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David Koenig
A Grinch-less Grinchmas
Recent media coverage publicizing Universal's new attraction tie-ins to the Grinch Who Stole Christmas was missing just one thing… the Grinch.

The Grinch you meet in the maze
The Grinch you meet in the maze

Now, you can go down to Universal Studios–Hollywood (USH) to watch the Whoville Whobilation stage show and wade through a little maze to shake hands with a costumed Grinch. But the most television viewers have seen of our Suessian friend was on the movie's opening night during a live QVC remote from the park—that caught glimpses of the back of his head.

Whoville Whobilation stage show's Grinch
Whoville Whobilation stage show's Grinch

An official mandate came down from Universal's legal department two days later: Do not allow the Grinch talk to or even show his face to any media crews that enter the theme park or Citywalk.

Unfortunately, no one shared the new policy beforehand with the throngs who showed up at a disastrous Grinchmas media event the following Tuesday. Reporters and camera crews were incensed to learn they could take pictures of the maze and the snowrun and the fine folks of Whoville, small and tall, just not the Grinch. What good, newsmen ranted, was a Grinch promotion with no Grinch?

Local TV news anchor Ann Martin doing promos sans Grinch
Local TV news anchor Ann Martin doing promos sans Grinch

So, who stole the Grinch? The culprit, it seems, is Jim Carrey. Evidently, per his contract with Universal, Carrey owns the rights to the facial look and voice portrayal of the movie Grinch. And Carrey doesn't want anyone except himself portraying the character.

USH had scheduled an actor dressed as the Grinch to make promotional appearances around town through the end of the year, as long as he didn't talk. The tour had to be scrapped when Carrey decided he didn't want the Grinch to leave the lot even as a non-talking character. At the last minute, Universal got permission to use a talking "meet-and-greet" Grinch, as long as he stayed in the park and Citywalk, far away from any media. Even the backlot would be taboo, meaning a Grinch appearance at the Universal 5K Run had to be canceled.

The next time you see a TV commercial for Grinchmas or one of the movie's breakfast cereal, fast food or other merchandising partners, note that it shows either footage of Carrey from the film or just his furry, green hand.


The real Grinch, some employees think, may be USH management. First, years ago, when they bought the company from MCA, lame-duck parent company Seagrams literally stole "Christmas." The word was dropped from all communications, and Christmas activities became Holiday activities. Just as Easter became "spring break," Christmastime became winter break.

Then, management scheduled this year's USH employee Christmas party—oops, Holiday party—for a week after Halloween! The reason? To save money, of course. First, the various vendors charge around 30% less for parties before Thanksgiving. More importantly, the theme park heard that the studio had rented a huge tent in the outdoor parking lot behind Citywalk for an industry premiere party for the Grinch movie. The park convinced the party planning company to leave the tent up an extra day at no charge.

Grinch display in front of Cineplex at City Walk
Grinch display in front of Cineplex at City Walk

Said one USH worker: "The employees did get a chance to go to one of six screenings of Grinch at the Cineplex in Citywalk during the party. Still, having the party this early has caused quite a morale problem with our line employees. This year only full-and part-time employees are invited—no seasonal employees this year. This is wrong because we rely so much on a core of always-available seasonal employees to fill in for shifts at the last minute everyday. This is the thanks they get."


Shabby treatment or not, USH employees don't seem to be jumping ship by the hundreds to join the competition. "Disney has been all over our park trying to recruit employees for (Disney's new California Adventure park) DCA," the employee said. "Not much response, since it seems most of our crew lives in the San Fernando Valley area and wouldn't make that long drive down Interstate 5."

With a few thousand more workers needed for DCA, Disney keeps expanding its recruitment drive. Claims one worker: "Guests are even being approached on Main Street! I'm told that Cast Records has been supplying lists of former cast members who had 'no rehire' status, and their files are being reexamined to see if maybe they were treated a bit too harshly, and those thus determined are being invited to rehire as well."

DCA was able to lure two big stars away from USH: Mae West and W.C. Fields. Disney has purchased the rights to the likenesses of the late comedians for use in Southern California theme parks.


Universal, though, is worried less about DCA stealing its employees than stealing its guests. Reportedly, USH's advance sales for January though April are currently at a 20-year low. Travel brokers explain that vacationers are choosing DCA instead of USH for the second or third day of their trips.

Consequently, USH expects to experiment with a variety of ticket promotions during 2001, after studying the success of this summer's evolving annual passes and the current 3-month pass (free to anyone buying a full-fare admission until December 31) that they hope will keep visitors preoccupied while DCA opens.


You can write to David atthis link..

Grinchless

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.

LINKS

Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)

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