Christmastime is traditionally the season for Walt Disney World to shine, with Mickey's parties in the Magic Kingdom, candlelight processionals at Epcot and new holiday projections on Hollywood Studios' Tower of Terror. SeaWorld usually runs a close second, with its spectacular Sea of Trees and various encounters with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends.
However, 2017 will be remembered as the year Universal Orlando shot to the top of the tree with an all-star slate of new holiday shows across both parks. The long-running Macy's Parade inside Universal Studios Florida underwent an extreme makeover, gaining impressive new floats themed around Minions, Shrek and Madagascar. The choreography is better than ever, and the new floats' internal engines eliminate tacky tow-trucks, but the Muzak-esque instrumental soundtrack is so soporific that I yearned for the earworm "Let Your Heart Take Flight" to return.
Universal's other holiday headliner, the Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle projections in Islands of Adventure, is an unqualified success, exceeding the eye-popping presentations at the Harry Potter lands' grand openings; watch the night's final showing from the Hogsmeade stage or the Jurassic Park bridge for best viewing. And Universal offers other Yuletide entertainment, both familiar (Grinchmas musical, Mannheim Steamroller concerts) and fresh (new Celestina Warbeck songs by composers Zachary & Weiner) to fill guests' stockings.
But a certain segment of Universal's frequent visitors aren't about Christmas, because they're still focused on Halloween. Before last fall's Halloween Horror Nights began, Universal announced that the 26th annual edition of Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure would also be the last. The popular pop-culture spoof was given a well-deserved "farewell tour" send-off, with a strong script by writer-director Jason Horne and extra performances scheduled so annual passholders could say goodbye.
Universal declined to answer specific questions about the show's end, but their spokesman stated, "We know the show had a dedicated following and we did not make the decision about the Farewell tour lightly. But we are always looking for new and exciting Halloween Horror Nights content and look forward to sharing what's next with you and all our fans."
Even so, some B&T devotees still aren't willing to let the time-traveling duo depart and have organized in hopes of persuading Universal to rescind the Wyld Stallyns' pink slip. The movement began with the Twitter hashtag #SaveBillAndTed. Then Rachel Callahan, an office manager from Orlando, formed a "Save Bill And Ted" Facebook group which currently has more than 1,100 members around the globe; a related Change.org petition is approaching 1,500 signatures. Most recently, a SaveBillAndTed.org website was launched, featuring email and postal addresses for contacting Universal executives, along with a newsletter and community forum.
Last Saturday, a couple dozen B&T diehards gathered at the Miller's Ale House across Kirkman Road from Universal's entrance to discuss their next moves, led by Callahan and her co-organizer Lisa Frack Fritscher, a local writer and one-time scareactor. They plan to raise awareness for their cause by organizing events like film screenings and charity drives (this meeting collected toys for Shriners Hospital), as well as promoting quirky "Most Excellent Moments," such as donating a Bill & Ted tattoo to a California fan.
Although Callahan first experienced B&T just last year, she says she was instantly attracted to the community around the show. "I've never been around a more passionate group of people," she told me, adding that she was inspired to start the Facebook group by "the people that were coming together, and all the stories of why they love Bill & Ted and what it means to them." While her group's explicit objective "is to get the show to come back in some form or capacity," they've added the charity aspect because, she acknowledges, "We're not going to thrive on just trying to save the show, so why not try to help people?"
That's good to hear, because I'd wager their chances of making Universal reverse course to be slightly worse than the Grim Reaper's odds at Battleship. Even if they were to boycott, 1,000-odd guests is a drop in the bucket compared to the crowds HHN brings in. I say this as an old-school B&T fan going back to the mid-'90s, when writers J. Michael Roddy and Jason Surrell brought sci-fi smackdowns like Mulder vs. Scully (Tyler Cravens, Jamie Thomason) and Kirk vs. Picard (Dan Johnson, Mike Mergenthaler) to loony life. But while the show's meme references now go over my graying head, Bill & Ted themselves have become less relevant to modern audiences – long-rumored third film notwithstanding – so the current creative team must relish the opportunity to start fresh with a new franchise. A triumphant revival at HHN 30 in 2020 is probably the best B&T fans can hope for; until then, be excellent to each other ... and party on, dudes!