their shows to continue well into the future. They are currently about to be in limbo as far as Vegas goes, so Universal snatching them up for HHN is actually a very happy circumstance that allowed such an agreement to be made. Huge props to whoever worked that deal out. Someone on social media called out John Murdy for being “soft” regarding the addition of the Jabbawockeez to Horror Nights; even though John is the Creative Director and Executive Producer of the event, I don’t believe the entertainment aspects such as shows are truly 100% in his control. If I had to guess – and I am making an educated guess – someone at Universal made the call and John was probably asked what his thoughts were; and he probably (if asked at all) said it was fine with him. Who knows? He may be a huge fan; he certainly is knowledgeable enough of the group to make a very positive statement regarding them being added to Halloween Horror Nights. John knows what’s up with pop culture and I’m sure, is very aware of their success thus far in Las Vegas.
The main issue is that hard core Halloween Horror Nights fans want Bill and Ted to return to the event in their raunchy, tongue-in-cheek production that lampoons pop culture icons and infamous people in the news. Yes, I can hear the numerous harsh Bill Cosby quips as I write this. Yes, I can imagine the racist remarks that “Donald Trump” would make throughout the show. And yeah, I can see a dentist being ripped to shreds by an incredibly flamboyant lion from The Wizard of Oz while Bill and Ted stand by saying, “Woahhhh! Excellent!” I get it.
Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be a cold day in Hell before Bill and Ted ever return to Halloween Horror Nights here in Los Angeles. Universal pretty much ended that run when they caved to the ridiculous claims and whiny postings online by a handful of very vocal, off-base “reporters/bloggers”. Rather than stand their ground, Universal immediately caved, pulling the show and ending the crew’s Halloween employment practically on a dime. It sent the wrong message to the masses and fueled the fire that is fanned each and every Halloween season by individuals looking for some media attention and others who are so damned spineless and thin-skinned that they’ve got no business attending an adult Halloween event in the first place. It also sent the message to the masses loud and clear: Don’t agree or like something at our event? Just make a big stink about it, and we’ll bend over for you without push-back or even a whimper! Universal was wrong. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete was wrong. The whole issue was ridiculous and handled ever so poorly. In its wake, Universal has been slow to add any decent entertainment offerings to the HHN lineup, making for an incredibly lopsided event the past couple of years.
Shows at theme park Halloween events are a must. It’s simple theme park 101. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea (I typically don’t care for theme park shows or entertainment in general), they are a necessary component to balancing out the content matrix of an event such as Halloween Horror Nights. Large-scale shows are a huge people suck (meaning they pull a lot of bodies out of the scare zones and out of that 2-hour queue you’re stuck in for a maze), they give people a break from waiting in line for rides or mazes, they offer variety to the event, and they give people a chance to sit down and rest their legs and feet after walking around the park all night. A major show is something that Halloween Horror Nights desperately needed here in Hollywood – and the company has seemingly delivered this year; of course, I have to say “seemingly” because theoretically, the show could suck and be a disaster – although that’s highly unlikely.
Do I think the Jabbawockeez is a good match for Halloween Horror Nights? Actually, I do. Someone tweeted that the only reason the crew was added to the roster was to appeal to the event’s demographics. Well… yeah! Would you rather see a 50 year-old in makeup onstage with a single spotlight reciting The Raven, or a high-energy dance crew that’s very popular with teens and young adults (hint: that’s the demo for all theme park haunt events) dancing and doing their thing while playing up the Halloween theme? It’s a no-brainer to me, honestly. Now, I do hope that whoever is working on the HHN show with the Jabbawockeez does tweak it to include Halloween and horror-related music and imagery; it would be a miss not to do that in this case. Even if it’s not all horror/Halloween-themed, I still think the show is going to be a really great addition to the event and will be a much-needed people suck each night to help alleviate some of the crowding – especially on the Upper Lot. We’ll definitely go check them out at Halloween Horror Nights – and I suspect the show will be standing room-only most nights, because yeah – demographics.
Fans are also griping that Universal has cut back on the number of mazes this year at Halloween Horror Nights so they can afford/accommodate the Jabbawockeez. The official maze lineup has not been released by Universal at the time of this writing (and we’re not going to lend any speculation or commentary to any leaked roster – because whoever did that completely sucks, regardless of its legitimacy), but even if that is the case – people need to understand that things cost money, and despite a Gringotts vault full of cash at its disposal, the company does budget these events, and they need to stick to those numbers and make it all work; that’s the way the real world functions, despite the fact that people want 20 mazes, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure and a bunch of other shows, and a totally new, non-Walking Dead type of Terror Tram with an completely (say it with me) immersive environment never seen before! The mazes, entertainment, and the entire production at Halloween Horror Nights cost a lot of money – it’s quite easily the most expensive Halloween event on the West Coast; possibly the world, to be frank. If we lose a maze to add a large-scale show, I think that’s fine; it adds much-needed balance to the event’s content matrix, and guests will still have more than enough to do for a night at Halloween Horror Nights.
So there it is; our take on Jabbawockeez at Halloween Horror Nights, and why it’s a good thing here in Hollywood. You may or may not agree, and that’s totally fine – we’re all different and have different opinions and tastes. The bottom line is, if you don’t wanna see the show, no one is forcing you to – there will be plenty of other content at HHN 2015 to keep you busy for the night. I for one, look forward to seeing what comes of this new show – and am fairly confident that it’ll compliment Halloween Horror Nights quite nicely this year… and I’m not even the target demographic!
– Rick West
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