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SYFY WIRE Theme Park News

Theme Park News: Major Star Wars news lands as we crown a theme park king for the season

By Carlye Wisel
The Grinch at Universal Studios

Hello, theme park friends! We're winding down to the end of the year, which would typically be a casual tinsel-topped affair if it weren't for the biggest (debatably) Star Wars ride opening of all time happening in less than 48 hours. (I'd say the biggest but, ya know, Star Tours' iconic debut was a doozy.) Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens tomorrow and will usher in a new era of theme park attractions, both on a technological and a storytelling front — but more on that below.

From holidays in Whoville to Dr. Seuss tater tots and all the theme park bonanzas in between, here's your week in thrills and beyond:


Universal Studios Hollywood's festivities are in full swing, but I feel like — dare I say — it can sometimes be overshadowed by everything else happening around the holidays. Not here, though! Not today! Not in this virtual corner of the internet for people who really, really care about things like the enduring appeal of a Waterworld stunt show.

I love Grinchmas because unlike other holidays, it pairs a timeless film — 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas — with holiday festiveness that's not just string lights and garlands and gingerbread. Sure, they've got all that (as well as a can of Who Hash, aka corned beef-covered tater tots) but the real highlight is Whoville itself. Strung up with lights and packed with those famed upturned-nose residents and all-new tree (55 feet tall! Thousands of glimmering lights! Hundreds of ornaments!), the center of the park transforms into a holiday escape that just happens to be home to one of the all-time best theme park character interactions.

Yes, if you've never interacted with The Grinch, you truly don't know what you're missing. For a costume Jim Carrey found to be so torturous that he turned to a CIA expert for survival techniques, it's a beautiful miracle that you can meet a nearly-identical version in the parks who isn't making a mockery of the film's lead character but portraying it poignantly in real life.

Don't forget — there's no way to half-ass being The Grinch, and whoever's behind that green face lives it up. People have offered him onions, folks have brought him bath bombs that he ate like chocolate; each time he is utterly non-plussed but remains in character. He's so on that The Grinch spotted me 15 feet away this weekend and yelled at me for staring at him while he was taking pictures with guests! Me! Out there just hanging out minding my owns! We have no choice but to stan the curmudgeonly holiday king!

Can't make it to Los Angeles in time for the holiday happenings? Universal Studios has actually partnered with Cameo to bring The Grinch directly to you. Only a handful will be blessed with personalized messages from the mean one, but rest assured, those lucky enough to hear their name will have their hearts grow three times, too, and not in the worrisome emergency room way.

How do I know? Because UNIVERSAL SENT ME ONE. Sure, this theme park journalist profession doesn't have health insurance benefits, but there are major perks!!!

Brilliant marketing. Brilliant. BRILLIANT. Apply before December 8 and you too could get a terrifying note from a holiday denizen in your inbox!


Hold on to your personal relationships and office rapport because your eyes are going to be glued to your phone for the rest of the week starting today. Yes, the major media frenzy over Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance begins imminently, when press (Me! SYFY WIRE's beloved The Fandom Files host Jordan Zakarin! Everyone on your Twitter feed!) are finally able to ride this behemoth of an attraction for the first time tomorrow before it opens to the public on Thursday.

Note: if you're super-sensitive to spoiler alerts, skip to the next section ...

We've discussed why this ride is so major before, but this one changes everything for theme parks. Like a Russian nesting doll of attractions, it's attempting to pull off more tricks and triumphs than any theme park ride has ever done before. Its cinematic storyline plays more like an experience than a ride — yes, you will walk from scene to scene for at least part of the attraction — and with multiple ride vehicles co-operating in ways they have never before, it's going to be a doozy. A DOOZY!

We won't give too much away (yet), but if you're curious to read more, stay tuned to SYFY WIRE, peek in on next week's column, or stalk my social media for a full week of me likely yelling about how into Kylo Ren: The Ride I am. (For real, I will be screaming.) Not interested? Channel that NO SPOILERS energy into planning your next vacation; the ride opens at Walt Disney World on Thursday, December 5, and Disneyland on January 17, 2020.


Listen, you come here for the theme park news you missed this week and sometimes it's hella cool, but other times it's exclusively carb-specific.

Universal Orlando Resort just unveiled a Dr. Seuss tater tot stand with Nutella-slathered s'mores tots, pepperoni-topped pizza tots, buffalo chicken tots, and even a namesake dish at the newly re-opened Green Eggs and Ham Cafe at Universal's Islands of Adventure and it's an instant thing.

Yes, you can get a tin of tot-a-las with ham, cheese sauce, and those namesake green eggs (given their color from spinach and parsley THANK GOODNESS), but it's an insidery tiny-scandal because it's kind of a copy-cat of Halloween Horror Nights' famed pizza fries and s'mores fries. In short: Universal took a cult favorite and swapped some starches for a derivative year-round option!

We see you, Universal. It's smart and we're stoked for it, but we see you!

Man, what a perfect meal.


- A Muppety history of Mahna-Mahna!

- Hoo baby, a monorail facelift?! All my Hanukkah dreams are coming true!

- Ah yes, it's Touring Plans' long-awaited 6th Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year! If you like this column or even force your way through it unwillingly, you are the target audience for this annual piece that reads like a time capsule of the nutsiest things to happen in theme park internet this year. It goes down real smooooooth. (See also: this month's Disney Outlet monthly roundup. Pure hilarity!)

- Same, Andy Richter. Same.

- If you haven't read this L.A. Times profile of Imagineer Rolly Crump yet, it's never too late — and it just won a major award.

- Well, I know what I'm doing for Thanksgiving next year.

- Disneyland's Snow White ride is getting a significant overhaul next year.

- This happened too close to publishing to expand upon, but don't do this. Don't. For so many reasons.

- An inspirational post from an impressive Disney career.

- One of the best parts of Disney+'s The Imagineering Story coming out now is that you can get the Imagineers' real-time feedback on the episodes they're featured in. I highly recommend following them on Twitter, particularly Joe Rohde and Tom Morris. It's very cool and extremely meta to see their commentary on the final product, which both are featured in. Modern times: equally soul-crushing and extremely enlightening!