The Disney Empire Strikes Back

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Animal Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

Tagged: , , ,

Published on August 27, 2013 at 3:00 am with 155 Comments

Universal has been on such a tear lately, it’s easy to say that they have momentum on their side in Orlando for perhaps the first time ever. But Disney can come roaring back, and there are indications that they are rising to the challenge to compete directly with Universal’s newest offerings. Disney has always been the 800-pound gorilla in the industry, and when they want to get serious, the resulting outflow of cash and quality attractions often are literally breathtaking.

Even a casual observer will have concluded by now that Universal really wants to emulate the “resort destination” status currently enjoyed by Disney. This week, some Universal passholders were asked on a survey if they would be interested in a shuttle between the Universal parks and Wet & Wild, their water park. That same water park was recently brought all the way into the Universal fold when the company finally bought the land it stood on (they were renting all those years?!)

Kang and Kodoss spinner now open.

Kang and Kodoss spinner now open.

Once upon a time, the land across the freeway from the water park (in other words, back on the Universal side but right next to the Interstate) was slated to be the new home of the water park–i.e., to move Wet and Wild here. The idea always excited me–Universal could use movie themes to make a highly themed water park to rival the Disney themed water parks. And Universal always understood about thrills. Now that the Wet & Wild land has been purchased, I’m not sure what became of those plans. Maybe Universal could build yet another hotel on this expansion pad. Or I could go for a second water park!

But the water park is only a corner of this resort mentality. You’ve got all the expansion in the parks driving most of the external interest: Transformers, Simpsons expansion, and of course the second phase of Harry Potter as the true behemoth in the industry. These park additions are driving enormous traffic toward Universal. It doesn’t hurt that many of the most lucrative Orlando visitors – British tourists – might have a predilection for the Harry Potter universe since it began in Great Britain.

Following a recipe laid out by the Mouse a few decades ago, Universal is now giving all those new tourists a place to stay. They’ve long had three hotels directly on site. To my mind, these are somewhere between Disney Moderate and Disney Deluxe hotels in amenities, but are priced more like Disney Moderate hotels. In other words, they are a bargain to someone hunting Orlando hotels via websites from a distance. Universal hotels also have perks like Disney hotels do, chief among them the free (included) Express pass to skip the lines. This is an amazing perk. In some ways, Disney’s FastPass+ can be seen as a response to Universal’s Express perk for hotel guests (especially if Disney resort guests get additional FP+ reservations, as many expect). For once, Disney is chasing Universal. Or at least recognizing that Universal has caught up to them and needs to do something different to distinguish themselves again.

IMG_9003

The Cabana Bay resort at Universal is a fourth hotel currently under construction. I’m not certain folks have grasped yet just how huge this budget hotel will be. It looks like the size of Pop Century in my mind. Part of me is disappointed Universal didn’t combine this parcel of land with the empty zone where the water park was supposed to move; they could have built a full-sized third gate here (though they’d have to move a road that accesses I-4 and maybe that wasn’t allowed?)

Cabana Bay will further round out Universal’s offerings and make it even more attractive as the place to treat as the “home base” for the Orlando vacation. I’ve heard many tourists proclaim they now treat Universal as the primary destination on their Orlando sojourn, and Disney is either second fiddle or not on the agenda at all.

Clearly, that won’t sit well with Disney. The conventional wisdom is that Disney isn’t really responding much to the Universal build-out. “They’ve got their heads in the sand,” sniff some fans. The somewhat limp New Fantasyland is a weak competitor to the first Harry Potter land, they scoff, and has almost nothing to do. Once the final ride opens, it still won’t compete with Potter. And it’s taking FOREVER to build, in contrast with Universal, which has something new every week (case in point: this week the Kang and Kodoss spinner opened at Simpsons). Disney doesn’t seem to have an answer to Transformers, and as for the upcoming Potter expansion, Disney will counter with… wristbands that let you do everything you used to be able to do before? (at a price tag that could have paid for a new park, they hasten to add)

But the conventional wisdom listed above employs a combination of selective memory, biased prejudgments that assume the worst of Disney (when in reality we only SOMETIMES get the worst), and old-fashioned heckling of the empire builder while rooting for the underdog. When you take the 10,000 foot view of what’s going on at Disney, the picture is not nearly so dire. And when you consider the projects that MIGHT happen (or are not yet announced), you will realize it’s not only a level playing field, it might even be tilted toward Disney. Consider the following possibilities:

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster. I’ve said from the start this thing will be halfway between Barnstormer and Big Thunder, and that’s true enough in terms of size. But it will be a fully-themed mountain and Disney ride, and Universal can rarely compete on this type of attraction. Factor in the swinging cars (if they can get it to work right) and you might get a very solid D-ticket attraction. Maybe not an E-ticket in thrills, but a big draw on its own.
  • Avatar-World of Pandora. This project is not dead, despite what you may have heard. The construction is well underway for a new theater in Africa to hold Lion King–something they would not spend money on if Avatar wasn’t coming to the Camp Minnie-Mickey area. The new theater is rising where Wild Africa Trek used to meet (in other words, behind Tusker House). I’ve said from the beginning that Pandora has the chance to really wow us. A very large, indoor, nighttime-themed arena that is air-conditioned to the hilt would be a standout success in DAK no matter how good the rides or shows are that accompany it. And knowing Cameron, any ride or show will have eye-popping special effects. This has got to be at least as good as Transformers (and would have the advantage of being original, rather than a clone of something in California). A complex of work trailers recently appeared behind Kidani Village at DAK Lodge–this is the forward operating base for the team of Imagineers working on Avatar. So hold onto your pants; this baby is coming.
  • Carsland. The rumored expansion of DHS was conceived as a replacement for Backlot Tour and Lights Motors Action, and would feature Radiator Springs Racers at a minimum. This project is possibly on hold for now. One reason mentioned is because they realized the water table is so high in Florida that the ride cannot simply be cloned from California without modifications. It’s equally plausible that it would be delayed (or cancelled) to create money for another expansion (see below).
  • Star Wars Land. The entire corner of DHS from the Indy theater/Echo Lake area, over to Star Tours, and then BEHIND Backlot Express into the present-day car entrance to the parking lot could become a new land for Star Wars. Imagine moving the car entrance to the road where Pop Century is, maybe even adding two additional surface parking lots on either side of this central (and now straight) lane from the road to the park entrance. If you did that, the entire side of the park could be pushed outward pretty far, creating room for several rides and buildings. Star Wars Land is, and has always been, the only real Potter-Swatter. That’s only true if Disney truly delivers an immersive, transportive experience. The place has to DRIP details and EXUDE authenticity. Some Disney projects do this; others don’t. This one is crucial to the theme park wars. Disney needs to spend SERIOUS cash on this to make it work. Simply phoning in a performance will solve nothing.
  • MyMagic+ and FASTPASS+. The much-maligned wristbands and ride reservations systems look to some folks like a billion-dollar boondoggle. For me, the jury is still out. We haven’t seen yet what the system can do. Can it identify that I seem to like riding PeopleMover and also buy high-end park figurines… and thus send me invitation-only opportunities to buy a detailed PeopleMover figurine? Will it sense my love of Space Mountain and offer me a chance to buy extended ride time for an hour of Space Mountain for just me and a few hundred folks if we pay an upcharge? The thing about Disney is, I do still love the product. If their data mining can suggest ways to get me to pay more, I probably will. That goes triple for those who visit once per year (unlike me with my weekly habit). When people go on a once-yearly vacation, they are often willing to pay more for convenience, for certainty, or for increased access. If all that is included for free simply for choosing Disney over Universal, well, it’s not absolutely certain that people will think Disney is old hat, even if they don’t have new rides to compete with Universal just yet.

My six year old asked me this weekend why the Optimus Prime statue at the entrance to Transformers had so many details. “People won’t notice that!” he exclaimed. I pointed out to him that this leaves things for people to discover on future visits, and besides, having rich details and expensive theming isn’t a waste of money–it’s what renders the experience so believable in the first place. The math is exponential on topics like this: a half-hearted attempt does not yield half as much awesomeness, but rather maybe only a quarter. You have to go whole-hog. Go big or go home.

transformers 2013-06-01-6804

With luck, Disney may finally be going big. And we customers are glad for it. When competition like this rears up, we visitors are the true winners. It may look like Universal has the momentum for now, but if Disney gets serious, they have the clout and the cash to return to the fight screaming. The Empire strikes back, indeed!

About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida. He is a founding member of MiceAge and has written numerous books about Disney parks (see http://bit.ly/kevinyee).

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  • JCSkipr79

    The Mine Train is striking back? THE MINE TRAIN? A kiddie coaster w/ ONE INTERIOR show scene opening the same summer as Potter 2.0? Hilarious Kevin. It’s like when Pooh came out the same day as Deathly Hallows Part 2. And the 3 others are on life support and/or simply rumor/not confirmed. Nothing can stop the Uni. juggernaut at this point. Not even The Force.

    • CaptainAction

      You are correct sir. People have to come out from under the OLD WDW fog of the past and then they can see clearly. VERY difficult to defend WDW over the last 10 years. If WDW keeps it up, they will become the Nursing Home of theme parks living off nostalgia alone.

      • wdwprince

        I’m clicking the like button on the two comments above.

    • disneytom

      I guess this is both on and off topic but I looked online yesterday for accommodation prices at a WDW premium resort in March and while I wouldn’t think twice about spending $400 for a hotel room on property, I have to admit that I can’t justify spending $600 + (once tax is factored in) – – which is what it would cost each night for the “garden view” rooms at the Contemporary, Grand or Poly. This is just utterly ridiculous to expect a family to pay that much for a hotel room. I guess Disney occupancy is sky high these days so they’re obviously getting someone to pay these prices, but for the same costs I could easily stretch my dollar into a Universal Portofino luxury vacation plus have money left over for a three night stint in luxury accommodations in Key West, Miami, or even a splurge weekend in New York City.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that Disney keeps raising prices through the roof (they certainly priced me out of my Premier Pass renewal) yet there are very little new attractions to entice me to go back and visit. And as far as it being the Vacation Kingdom of the world, I long for the days when I was a Florida resident and use to just book long weekends at the hotels and hang out there and the pool/beach and have nice meals – now with the dining plan there are no nice meals and the prices are as high as they’ve ever been – yet quality is now marginal.

      With Universal we seem to be getting an array of new attractions and experiences every year. At Disney, they come at glacial pace (honestly 3+ years to build a mad mouse type coaster) – I hope you fan boys choke on your dwarves coaster – you’ve certainly paid a price waiting for it.

      Universal seems to be the ones emulating Walt’s words about keeping things fresh and exciting and the customer won’t let you down. I used to think it was a form of mutiny to speak ill of Disney but the reality is they’re not respecting me as a consumer. They are offering an overpriced product that is becoming more and more accessible only to a select few individual.

      The point of this article is that a family of hard core loyal fans is tired of getting asked to pay more and receiving less and less for what they’re shelling out. I wonder where the breaking point will actually be and when.

      • CaptainAction

        DisneyTom, We are planning a trip to Universal soon and the Annual Passholder discount at Portofino is just above $200 on the weekend and just below on week nights. What a beautiful 4-5 star resort for a price that seems to appreciate their guests. Join the Loews First Club, it’s free, and after a few stays receive free suite and room upgrades and $100 credit good in all resort restaurants ay each check in.
        I think Disney is being kept afloat on their charges by International guests. The $ is so weak and the pound and Euro so strong, that it is actually less expensive for these foks to take their holidays here in the U.S.
        WDW Annual Passes are headed toward the $600 range now. Deluxe accom are over $600, moderates over $200, and value resorts are just shy of $170. Add this to 2 decent E ticket attractions added over the last 10 years and a lot of good Disney folks are looking for someone to appreciate their hard earned money, not turn off their mugg because they could get a SIP of coke that they don’t deserve.

  • CaptainAction

    Well, I read your hopes for WDW to roar back but I haven’t seen or heard from WDW. We can strike 3 things from your list of hopes right off.
    1. The 7 Dwarfs Coaster isn’t going to change momentum and 3 YEARS to build a kiddie coaster is very sad indeed. The New Fantasyland with the little 4 foot tall plastic Beast Castle and 2 foot tall Rapunzel home each lifted about 15 feet above ground surrounded by rockwork, restaurants, and stores really showed how much WDW doesn’t do things for the guests anymore but for revenue only.
    2. Avatarland – everyone looks vacant when someone mentions this idea.
    3. Fastpass Plus – gearing this to guests who spend more at the different hotels and attempting to dress up fastpasses to Muppet Vision as a benefit?!? Attempting to drive crowds to old attractions without lines w a wristband?!? Universal is driving crowds to different areas with new rides and lands. One of these ideas is for the guests benefit and one is for the lazy theme park leadership. You pick.
    Universal is building new LANDS w FANTASTIC attractions in 18 months. New E ticket rides alone in 12 months.
    Welcome to Universal – and feel again what it is like to be appreciated as a guest again, not just treated like a walking wallet by WDW.

    • You are correct that WDI hasn’t been speaking about the new projects, but I can assure you that they are real and they are big. The three Lands for the Studios alone (including one Kevin didn’t even mention) will create a major draw for Disney. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the Studios park will be fixed more effectively than DCA was. It will be the must see park on your Orlando vacation. There’s no question in my mind about that. Even the much maligned Avatar is shaping up to impress. I even think Universal will regret not having built that additional E-Ticket in WWoHP 2.

      HOWEVER, this is all taking too much time. Meanwhile, Disney is ceding mindshare to Universal. Literally just giving away previously loyal customers.

      The question everyone should be asking is “Who or what is responsible for allowing Disney to get so far behind?” What person or process got Disney to the point that WDW could become so stale and not have shovel ready projects waiting to be built within a year of Universal’s Harry Potter? Lack of vision? Lack of finances? Hubris?

      I’ve heard the excuses and accusations from my sources as to how Disney got into this fix. But all agree that it is most un-Disney to fail to lead the way. Like Kevin, I think that eyes are now wide open at Disney and we can expect a major reversal at Walt Disney World. They will make all of these arguments yesterday’s news. They will dazzle us with new technology and creativity . . . But not soon. 😉

      • jkh1978

        What’s the third?

      • chesirecat

        Not to pour water on all the interesting speculation, but DHS’s entrance will probably never be moved because the land surrounding it on the south is part of the 100-year flood plain. Ever since WDW opened in 1971, they haven’t built anything below the 100 year flood level, though there might be some edges of parking lots that might get a little flooded. So, the rumors about moving DHS’s entrance are kinda just that—rumors.

        Osborne Lights are popular, and LMA’s facility is new and a workhorse attraction, besides, Carsland gets pretty hot in Anaheim, I think it would too hot for Orlando, maybe Disney is taking global warming into consideration. DHS is kinda built in an awkward corner of WDW, I doubt a major expansion will happen. They could take out Backlot and utilize this space and Soundstage 1 for a new Pixar ride, though the park is doing quite well attendance-wise despite (or maybe because?) of Universal Orlando.

      • chesirecat

        The “third” was for a Pixar addition to DHS, probably the most likely if something will happen in the next five years.

        There were some pretty incredulous rumors months ago that DHS would get Star Wars land, Carsland, and a Pixar ride. DHS ain’t no DCA 1.0, it gets about 10 million visits a year, and has popular live shows and the Osbourne Lights, and sadly, it doesn’t have much empty space to build on. DCA’s Carsland was on a planned expansion pad, but DHS’s has no such expansion pads. You can see why they expanded Fantasyland in MK, and are expanding AK. Animal Kingdom will probably at some point become park #2, perhaps rivaling MK.

        If attendance at DHS drops, they’ll probably add a Pixar ride in there somewhere, but DHS doesn’t have the problems that DCA 1.0 had.

        No comment concerning Avatarland.

      • Tielo

        @ Dusty Saga “I even think Universal will regret not having built that additional E-Ticket in WWoHP 2.”

        What are you talking about. WWoHP 2is getting 2 e ticket rides, the Gringots darkride and the Hogwart Express. What is that second e ticket ride you talk about and why would they regret not doing it? They can always expend by taking down Disaster or better expend to the Fear Factor show location.
        Can you please share the link of the so called not build e ticket ride?

    • pianojohn

      Totally agree. Just look at the new prices for California Grill. Disney continues to squeeze every last dime out of its guests without giving anything back in return. And Avatar does nothing for me. MyMagic+ is just another way of making more revenue without offering anything new.

      Really looking forward to Harry Potter Phase 2 and all of the new stuff that WILL be built by Universal while Disney continues to rest on its laurels.

      • CaptainAction

        WDW just considers us giant walking wallets. Will my wallet, family, and money all moved to Universal. 5 Universal Annual Passes, 0 Disney Annual passes except for waterparks.
        It feels great to be appreciated again. Thanks Universal.

    • wdwprince

      And this is why I’ll be making my first trip back to Universal after 14 yrs. And I’m excited! I still love Disney but my last visit had less of the magic feel. Let’s see what happens this visit. Who knows, next time I may be staying at Portofino.

      • CaptainAction

        WDW Prince, please do consider staying at Portofino. The annual pass discount usually beats the stay more save more package. If you stay here join the Loew’s First Club for free. After a couple or 3 stays they give you $100 credit for meals at all the fine Portofino restaurants. They wil upgrade you to a GIANT SUITE for free which has 2 FULL BATHS, which has been awesome for our family. Then your room key skips 99% of the lines from the moment you check in until the end of the day you check out! The boat ride to the front of the park is a beautifully landscaped 1 mile ride to the front of both parks. We get all this for the price of a MODERATE room at DISNEY. WOW.
        WDW’s problems are systemic and won’t be solved by a new ride or 2, if they can ever learn to build 1 child’s coaster in less than 3 YEARS.
        Oh, also consider buying your annual pass with AMEX. Take the receipt with your AMEX to the AMEX lounge at Universal to sign in the first time. From then on for 1 year you and your party can go to the air conditioned lounge and have free bottles of water and snacks like granola bars and kettle chips all day long.
        My former Disney family of 5 are Universal fans now. I hope you have a great vacation at Universal! You will feel appreciated again.

      • wdwprince

        Thanks for the info CaptainAction. I appreciate it 🙂

    • Kenny B

      All this SDMT bashing bothers me.

      Big Thunder Mountain never really “did it” for me, I’m a splash mountain kind of guy.

      Just the rendering of the indoor scene excites me. What’s BT’s top speed, maybe 40mph? And sorry, the ride is hardly thrilling – it’s a mine train ride! Just like Seven Dwarfs! I bet SDMT tops out at 35-40mph. Also, the lack of excitement that WDW is building another “classic” mountain also befuddles me, isn’t this the kind of attraction you love and always want more of(sorry it followed an amazing USO showing)? A family friendly ride with a gigantic budget? This isn’t something you can throw up quick and minimally theme, like Transformers.

      All the Avatar land bashing also bothers me. I’m not the biggest Avatar fan, far from it. But wait for the sequels. James Cameron always proves the naysayers wrong – and with a James Cameron/WDI combo, i think were all in for a treat, and the complaining will cease as soon as renderings are released, hell, ANYTHING is actually released —- What excites me most is that I think the rides and land will feature a lot from the upcoming sequels. Ideas and images we haven’t even begun to conceive.

      Give the guys some slack, great things take time. Western River Expedition, was in development for years!

      I applaud Universals comeback, but now we need Disney to fight back even harder — so this great rivalry that has recently gotten heated, can stay at a boil for many years to come.

      • Internitty

        I agree BTM is just a very pretty very average roller coaster but then so is Space Mountain and California Screamin’, I can’t comment on any of the others as I haven’t been on them.

      • Chris Wakefield

        “Give the guys some slack,”

        Really?! There hasn’t been a new E ticket in almost 8 years (?). For the prices they are charging us we shouldn’t be “giving them slack”, we should be holding them accountable and speaking with our wallets. If they want some “slack” on being so slow on building new things, maybe they should give us some “slack” on the constant increase in prices each and every year.

        And just because something is highly themed doesn’t mean it need to take years and years to build. As we all know, Disneyland was built in only a year. The entire Harry Potter land was built, I think, in less then three years. Are they shabby, cheap, poorly themed experiences?

        I look forward to, and am excited by SDMT. I just don’t think it is going to be the magic bullet Disney, and more importantly, Disney apologist, are looking/hoping for. Its not just that Disney isn’t building new rides and experiences. Its the jump in prices of everything on property; soda, hotels, tickets, food, etc. And a continual drop in quality of service.

        If you don’t want to fix things and build new things, and just rest on nostalgia, fine. Just don’t charge me an extra 5% year after year. Dusty and some others hit the nail on the head. This is a cultural problem. Something changed in the corporate culture of Disney, I feel, when Iger took over in March 2005. Everest, the last E ticket to be built at WDW and was already underway when Iger took over, opened in January of ’06.

      • Chris Wakefield

        Least I forget Toy Story Midway Mania which opened in 2008. I guess you can call this an E ticket, but some Fanboys might fight you on that.

      • Marko50

        “Western River Expedition was in development for years!”

        And was never, up to this point, ever built. So what’s your point?

  • Susan Hughes

    All it takes is one attraction or land to put Disney back on top. And that is going to be Star Wars Land. Avatarland will not faire as well unless some sort of public enthusiasm is rekindled with the sequel. But that doesn’t seem likely to me. And there is no cult following that will last decades, as there is with Star Wars.
    Cars Land is a bonafide hit and continues to pack them in over at California Adventure. But I don’t think it’s necessary to copy it at DHS. “Copying” is just throwing in the towel and saying “We can’t think of anything”.
    They really need to pour all their resources and energy into Star Wars Land. The minute Disney makes the official announcement, watch the buzz that will be generated. That alone will have people chomping at the bit to get in there.

    • CaptainAction

      WDW has systemic problem which all come from their arrogance. They are losing die hard fans daily. They view GUESTS as GIANT WALLETS. You can’t fix this with rumors of an attraction or land which will begin in 2015 or 2017 and complete by 2020.
      Universal is not slowing, it’s gaining momentum and will pass AK, Disney Studios, and EPCOT before WDW breaks ground. Just watch. Who could have imagined?
      WDW has been taking guests for granted for 10 YEARS.
      My best evidence that WDW still doesn’t care – after Potter Land 1, WDW put up a 2 foot tall plastic “Beast Castle” on a 15 foot tall “mountain”, and a 18 inch tall Rapunzel house on a 12 foot tall stick! EMBARRISSING is the only word for this.
      If these current WDW leaders were in charge at WDW opening they would have built the second story of main street 15 inches tall!
      Forced perspective doesn’t mean to force the guests to use their imagination to pretend “toys” are “castles”. WDW has systemic problems and are insulting guests and that is catching up to them now.
      Universal is appreciating their guests and it feels great!

      • BornOnTheMatterhrn

        OMG. Funniest comment ever. Micechat should award prizes for this kind of gold. Captain Action for President!

    • Kenny B

      The anti-Avatar idea is perpetuated by the internet – it’s not Star Wars yet — But have the two sequels, and time come out/passed yet? Star Wars is what is it is due to time, and proper management of the properties. Give Avatar and James Cameron more time.

      I was initially disappointed in Avatar land at DAK, but the more I think of the possibilities and future, the more I endorse it.

      Hands down, I’d rather have Beastly Kingdom

  • Eric Davis

    Comparing Rumored, and projects where the ground has not yet been broken against projects at Universal that are mid-construction is not fair. Because then you need to measure Disney’s rumored projects against Universal’s rumored projects, and if you do that you see how unprepared for the future WDW is.

    • WDW’s projects are well beyond the “rumored” phase. They are quite real, but wrapped in silence at the moment. But all of that is just about to change. I don’t think it’s fair to say Disney is unprepared for the future. I think they’ve easily got that covered. What they were and are unprepared for is the right now! It’s unbelievable that they have gotten themselves into this mess, but they will get themselves out of it. I’m overwhelmed with what I’m hearing about future projects. But I’m also frustrated by the glacial pace.

      I’ve been complaining about WDW for years, but they finally have a plan to fix most of my concerns. Unfortunately, it just won’t come soon enough.

      • Sifferz

        Exactly right. I see so much negativity and people swearing of Disney and trying to dismiss their works in progress, but they will be in a great place given the time.

        What is worth complaining about is that they let themselves go for so long without building anything of incredibly high worth, though perhaps that was because they never had any true competition. Universal has upped their game from Disney copycat to legitimate and original competition.

        Give it five years; by then, we ALL win. Besides, how often do we all get to go anyway ?

    • CaptainAction

      BINGO! On the nose buddy!

  • Chazbo6

    I spent four days in WDW last week. This is the first time I have ever done back to back trips (9 days last year) so it was interesting to see what changed over the short time span and really get a better feel for what type of “repeat/replay” value some of the attractions had since I was able to cover every inch of the parks on my last visit. (save TT which was in refurbishment)
    As a planning guide, I put together a To-Do list of any new items we had not seen last year along with characters or other favorite activities we enjoyed. (my DD loves to draw with the animators at DHS) Interesting ly enough, we actually struck AK from our list and never went there since Everst and possibly the Nemo show were the only things we wanted to see there. We spent the majority of our time at MK (luckily had park hoppers), and were able to see all of the NF attractions which were not open last year, although we missed the window for BOG reservations and did not want to wait for lunch service. All in all, we really enjoyed the new offerings and hopefully 7DMC will complete the land. One thing that struck me was all the FP+ placemaking done at rides that were, and always will be, walk-ons or short waits. (SW, POTC, SSE, Nemo & friends) I did make it a point to see JIYI since it will most likely be gone before I return. I never did get to TT again since the wait and the FP return times never lined up for us. Having visitied twice in such a short span of time did reinforce to me what really needs work. DHS and Epcot could really use some new or updated attractions. AK needs some more entertainment options as well. MK is still the top park for us since we love dark rides and all the entertainment offered (parades, shows, etc.)
    Hopefully Disney steps up its game and spruces up the other parks. I’m really wanting to book a trip to Uni’s Cabana Bay to check out all the new attractions next year.

    • Kenny B

      “AK needs some more entertainment options as well.” – wait, you didn’t go there right? Your missing out on the walk through attractions and quiet places rarely mentioned.

      And “BTW”, your a little heavy on the shorthand I think………..

      • Chazbo6

        Kenny B,
        I went to Animal Kingdom on my visit last year and was able to spend an entire day viewing all of the walkthough attractions, shows, parade, and rides. When looking at our short visit this year (4 days), other than Everest and the Nemo show, there was nothing that drew us back to this park, unlike the other three that had some new offerings. Don’t get me wrong, I love Animal Kingdom and really enjoy everything (incuding the quiet places) but I feel it needs some new or updated elements and maybe Avatar will fill that bill. (maybe not)

        …. the post was getting pretty long, even with the shorhand…..

  • Park Hopper

    There is an arrogance at Disney. It’s pretty obvious they feel very secure in their position as the theme park juggernaut and think that no one can ever unseat them. To this day, they show no sign of feeling threatened by Universal and Potter at all. If New Fantasyland is their reaction to Potter, they obviously feel that any effort that includes a fair amount of detail, popular Disney characters and a custom-made drink will send all those vacationers running back to them.

    After all, the Disney brand is the 9th most valuable brand in the world. NBC/Universal isn’t anywhere near the top 10. So anything branded Disney should beat anything branded NBC/Universal, right? This Potter thing is only a blip on the screen. Pretty soon it will die off and people will come running back home to Disney.

    And of course there’s the undeniable fact that all the Potter attractions will bring more people to central Florida, and while they are in the area, they are certain to take in Walt Disney World. So why not let Universal make all the heavy expenditures. Disney can just sit back and soak up the profits from all these extra tourists who will probably spend even more time at WDW then they will at Universal.

    And if you think this isn’t Disney’s attitude, just look at their reaction to Potter’s impending arrival in California: Monstroplis and a door coaster. They’re not worried at all.

    And if Potter is all Universal has, they may be right. But one does hear rumors that Universal is after Lord of the Rings. And if that happens… Watch out Emperor Mickey, the Visigoths are coming.

    • Kenny B

      Read “Disney War” by James B. Stewart —– it chronicles Einsners term as CEO, though mostly focusing on movies and people – there’s a marginal amount devoted to the parks.

      I blame this on Iger, and the board.

  • Park Hopper

    There is an arrogance at Disney. It’s pretty obvious they feel very secure in their position as the theme park juggernaut and think that no one can ever unseat them. To this day, they show no sign of feeling threatened by Universal and Potter at all. If New Fantasyland is their reaction to Potter, they obviously feel that any effort that includes a fair amount of detail, popular Disney characters and a custom-made drink will send all those vacationers running back to them. After all, the Disney brand is the 9th most valuable brand in the world.

    NBC/Universal isn’t anywhere near the top 10. So anything branded Disney should beat anything branded NBC/Universal, right? This Potter thing is only a blip on the screen. Pretty soon it will die off and people will come running back home to Disney.

    And of course there’s the undeniable fact that all the Potter attractions will bring more people to central Florida, and while they are in the area, they are certain to take in Walt Disney World. So why not let Universal make all the heavy expenditures. Disney can just sit back and soak up the profits from all these extra tourists who will probably spend even more time at WDW then they will at Universal.

    And if you think this isn’t Disney’s attitude, just look at their reaction to Potter’s impending arrival in California: Monstroplis and a door coaster. They’re not worried at all.

    And if Potter is all Universal has, they may be right. But one does hear rumors that Universal is after Lord of the Rings. And if that happens… Watch out Emperor Mickey, the Visigoths are coming.

    • Kenny B

      “This Potter thing is only a blip on the screen.” — and that’s what people said about Star Wars. === BTW, it’s rumored another Harry Potter book is in the works, or at least in the near/far/close future.

      “And of course there’s the undeniable fact that all the Potter attractions will bring more people to central Florida, and while they are in the area, they are certain to take in Walt Disney World” — Not necessarily. But I guarantee those people will spend more time, and money at the Universal Resort.

  • Badger

    If the current status quo is the Disney Empire striking back, then Universal has little to fear.

    We only make it to Florida every so often to visit relatives, but it is Universal and not WDW that has made our list for places to visit. It is Universal that has delivered quality and content while Disney has left their fan base to speculate on what they could, should or might do. And quite frankly, the speculation presented here sounds pretty lame.

    • Kenny B

      So Twister and MIB the ride kept you coming back?

      It’s the constancy on new rides, thats the dagger in the heart.

  • BC_DisneyGeek

    Disney hasn’t added anything substantial since Expedition Everest.

    All this talk about how great new hypothetical lands *could* be does nothing for me.

    They could do great things, but their recent track record speaks for itself.

    • CaptainAction

      Yes, did you see the 2 foot tall Beast’s Castle and 18 inch tall Rapunzel’s Home sitting up 14 feet in the air? Nice toys. What are they doing up on those rocks?

      • Kenny B

        Didn’t everyone applaud Disney on their use of forced perspective before?

      • Tielo

        @ Kenny B Forced perspective is fine but there is a trend in WDW putting in miniatures and they look awful. Hogwart is forced perspective, Beasts castle is a miniature on top of a restaurant.

      • Marko50

        Gee, CA, that’s the third time you’ve mentioned that in the comments for this one story. So far. I’m still on page one.

        Running out of things to say?

  • Longaway

    I still think AvatarLand is a huge mistake to go through with. It was a single film, granted a massive blockbuster, that hasn’t shown any real staying power. Essentially, Disney is gambling that the sequels won’t be a bust. That is not a bet I would be willing to make.

    I truly think that something like Beastly Kingdom would be a better idea. It gives wide latitude to the Imagineers, and the creatures that in it are true cultural touchstones. What boy and girl (or most adults, for that matter) wouldn’t want to see “real life” unicorns and dragons? And it reminds people that Disney can still create something new and original in the parks, not just adaptations.

    Now Star Wars, on the other hand, is something I think they might be going too small with. This is a franchise that could easily support an entire park. If this isn’t huge, comprehensive and _quality_, then Disney loses. Whatever they do with SW absolutely has to better Potter. It has to be as, or more, immersive. It has to have more, and more varied, rides. This is a grand slam waiting to happen, but if they whiff on this, I don’t think Disney Parks will ever be the same.

  • Mousecat

    As long as Steve Burke is in charge of Universal and the crew who solves problems that do not exist are running the show at Disney, I am placing my money on Universal.

    Sam

    • CaptainAction

      Universal will surpass AK, Disney Studios, and EPCOT attendance in 2015. Universal is speeding up the momentum. The new Potter train will be an E ticket attraction in itself, using the effects of Kong tram in Hollywood. It will simulate many different voyages and alone will be better than anything WDW has done in the last 10 years.
      Nevermind the New Potterland, Potter Roller Coaster, New Simpson’s Land, New Despicable Me, New Transformers, New Jurassic Park Roller Coaster, etc. All while WDW keeps working on the Snow White Coaster for year 3 and counting.

      • Tielo

        @CaptainAction Please keep your facts straight. Yes Universal told press the Hogwart Express is a mayor ride and will have different stories and in cabin effects but it’s NOT using the King Kong tram system of Universal Hollywood. That tram is driven in a enclosed room with 2 huge screens on both sides, you need to wear 3D glasses and under the tram is a motion system. Nothing of these will go into the Hogwart Express. The train will have flat screen like windows and incabin effects. It will be amazing and unique but not like Kong.

  • Brisal73

    You can bet as soon as Disney announces Star Wars Land, Universal will counter with Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit area.

    • Tielo

      Middle earth, I would love to see that. They could even fill in the huge lake at IOA to put it in there.

    • Marko50

      IF Uni can get the rights.

      • CaptainAction

        Hey Marko, so you like the little Beast dollhouse on the rock? You like the Rapunzel dollhouse on the big stick?
        Nobody has a good response except, “Hey, you keep saying the same thing, duh huh huh”.
        Hard to defend isn’t it?
        Ever seen a cheaper, larger failure of forced perspective in your life?
        Can you believe WDW approved it? Then built it? Then left it up?
        Can you imagine what Walt would say if he saw this?
        Someone would have been fired.
        A wall would have been put up and those dollhouses would have been removed.
        I know you don’t know what to say because it’s indefensible.
        So, I won’t even ask you if you’ve seen Hogwartz.

  • StevenW

    It is true that Universal has not done the immersive Big Thunder type roller coaster. That is too bad since Universal is no competitor when it comes to the Carsland Radiator Springs Racer type attraction. Taking in a impressive view is still Disney’s best selling feature. I can only so many Transformers, Spiderman, Simpson movie-type simulator rides. They are head churning.

    When Disney strikes back, I can only hope.

  • MWH1980

    It’s funny – the way people react to ‘Avatar Land,’ is the way it seems film viewers react to the thought of PIXAR’s films about ‘Cars.’

    I also am not getting any excitement/vibe off of Avatar. That’s one area that i feel they are going to have to really work hard to impress me.

    Glad to know ‘Carsland-Mini’ is off the table for now. To me, putting RSR in Florida just takes away from the exclusivity of the ride and its surroundings at California Adventure. To me, Florida’s always had more ‘toys’ than the rest of the parks. It’s nice to know that California has things in its own ‘toybox’ that you can’t get elsewhere, just like with Tokyo Disneyseas (the exclusivity and theming there makes it quite a draw!).

    If anything, developing a larger footprint for Star Wars in Florida seems a good thing to do. It’s not as land-locked as ST in Disneyland. I think it would be need to have a ‘Talk with a Jedi Master,’ where one could speak to Yoda much like ‘Turtle Talk with Crush.’

  • DuckyDelite

    I am definitely glad to hear there are some big things coming (hopefully). I don’t care if it is Avatar themed or Star Wars themed, when Disney does it right they can impress with or without a movie tie-in.

    My biggest concern is continuing neglected infrastructure. Throwing in a new land isn’t enough to offset the general feeling of customer neglect when I’m in the parks. I’m talking about security checkpoints and turnstiles that are hundreds of people deep because they are not staffed accordingly. Crowded bathrooms. Lack of shade and seating. Minimal food options. Tripping over stroller parking. Navigating barricades and ride closures and crowd control for parades and shows.

    Granted, most of my experience is based on DL, not WDW. However, my trip to WDW didn’t make me feel like things are much better there.

    Going to Disneyland is starting to feel like going to Six Flags. Fight the crowds, check out the newest attraction and get the heck out of there. I didn’t have that feeling when I was at Universal Orlando. I didn’t feel like I was being cattle herded and I look forward to going back.

    That isn’t to say Universal isn’t going to have the same issues when HP 2 opens. I can image some serious crowd control issues as people start park hopping throughout the day. But with the addition of things like Springfield, it seems like Universal understands people want more that just queuing for rides and meet-n-greets.

  • Kevin Yee

    Susan’s comment is the closest to what I hoped my main point would be: Disney can come back with a CRUSHING answer to Universal if they so choose. It’s not a certainty that they WILL, but there is a lot of groupthink right not that Universal can do no wrong and Disney can do no right.

    I happen to agree Uni has momentum. I also agree Disney has done little lately to inspire confidence. What I’m trying to point out is that one land, if done amazingly well, will slap Uni back down to second place if done right. If they open up three (even four) new lands and all of them outperform… well, then, I think Uni will have a fight on its hands.

    Which is a wonderful thing for us customers. It means we win no matter what.

    • CaptainAction

      Easier to join and appreciate Universal than to make a case for Disney. Think how bad things would be at Disney if it wasn’t for Universal kicking their rears!
      New Fantasyland? Compare it to Potterland which was completed before WDW broke ground. One word, pathetic.
      Just stores, restaurants, and Princess photo ops surrounded by rocks, for us WALKING WALLETS.
      My family of 5 former WDW annual pass holders now has 0 – WDW Park Annual passes and 5 Universal Annual Passes.
      Our family, our wallets, and our appreciation has moved to Universal. I’d forgotten how good it feels to be appreciated.

    • Internitty

      I really think it’s going to take more than one land, there is the whole maintenance problem at WDW that needs to be addressed, then an ongoing maintenance plan, so what if they build one shiny new land if they continue to let the rest of the resort fall apart. Disney need to be seen to be addressing all the problems at WDW, they had the guts to admit they screwed up DCA and then start fixing it (I am worried they are going to leave it way too long to continue the expansion there) they need to do the same with WDW, they need to be honest with the consumer and say hey we’re fixing your old favourites and creating some new adventures.

      As far as Avatar goes there has been nothing to hold interest in it, the story is passable but really not that good, the film was really just a special effects and 3D showcase and on those fronts it cannot be faulted. Star Wars has all the elements that make a classic fairytale, an awesome bad guy, a likeable hero and great supporting characters, something Avatar lacks completely. When I refer to Star Wars btw I am only referring to Episodes 4, 5 and 6 the prequels are as forgettable as Avatar, in an interview Anthony Daniels even said Lucas had forgotten about story and was only obsessed with effects, there’s a reason they are mocked so openly (thank goodness Disney is treating this property with respect so far) As much as I like Star Wars (before Lucas destroyed the original films) it is only one property that doesn’t appeal to everyone, a Star Wars land will pull in massive crowds but needs to be bolstered with other properties.

      I agree Disney CAN come back with a crushing blow but if you look at WDW’s track record they most likely WON’T.

  • jkh1978

    How would moving the car entrance change things? I looked at the map and confused by your explanation.

  • lionheartkc

    On thing that intrigues me in all of the comments about what Disney is and isn’t doing is that no one sees the big picture when it comes to My Magic +. Yea, right now it’s basically being used to consolidate things that you already do, simplify some crowd flows, and yes, increase revenue streams. But the big picture is that it is the foundation for the next level of interaction with rides, shows, dining and characters. Once it is in place and working, Disney can use the information they gather to customize experiences, make recommendations, allow for “living character” interaction, notify restaurants of diet requirements, make it so every Disney princess knows your daughter’s first name, deliver custom video content to your room, etc. If used properly, they will be able to ramp up the “magic” to a level way beyond anything they have achieved in the past, only limited by the level of information each family is willing to make available.

    Yea, it’s a HUGE undertaking, and the foundation is always the most boring part of it, but I’m willing to bet that, 10 years from now, every other theme park is going to be scrambling to build something like it because they are, once again, eating Disney’s dust.

    To me, the one place that Disney has failed, and it’s a place they have been failing for many years, not just in the theme park world, but across the company, is in marketing and PR. They really need to get someone in place who knows how to speak to the people, build expectations, address issues, etc. Because of their failure in this area, outwardly, they look like a ship without a rudder, and they need to fix that, quickly, to keep people on board.

    They also need to return to a focus on details. Kevin points out the chipping paint around the parks and failing animatronics, but that’s just the surface. There are so many things that are rough around the edges behind the scenes, as well, and there is no urgency in fixing them. Disney has developed a “good enough” attitude in place of what used to be an “excellence or nothing” attitude, and that needs to change, especially when they are in the early phases of a very long term ramp up in technology and experiences.

    • DuckyDelite

      >> Once it is in place and working, Disney can use the information they gather to customize experiences, make recommendations, allow for “living character” interaction, notify restaurants of diet requirements, make it so every Disney princess knows your daughter’s first name, deliver custom video content to your room, etc.

      Ya, cause no one has smartphones.

      • Marko50

        Way to show that you don’t understand the post. LOL!

      • CaptainAction

        You’ll have to ignore Marko. He can’t defend WDW or argue the facts, just criticize the messenger for some meaningless point.

    • danielz6

      A princess knowing your name isn’t magical, its creepy and awkward and doesn’t justify me strapping a bracelet to myself all vacation long. Not to mention it doesn’t make sense from a story perspective. Why would a princess know my name if we’ve never met before? And what’s so hard about the princess just asking the child’s name, which would be the polite, friendly non awkward way of interacting? The other folly in that logic is that people aren’t stupid. Nobody(except for maybe very young children) are going to be stunned at Disney knowing their name or data. Everyone will know its not magic, its this silly wristband I’m forced to wear all vacation long. Hardly magical imo.

    • Tielo

      @lionheartkc Sorry but I’m with danielz6. The whole thing is only a money grab. And I’m sure you have a lovely daughter but when the day comes a doll in it’s a small world, assembled by your sweetheart waving at her and calling her name because you pulled your wallet, is going to ruin the original experience, I’ll never set foot in that park again.
      Disney will mine all your information they can get their greedy hands on to give you more of the same resulting in you are not evolving. There will be more focus group experiences instead of family experiences that made them big.

  • rushtest4echo

    Actual outlays at Disneyworld over the past decade:
    2003: Mission: Space / $100 Million
    2003: Wishes / $30 Million
    2003: Pop Century / $100 Million
    2004: Turtle Talk / $20 Million
    2004: Saratoga Springs / $150 Million
    2004: Magic of Disney Animation Refurbishment / $10 million
    2005: Crush n Gusher / $20 Million
    2005: Flying Carpets & Bazaar / $15 Million
    2005: Soarin / $60 Million
    2005: Lights, Motors, Action / $20 Million
    2006: All Star Music Suites / $30 million
    2006: Expedition Everest / $100 Million
    2007: Finding Nemo: The Musical / $30 Million
    2007: Seas with Nemo & Friends / $40 Million
    2007: Gran Fiesta Tour / $10 Million
    2007: Monsters Inc Laugh Floor / $35 million
    2007: Animal Kingdom Villas / $120 million
    2007: Yak & Yeti / $30 million
    2008: Spaceship Earth Refurbishment / $70 million
    2009: Bay Lake Tower / $200 million
    2009: Saratoga Villas / $100 million
    2011: Star Tours / $80 million
    2012: Art of Animation Resort / Rumored to be around $135 Million
    2012: New Fantasyland Phase 1 / $250 million
    2013: My Magic+ / $1.2 billion
    2014: New Fantasyland Phase 2 / $100 million

    TOTAL: $3.05 BILLION

    Semi Confirmed/Rumored Future Outlays
    2014: Disney Springs / Rumored to be $100 million (garages not included)
    2015: Avatarland / Rumored to be $500 million
    2016: Carsland / Rumored to be $200 million
    2016: Polynesian Villas / At least $100 million

    Hypothetical Future Outlays That Will Eventually Happen
    2015-2020 New Tomorrowland / At least $200 million
    2015-2020 Star Wars Land / At least $1 billion

    TOTAL FUTURE SPENDING over the next 5-7 Years: $2.1 BILLION

    These may not be the projects that most of Miceage wants, but I promise that DIsney is giving the people what they want. Building more resorts/dvc means occupancy is strained, and that there’s a demand for more rooms. MyMagic+ comes from 10+ years of guest feedback and research, Disney would not spend so much time and money for such a program if there was not positive feedback and demand for such a system. I have plenty of ideas for future attractions at WDW, but please don’t pretend that they’re “resting on their laurels” or “too arrogant to see Universal as a threat”. They’re spending billions to improve the guest experience and maximize profits, things companies strive for. Attendance isn’t falling, in fact it held up VERY WELL during the great recession. Simply because funds are being directed at the more profitable ends of the resort doesn’t mean they’re not spending money. They’re just not spending it on what you want. And I for one am pretty glad for that. All of the armchair Imagineers and armchair parks management and armchair accountants around here would have driven Disney into the ground long ago if they ran things. 😉

    • JiminyCricketFan

      Wow! When you list rides that cost under a $100 million on your list, it seems to me it means we could have had ten new rides with the $1.1 billion dollars they are spending on the new “Mousecuffs” that Disney hopes to put on all new visitors to keep them at their resort. Disney has been spending on new resorts for decades with little money for new rides. I don’t the extra expenditures on hotels as increasing the value for the guest. It only means more crowded conditions at parks that have not be updated for many years. Without new rides, the capacity for the parks does not go up. If Disney started today to build a new ride at say Hollywood Studios, I guess we cannot expect to see it by three or four years from now? Until then, the magic is happening at Universal.

    • CaptainAction

      What a lame list. 90% is to grab more revenue. Massively inflated figures or Disney is run by suckers.
      In the last 10 years only ONE NEW ATTRACTION – Everest! How long has the Yeti been broke? Can they spare a million to fix the Yeti? No, how about $10 for a strobe light and we will say the refurb cost was $20 million, ok?
      The hotels and the like are revenue grabs from us, the Walking Wallets, er, I mean, Guests.
      $80 million for 20 minutes of new film at Star Tours?

      • Kenny B

        Sadly, strobe lights are closer to 25 bucks. The Yeti may utilize 7 of these. We may be talking 200$ here! Where’s a loan when Disney needs it!

      • Marko50

        Dear CA:

        Please read before you type. There are many more than one attraction on that list. Soarin’. Mission: Space. Alladin. Crush n Gusher. And if you think Star Wars II was nothing more than 20 minutes of new film…well, this is a family site.

        And, gee, you’ve also used “Walking Wallets” more times that I believe anyone wanted to hear. It’s not particularly inventive.

        Your posts make me wonder if you are the required age of 13.

    • buttermaker

      Mr. Iger is that you?

      • The Lost Boy

        Looks like Comic Book Guy escaped from Homer Simpson Land.

  • rushtest4echo

    Forgot to add:
    2008: Toy Story Mania / $80 million
    2012: New Test Track / $50 million

    Probably forgot a few more things…

    Either way, even counting sponsorships and the like, WDW has spent over $3 Billion over the last 10 years and will probably spend that much OR MORE over the next 10.

    • Kenny B

      DCA did 1.5 billion over 3 or 4 years, and look at the results. Your argument is flawed. How about a WDW/Universal Orlando comparison —- money talks.

    • Internitty

      It’s not about how much money you spend it’s about how you spend it

    • coneheads

      Bravo Rushtest, I don’t know how many times it needs to be said. The Parks are FULL, the
      Resorts are FULL, the restaurants are FULL, the merch flies off the shelf. Uni is not hurting Disney in the least if anything they have brought new guests that want to check out Uni’s fine offerings but very few will come to Orlando and not go to Disney.

      Hate on Disney all you want but the foreboding omens of doom posted by Trolls on the internet is not reflected in any way in RealityLand. Disney is not worried and doesn’t feel any need to “counter” Harry Potter because there has been no effect on their bottom line except an uptick in visits.

  • RenMan

    Everyone in this thread seems to regard Disney as needing to catch up with Universal. While this is true in terms of visible creative activity in Florida, I’m always surprised when no one mentions the obvious: attendance at the Magic Kingdom is FAR and away greater than that of any other theme park, and eclipses the COMBINED attendance at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

    Here’s a link to the Themed Entertainment Association’s Global 2012 Attendance Report:
    http://www.teaconnect.org/sites/default/files/misc/files/2012_theme_index_combined_1-3_online.pdf

    Check out page 15 (Top 25 amusement/theme parks worldwide). TDO execs are no doubt very much in touch with these numbers, and it’s easy to imagine how they might feel unmotivated to provide more for guests when those guests keep coming in droves. Basically, what is required for them to do more is for the “spirit of Walt” to descend upon them and refocus their attention on the original vision and values that spurred him and Roy to create excellent entertainment in the first place, rather than thinking myopically about improving the company’s bottom line.

    • DLFan1995

      And that focus on attendance numbers is why Disney hasn’t responded to the dramatic improvements that Universal has made. If it doesn’t have an impact on their attendance, then why go to any expensive efforts?

      Getting Disney to focus on the “original vision and values” instead of the bottom line is the big challenge. Unfortunately, we don’t appear to have the power to do so.

    • CaptainAction

      Universal and Islands will pass AK, Disney Studios, and EPCOT in 2015. Watch.

      • RenMan

        If that does indeed happen, it will be fun to watch Disney’s reaction!

      • The Lost Boy

        All DisneyWorld needs is three months of free meal plans and the competition is smoked.

  • a-mad

    Thanks for the great article, Kevin… and I agree with your assessment of things.

    I hadn’t been to WDW in almost 10 years, before returning this past February – and given what I had been reading from comment boards like these, I was expecting a disastrous trip to WDW and a flawless experience at USO… but what we experienced was quite different from what we expected. While WWoHP was breathtaking, stunning, amazing (as was IOA in general for the most part – still one of my favorite parks), none in our group were terribly impressed with USF (although I had fun…) And it came down to one simple thing – customer service. While USO is bursting at the seams with new, technologically amazing rides – it still can’t touch Disney (in my opinion) as far as service and the overall resort experience is concerned.

    I realize that may be partially due to the current make-up of my family (I’m in my mid-forties and have 4 kids with the oldest 12 and the youngest 4), and yet if Universal truly wants to make a dent in that market, its got to provide more for the under-8 crowd to do. My 4-year-old son was able to ride a handful of rides during the 2 days we were at the 2 parks… but most of the time he had to sit around, with really nothing to keep his attention. At one point, my sister-in-law looked at me with frustration and said (related to USF) – “is there anything here for families to do?” Well of course there was… but compared to WDW, the difference was alarming. Needless to say, for our entire party, the overall experience at WDW was much more memorable and positively received than USO. And what is on the horizon? A groundbreaking attraction at Diagon Alley that I’m sure will be amazing, and win numerous awards… but will be something that I’m sure will have a Forbidden Journey-type height limit.

    Compare that with our experience at WDW, which included an amazing few hours at (hold on…) New Fantasyland (can it be possible?) Our kids are still talking about how great Enchanted Tales with Belle was, and they hardly remember anything about Despicable Me – Minion Mayhem. In addition, we scheduled our trip in early February to take advantage of what we expected to be smaller crowds. What did we experience? Smaller crowds at USO (everything was pretty much a walk-on…. and we had an amazing early entry hour at WWoHP) but PACKED crowds at WDW – every day we were there. I keep thinking that eventually attendance will drop, but I didn’t see it in early Feb, that’s for sure – and I was impressed how there were practically no ride closures during our entire stay.

    I’m not saying all this to say WDW is doing everything right, and USO is doing everything wrong. Not by a longshot. I’ve been impressed with USO and what they’re doing… and they have proven that Disney is not the only player in the Orlando market that can succeed. I’m saying this because there are certain intangibles at play when you evaluate the overall experience at a theme park/resort. We on this site have a tendency to look at one part of the whole equation. I think what rushtest4echo said above encapsulates that well.

    That said, I’m glad USO is pushing Disney when it comes to attractions. Like Kevin said, ultimately the winners in this arms race will be all of us.

    • CaptainAction

      WDW will own the under 4 and over 60 market for a while. My kids are 11, 15, and 18 now and all they want is Universal.
      Disney is becoming the Nursing Home of theme parks. Old folks and little kids riding Peter Pan, Pirates, and Haunted Mansion.
      Teens think Universal is cool and preteens follow them. My most relaxing days are spent at Universal when we stay at Portofino and skip 99% of the lines! we are relaxed, happy, and take our time. No rush to eat or site see. We take our sweet time and skip lines through our ENTIRE vacation.
      When is the last time you were at WDW and weren’t rushing.
      Portofino is our home now.

      • a-mad

        Yep, Captain… you’ve explained yourself numerous times on this comment board with the exact same info as above… we get it… and we’re glad you and your family has found its happy place.

        All I can say is we had over 30 people in our group – all extended family, with kids ranging from infants through 18 years old (including several male teens and pre-teens), and they all still loved everything about WDW… and were never bored at any of the 4 parks – in fact they wished they could have stayed longer. They also loved everything about Pop Century.

        USF? They were completely bored by about 4pm and headed back to the hotel.

      • CaptainAction

        So how many more years are you going to wait for the kiddie coaster at New Fantasyland?

  • Baloo

    I have been defending Avatar Land since the beginning and that is because from what i had heard The amount of detail and scope of this project from ideas being thrown around by WDI from early conception sounded amazing. I think people were just upset because they have other ideas and projects that they are more familiar with that did not happen.

    • DLFan1995

      I don’t see how you could be basing your defense of Avatarland because of “what i had heard The amount of detail and scope of this project from ideas being thrown around by WDI from early conception”, since there have been NONE. Even those Imagineers not working on the project have no idea what is being proposed.

      There has been absolutely no indication about what the land would consist of. The best anyone can do is to IMAGINE what they THINK the land may be, based on what they take away from the movie.

      • Kenny B

        Your forgetting the 2 sequels planned, and a possible 4th prequel.

        It’s about the unknown, the excitement it incurs. Have faith in WDI with a budget my friend!

      • Marko50

        Unfortunately, I also have faith in what WDW can cut from a budget.

  • Tielo

    Wow, Kevin, that are a lot of ‘if’s’ and ‘when’s’ but you have some good points there.
    First I read the RSR in Florida wouldn’t be the test track dark ride clone with all the broken stuff in it from California but a water downed cheap version with a different ride system. I guess the amount of problems this ride gives maintenance make it disappear on any list of any park forever. And a water downed version just wouldn’t cut it for the guests.
    The point you are making for Star Wars is a huge one, they should make it series, fan loving, good. I don’t give a sh!t about how popular the Star Wars weekends are, as a real Star Wars fan I wouldn’t be caught dead there. The lack of respect for the franchise and it’s characters is appalling. It’s why Harry Potter is doing so well with the fans, they feel Universal got what they love about the universe of the books and movies and everything is done with the greatest respect. Imagine Disney would build a Mos Eisley Cantina or Dex;s Diner at Coruscant the size of a Walmart? What if we would have carbon freeze experiences and dance offs every day? But Disney imagineers had the nerves to gut the Beasts castle and put a restaurant in it so it won’t surprise me a bit if they would build the Death Star to have a high tea location in there.
    Then we have Avatar, that should save Animal Kingdom and finally have the promise of mythical animals in there. I always thought mythical animals where to be grounded in the history of our ancestors like the dragon’s in Celtic mythology or flying unicorns and hydra’s from Greek mythology but in Disney’s wisdom it are sci-fi animals, great. I liked the movie as a 3D demo but story wise I never want to see it again, ever. There is nothing that attracted me. Non of the characters where sympathetic or remotely likable. The whole environmental thing was laughable. Sending a huge space ship many light-years form earth to obtain unobtainum, an energy supply to safe the earths energy need. The cost of the ship and the whole operation could have saved the planet forever. Anyway, the whole premise of the story is to live in harmony with nature and that big greedy companies are bad. So how is Disney imaginering going to put in the shops and restaurants if they don’t want to insult the few fanboys the movie has? Will we see a bibedybobedyNa’vi boutique where you can be painted blue and wear a cloth?
    And in the end we still have the aging and boring future world at Epcot with it’s graveyard entrance and where Ellen is getting more boring every day and where Nemo pooped in the water of a once so beautiful pavilion. Where Eric Idle just isn’t a great replacement for the good old dream finder and where Michael Jackson’s nose is still as it was when he was a great performer but the movie should be transplanted to a museum. Where a mission to mars is as exiting as waiting for the dentist and where a complete pavilion with the wonderful making of me show is now a garden shop at the flower and garden festival each year. Where Inovention has many empty spaces and where Soarin is a glorified over appreciated tech demo that takes you out of the flight every time the scene changes.
    End then the magic plus stuff. That is probably the main reason why I’ll never visit Disney ever again. The reason is that this service is fully focused on their hotel guests. Where Universal gives their hotel guests (except for the new one they are building) unlimited front in line and the same service for people who want to pay extra, Disney is going to give all their hotel guests the option to reserve rides, shows and restaurants 6 months in advance. Leave me, the regular guest who rented a home for my 6 week vacation with almost nothing. Disney has about 2 or 3 E tickets in each park.
    MK has Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and Big Thunder
    Epcot has Test Track and Soarin
    AK has Expedition Everest
    DHS has Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller coaster
    And that’s about it. Most of these rides have very low capacity so fastpasses will gone forever for any regular guests and the wait because of them are going to be even longer.
    Universal Orlando Resort has many e ticket rides and a lot of them can chew up a lot of guests each hour. Rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Spider-man, Transformers, Jurassic Park and lots more serve many guests each hour and you never have to feeling you need to wait longer because of the hotel guests. The most popular ones are even excluded and the hotel guests will have an extra hour to enjoy them alone without the regular guests in the park.
    Disney has 25 resorts with about 30.000 hotel rooms. That is minus Golden oak and the Swan and Dolphin who enjoy the same services. With 4 occupants in a room that totals 120.000 guests for a few popular restaurants and rides each day and cuts in any ones guests experience.
    There was a time I really enjoyed WDW. I could meet Micky who was walking around, get caught between cowboys in Frontierland (not Woody but ‘real’ cowboys) who where battling it out and when Epcot was new and on the edge of technology. Now it feels like a pretty shopping mall with overpriced restaurants and mediocre rides. All the ‘magic’ happens now on timed schedules and you need you wristband close to pay up. No thanks.

  • Herc

    Kevin, it is hard to imagine Disney squeezing the stone for more money when ticket prices are hovering at $100. To think that people also pay $60 for a Christmas or Halloween party basically making the day at the Magic Kingdom a day park. Now to think they would offer me to ride Space Mountain more times if I pay more from the stone. That is bleeding me dry. Also that would make Space Mountain unavailable to the rest of the paying public. Not good.
    I’ve been going to WDW since August 1972 and can say that over the last 41 years, I’ve seen it at its best and at its worst. I’m not interested in MyMagic+. Making dining reservations 180 days in advance is bad enough. I sorta have to force myself and family to eat Italian on a particular day instead of that Shepherd’s Pie craving right before my trip. Now to deal with making ride reservations. Ridiculous. It’s a great big world out there and my family will now start to see it instead of going down to WDW. What’s next, certain restaurants having to pay three dining coupons? Heck I would rather Disney figure out a way to get me from Bay Lake Tower to the Grand Floridian and back late at night when the Magic Kingdom closes early. Why do I have to call a cab to get me to one of their hotels. Better yet, keep all quick service/snack areas open 24/7.

    What Universal is doing is what Disney used to do. They stole the playbook and Disney is now lost. Here’s hoping Dusty is right and plans, really good immersive, thrilling plans, are coming soon.

  • rushtest4echo

    ^

    “Universal Orlando Resort has many e ticket rides and a lot of them can chew up a lot of guests each hour. Rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Spider-man, Transformers, Jurassic Park and lots more serve many guests each hour and you never have to feeling you need to wait longer because of the hotel guests.”

    First things first: ride capacity
    Neither Universal Orlando Park beats out any single Disney park when it comes to ride/park capacity, period.

    Hourly throughput for rides (including theaters)
    Magic Kingdom: 35,000 per hour
    EPCOT: 22,000 per hour
    Disney Studios: 19,500 per hour
    Animal Kingdom: 17,500 per hour
    Islands of Adventure: 17,500 per hour
    Universal Studios: 17,000 per hour

    Second: Universal Express
    You’ve obviously not seen a hot summer day when the ratio of express pass users vs standby is around 2:1 on all major attractions. On Blutos, Jurassic and Dudley it’s closer to 3:1. That means 300 express passes to every 100 from the standby queue. Spiderman was the most egregious, usually running around 4:1 (you can even hear tower announce the ratios to the express boarding area over the rides PA- if they mention “3 spiders” that’s a 3:1 ratio.) One Fish Two Fish can and commonly does go with entire cycles of express passes- everyone riding is from the express queue, and then they’ll go back to 2:1 after the express queue dies down. Men in Black and Mummy usually have an entire side dedicated to Express, and then they load the other side 1:1, so 75% of riders are express users.

    Of course, this is only on busy days. I implore people to NOT VISIT Universal during busy periods unless they have express, it’s absolutely unbearable. During the rest of the year, the parks are relatively crowd free and much more enjoyable. Universal is bursting at the seams maybe 60 days out of the year and dead empty during the rest of the year, except for Potter.

    • CaptainAction

      Never had any of the problems you write about. I’ve never waited longer than 20 minutes for any ride with my room key. Just compare Potter with New Fantasyland – you can’t be proud of that.

      • Kenny B

        You really didn’t read any of what was written, did you Mr. Univeral? Sorry to sound like a butt, “but”, what he just said was…. on busy days most of the E-ticket rides – over half of the people getting on the ride at any moment constitute over half the ride load.

  • Orlando71

    You know i am sick and tired of all the hatin on Disney and oh how universal is so much better and they can do no wrong, while Disney is trailing in their dust. No, Universal is still trailing in Disney;s dust. Last time i checked out, Universal has 2 theme parks, and three hotels. Disney has 4 with plenty of expansions down the road because of all the complaining and over 20, yah over 20 hotels and 2 water parks. Disney is workin on stuff, so if everybody could just be patient i know nobody will ever doubt disney again. Great article by the way.

    • Kenny B

      Another invalid argument. This isn’t about quantity over quality… This is about the current infrastructure of the park, and the improvements being made/planned to be built.

  • Jspider

    It boils down to Universal being the one thats expanding NOW in the present. I know Disney COULD offer me more but they haven’t and that does have a cost.

    I’ve loved Disney’s rides and designs but the things I’m interested in have slowed down to a snails pace in development. Alot of their new updates seem to remove repeatability from their rides for me or make me feel a bit out of place as they arn’t really meant for or targeted to me.

    Disney’s attempts to pull in all demographics and include merchandise that might appeal to me is actually having an inverse effect as it seems to often be jaring and at odds with theme and experience.

    More hotels is nice for Disney but doesn’t really improve the experience of the guest in the park which is the focus I have when I look at theme parks. I’m also not interested in dealing with yet ANOTHER reservation system and MORE preplanning so it feels like a shift towards a vacation I don’t want.

    Maybe when these land expansions are announced and start going through I’ll be excited. I think the fanbase is also jaded because these projects always take so long once they’re announced anyways. Once we see construction it ussually takes five years before we’re riding and its also hard to imagine three large Carsland style projects beginning at once or even opening within short timespans of each other.

    Right now Universal’s eagerly fighting for my business and creating things that are new and exciting. Things can deffinitly change but if asked right now which was more exciting I’d say Universal.

  • martinjbell1986

    Does anyone else think CaptainAction is a Universal spy

    • CaptainAction

      Funny story. I asked my wife to marry me at Disneyland Castle 21 years ago. The ring was in a music box with the Herb Ryman artwork that Walt chose for the castle. We honeymooned at the Grand Floridian. We used to go to Universal one day each vacation, when we had kids, just so they and my wife could see the Animal show.
      My wife drug me into Islands of Adventure the year they opened. In my video, I am griping about losing a day at Disney but 15 minutes into the video my attitude started changing to liking this new creative experience. The next morning the family voted to go back to Islands.
      Since then, WDW has nickled and dimed me and stopped giving me new rides like Universal has. Prices at Disney for our family of 5 went nuts. Annual passes, which we always bought so that we could make 2-3 trips a year from Texas went over $500 each.
      Universal is throwing the moon to us. We can stay at the 4-5 star Portofino, upgraded to a suite w 2 full baths, $100 meal credit, key that skips lines. This for the same price as Coronado, crammed in 1 room or two rooms at Pop Century.
      My kids are 18, 15, and 11 now and we all love Universal. The last chance for us all was New Fantasyland. We all felt insulted. None of us care to ride Little Mermaid again. We are rewarding Universal for all the new rides and attractions which are open every time we return. We were in the first 100 to ride Transformers and we hadn’t done Despicable Me before that trip. We now all have Universal annual passes. And WDW is still working on 7 Dwarfs Coaster now on year 3.
      My son has an entire Disney Park above his room on a shelf with the monorail running along the entire room.
      If Disney is losing a family like ours to Universal, then imagine how many nominal Disney fans they are losing each day.

      • Kenny B

        So, when were you hired on by Universal?

        Sounds like a rather important part of the story(sarcasm)………….

        Please don’t respond with terrible, derogatory remarks.

        I respect you and you high opinions of Universal. Hell, I agree with a lot of them!

    • The Lost Boy

      No, just a know-it-all with too much internet access on his hands.

      • CaptainAction

        I do know it all.

      • The Lost Boy

        What you really don’t know is that you don’t matter.

  • JtnOrl

    Wake me up when you have something more than wishful thinking, Kevin.

  • JCSkipr79

    And the MAIN reason WDI will never regain it’s “Empire” status?? WDI has it’s own “Palpatine” in Bruce Vaughn. Tony is gone w/ Irvine, Jacobson, Morris, Lanzsiero, Rafferty, and even Fitzgerald himself waiting in the wings to join him. And then you have The Dark Lord, RASULO, writing the checks. So lack of talent, 20something Imagineers + Jay Rasulo= NO HOPE.

    • CaptainAction

      You just described the reasons behind the evidence we, who are willing to see, see. Thank you.
      Somebody needs to find a Prince or Princess to wake up a couple of folks here.

    • buttermaker

      JCSkipr79

      Please write more comments…

      I can not get enough of what everyone needs to hear!

      Thank you!!

  • solarnole

    This fight of Universal vs Disney reminds me of Apple vs Microsoft. Clearly no one wants thrilling video realistic motion rides or a smart phone with a touch screen.

    It is sad because Walt was a true trail blazer back in the day with robots, monorails and urban planning. Walt designed Magic Kingdom to be accessed only by Boat or Monorail by the guest now the current management ruined the opening act by building a massive bus stop depot right in front of the kingdom, how magical.

    Disney used to be all about the future now it just preserves the past or status quo because its cheaper. WDW is almost Walley World poor Chevy Chase can’t ride anything because its broken or closed but at least he has an RFID band to track what he spends.

    • buttermaker

      Solarnole…

      They don’t even do a good job of preserving the past either.

      And yes…those buses REALLY get someone in the mood.

      My advice: Just stop going and relive everything on Youtube.

  • LoveStallion

    All of this makes me wish I lived in Orlando so I could have an informed opinion, but I am just a SoCal boy with a passion for the original, purer religion.

    • socalkdg

      I guess you can compare the DLR with USH. Took me 4 hours to finish everything at USH this past weekend. I love the new stuff, but not at the expense of ripping out existing rides. They aren’t increasing capacity at USH. Looking forward to Potter, but still not enough capacity.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    It’s a long one, sorry.

    Sadly, I kind of think both the pessimists and the number crunchers are correct regarding Disney.

    (Looking at the 2012 Theme Park Index: attached earlier in the thread, you can kind of see both truths here.)

    On a global scale, Disney is unmatched, with more than double the number of visitors as the number two chain (Merlin.) Even with Universal’s mighty attendance growth via Potter, Transformers and more, they’re only up to nearly 35 million visitors, versus Disney’s whopping, unreal 126 million.

    In Orlando, with basically no new attractions, Walt Disney World’s parks increased attendance in 2012 by roughly 2.2%, versus 4% at IOA and 2.5% at Universal Studios. Mind you, the non-Magic Kingdom Disney parks are already significantly in the lead by about 2 million visitors a year over dramatically improved IOA and by about 3 million visitors per year over USF. When one factors in attendance at the Magic Kingdom, it’s not even close: The Universal parks would have to ratchet up 10 to 11 million visitors a year just to catch up, let alone surpass.

    This is why Disney, especially in Orlando, spent the better part of a decade doing nothing and is now playing a slow game with regards to “catching up” with Universal Orlando. In terms of attendance, they are massively, astonishingly ahead, despite their lack of investment, despite their deferred maintenance, despite their perceived loss of mind share to Universal Orlando.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, Universal deserves a boatload of props here; pretty much from the 1999 opening of IOA, they’ve been on a tear, carving themselves a place at the “premium” theme park experience table, and doing so with solid, great, comprehensive world-building work. Harry Potter is genius, not only for the attraction and themed land itself, but because it offered exposure to how great IOA is, and with the train and “London” land in USF, they’ll get to fully monetize that investment in intellectual property across both parks.

    But, and this is important, they’ve yet to change the visitation paradigm regarding an Orlando theme park vacation. Unreliable anecdotes from friends and posters on MiceAge aside, the paradigm remains pretty solid: people go to Orlando to go to Disney. Remember, the world isn’t made up of theme park nerds annoyed that Disney improvements are taking forever, forever. For the typical Orlando visitor, it’s Disney that is the must-see, and most likely, it’s The Magic Kingdom.

    Now, they may go to Disney and “somewhere else,” like a Universal theme park, and choose to spend full price on two theme park admissions at two different theme park chains, but they are still going to Disney, in droves and without fail. Indeed, one could look at the attendance drops at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Tampa (as well as the spending pullback over there,) as this paradigm remaining fully in place, with the “somewhere else” being a flight with Harry Potter versus forced sentient mammal prison shows with Shamu. But, the “go to Disney” aspect of that is remaining intact, as the attendance numbers demonstrate: even with basically nothing of note, all four Orlando Disney parks kept increasing their visitors.

    That’s because Disney KNOWS the dominant paradigm regarding an Orlando vacation, and they want that “somewhere else” to be “more Disney.” In many ways, Walt Disney World has become the modern-day Adirondaks (sorry for the spelling.) It’s a place where families take multi-day, sometimes multi-week vacations, taking advantage of packaging that rewards longer, more exclusive Disney visits.

    To put this in perspective, who cares that Animal Kingdom doesn’t have enough to do when it only costs you $60 a day? For a lot of Disney visitors, making their Orlando vacation an exclusively Disney vacation, from the airport bus to the hotel to the parks, the themed shopping experiences, the water parks and back again, is a convenient, mind-free vacation with “savings” that the other chains just can’t match. Universal Orlando would have to build a lot more “there” there in order to have such a captive audience. It’s also why My Magic+ was and is a prudent investment on Disney’s part: clearly they are looking to offer even more reward to guests who take and extended vacation with the Mouse, and to entice even more long term visitors to Walt Disney World.

    What’s been sad is that Disney EARNED this visitation paradigm by providing something special, and I think that they have certainly taken advantage of their brand and this dominant visitation paradigm for at least the past decade. Which is to say that Disney has been getting something for nothing (a whole lot of something!)

    As a former Floridian, as a massive Disney fan, this is quite distressing, but I don’t think that Universal Orlando has the power to use “mind share” to change the paradigm enough to unseat Disney’s dominance. To put this another way, should Harry Potter’s expansion into USF start to nibble away at attendance and spending at Walt Disney World, all Disney needs to do is unleash their powerful marketing and unmatched ability to package a vacation on the public and it’s done. Which is to say, Disney can do basically nothing for another ten years, except market “affordable” multi-day park-and-hotel, surf-and-turf, cruise-and-amuse packages to the public to retain their visitation numbers and rake in the profits.

    I do think Kevin is right, however, in that clearly TPTB in Imagineering are over this cynical business view. While New Fantasyland may not be everybody’s cup of overpriced tea, it’s thematically impressive, complex and complete in a manner we haven’t seen at Disney World in more than a decade. Avatar may not be getting all of our theme parking hearts on fire, but it’s the most money-making movie, ever, and I suspect that James Cameron will turn out another record-breaking sequel (and then Disney will open the land, timed to match that zeitgeist.) Star Wars Land at DHS may be the Potter Killer, but it also needs to open when Disney’s first stab at the movie franchise opens for maximum effect and impact, so until opening date at the box office, don’t expect an opening at Disney World. But I do think that Disney is “back in the game” if you will. The movement of some key personnel at Imagineering to Orlando is encouraging, as is the detail of New Fantasyland.

    I’d frankly like Universal Orlando to, in fact, nibble away at Disney’s attendance, as that would really wake them up, really get them into the groove, as Madonna used to say (and really, love her or hate her, if she was running Disney and viewing Universal as Gaga we wouldn’t be remotely discussing this.)

    But, make no mistake: Universal needs to foster a paradigm shift, generationally, with regards to Orlando vacations, in order to “wake up” the mouse. Taking one’s attendance numbers from “borderline pathetic” to “acceptable and respectable” isn’t going to cut it. Especially not when, for several generations now, the only reason to visit Orlando was to spend time with the Mouse.

    Don’t get me wrong: I would love for Disney to go full-frontal “California Adventure” on all four theme parks, and drop 1.5 billion into each of them, effectively ending the theme park wars. I suspect we’ll get some significant investments, but only so much as to retain profit as well as rebuild the brand image. And I suspect the primary focus, then as now, will not be on the casual visitor, nor on the theme park fan boy nerd herd, but on the multiple-day, multiple-person, exclusively Disney vacationer.

    That’s my 18 cents. Sorry it was so long.

    • Bb5

      I agree that Universal has been on a tear since 1999. People always state that Harry Potter is the true game changer, and it is attendance-wise. But the opening of IOA is what truly bumped Universal up so high. IOA is honestly one of the best parks in the world, and while it is not perfect, it is breathtakingly beautiful and has some very amazing theming and attractions. But of course, everyone already knows this!

      I am very, very glad for the addition of the original Wizarding World, though. Even though I miss the old Lost Continent, WWoHP finally gave IOA the recognition and attention it deserved. Plus, it’s just absolutely gorgeous, like the rest of the park.

    • DuckyDelite

      Great comments. And you are right, Disney could do nothing for another 10 years and still be the dominant player. Without a doubt, Fantasyland and Disney Princesses have no competition. I would assume families with pre-tween children will always choose Disney first. And as they say, there is another one born every minute.

      But there are many examples of number-winners versus mindshare-winners. For example, Microsoft/Apple, and General Motors/Toyota.

      Do you really want to go to a tired old park only because you have to because your daughter has to meet the latest Disney Princess. Or do you want to go to a park that offers something new and different.

      I’m not saying Disney cannot be both. But Universal Orlando opened my mind to an another option for creativity and imagination at a reasonable price.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        For many visitors, those who aren’t so immersed in theme park geekology, Disney isn’t the tired, old theme park experience: they aren’t as geeked out on theme parking. This is evident in the numbers: just this last quarter, Disney’s parks, both globally and specifically in Orlando, posted record visitation numbers. Which is to say that Disney’s investment in New Fantasyland (roughly a third of the expense of Harry Potter,) and their reskins of Test Track and Star Tours, drove RECORD VISITATION to the parks, and considering that they are operating on a long-term visitor business path, elevated AK with nothing. So, for record numbers of visitors, they wanted to go to a “tired old park.” Now, they may have gone to UO as well (clearly, quite a few of them are replacing their “somewhere else” with IOA,) but they still went to Disney, and to Disney for an extended period of time.

        There’s also a value factor via that extensive packaging that the other chains can’t beat, at least not until they build more stuff. Which is to say that if Disney offers their “tired old parks” up in a multi-day, multi-park package, where one shaves 40% off the price of admission (but one gives up Potter or Shamu,) people are clearly biting. OR, they are swallowing the expense of a day at IOA and still going to the “tired old parks.”

        What I’m hoping that DCA 2.0 taught Disney is that premium investment offers premium reward, as well as brand boosts and mind share boosts. And I suspect that there are those in the Disney organization who believe that, but I also suspect that there are those that believe that the investment in DCA was necessary, and considering the attendance numbers at the “tired old parks” in Florida, perhaps there, it’s not. Most likely, that’s the delay in action we’re seeing.

    • Tielo

      @AaroniusPolonius You are right, people come in droves to WDW, but Disney is also demising it’s brand globally. We Europeans are aware we got “the most beautiful MK park in the world” (highly overrated when the weather is crap most of the year). But the park is seriously neglected and it’s companion park doesn’t warm anybody’s hart.
      With it’s many failing films like John Carter, Tron 2, Plains and the latest dud The lone ranger Disney as a movie company is loosing it’s fan’s also at breakneck speed. Worse the press really like the big giant to fail and it’s reaching a huge audience.
      Now they have closed Lucas Arts gaming studios who where working on the very much anticipated Star Wars 1313 many gamers don’t feel the love for the Disney brand as they did before these actions. With the license firmly in the hands of the voted “worst company in the US” EA not a lot of gamers have hope for awesome Star Wars games.
      Yes, Universal is and probably never will be a huge theme park thread for Disney, word of mouth is doing it’s work and if Disney will lose only 2 nights of hotel stays to Universal they’ll feel the pain. Hopefully they’ll remember Walt and how he wanted to be on the forefront of theme park entertainment and the company may get it’s mojo back.

  • JCSkipr79

    omg. Everyone is OBSESSED with attendance. Of COURSE USF and IOA are not gonna topple a park that gets 17MIL a year. Will USF and IOA pass the 3others that are on life support?? Don’t bet against it. The paradigm HAS shifted. Uni is getting people that would NEVER HAVE COME to Orlando otherwise and Disney fans burnt from the last 10yrs…………and they like what they are seeing. NOONE is starting their vacas at WDW anymore. They are going to IOA FIRST, maybe USF, MK for sure. The other 3 have become expendable. Do you know that Food n Booze fest makes up a THIRD of Epcots revenue??? People are finally starting to see what Uni, SW, Restaurant Row have to offer and TDO isn’t liking what it’s doing to guest spending. WDW could give two flips about attendance. Guests have simply stopped spending every single dollar at WDW cause it’s no longer worth it.

    • Kenny B

      More food and booze then!

      I, would fully endorse alcohol sales everywhere in the Magic Kingdom but Main Street and Fantasy Land. We’re grown adults, I’d like to be treated like one.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Bb5, while Universal has been on a tear since IOA opened with regards to theme park quality, it took Harry Potter to garner the attendance to that park: a world-class theme park with no visitors lost the former owners of Universal Orlando a massive pile of money; prior to Potter, they were being lapped by SeaWorld if I recall correctly, with much less investment (and thus more profit, although I’ve never quite understood the appeal of SeaWorld, especially the orcas, and especially the cruelly small swimming pools they are to spend their lives in.)

    It’s also interesting to note that while Potter skyrocketed up the numbers of attendance in its opening year, they settled into a 4% attendance increase in year two, which suggests that attendance gains for the challenger (versus the leader in the field, Disney,) are dependent on that massive financial infrastructural investment. Which is a polite, nerdy way of saying that UO has to spend a lot of money to make a lot of money, and that (especially considering their licensing costs for basically ALL the properties there, including big bugs to Disney for Marvel,) their margins are probably really thin. Market dips and consumer changes of interest will most certainly affect the bottom line at Universal more so than at Disney, where most of the attraction licenses belong to Disney, and where they’ve been raking in massive profit margins via deferred or lack of infrastructure investment.

    • Kenny B

      4% attendance —- But what about decreased marketing expenses and those 4% spending a lot of money on butterbeer and exclusive merchandise?

      • AaroniusPolonius

        I’m not saying that they aren’t making money; they don’t own the license. The license is expensive. They are monetizing the license any way they can. Disney is doing the same thing, except without the need to pay out the license holder in most cases, while most of Universal’s attractions and lands are intellectual properties licensed to other business entities, which Universal needs to pay out as they make their cash. Avatar, upcoming at DAK, will make money for James Cameron AND Disney, as Disney doesn’t own the rights, whereas New Fantasyland makes money purely for Disney, as there’s no license.

        Again, not that they’re not making money and gaining visitors at Universal. But with license fees in the hundreds of millions to Fox (Simpsons,) to Rowling AND WB (Potter,) to Disney/Marvel (Marvel,) to random comic syndicate (Toon Lagoon,) to Suess and so on, they’re making less per dollar than Disney is, which has less dependence on licensed characters and intellectual property.

  • solarnole

    As an Orlando resident and native Floridian, Universal is a much better neighbor then Disney. Disney is using their company town city status to use bonds to pay for parking garages at Downtown Disney at the expense of US taxpayers and has blocked high speed rail for the area countless times. For a company with parks that celebrate America they should at least pay their taxes.
    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-03-19/the-daily-disney/os-disney-springs-parking-garages-20130318_1_disney-spokeswoman-andrea-finger-reedy-creek-improvement-district-downtown-disney

    • Kenny B

      Question, who are the tax paying resident’s of Reedy Creek.

      It sounds like this is taxes from Disney, paying for a Disney product.

      I applaud Walk Disney for making such a great deal.

      This is what you deserve when you turn a wasteland into one of Americas’ number one tourist destination,

    • DisneySam

      I’m not sure you read the entire article. It goes on to say that the city of Orlando had approved a plan to build $9 million worth of improvements that would solely benefit Universal. The only way, the article states, that Disney is having an effect on taxpayers is by being able to fund their project with tax-free municipal bonds and not paying sales tax on the materials. No actual government dollars are being spent on the garages.

  • Kenny B

    I haven’t made it to the end of the thread yet…. but…..

    The Simpsons is 10 years or more past its prime, and we’re all talking about how great of an idea it is, and the excellent execution. Right? ‘Nuff said

    • pianojohn

      Have you actually been to Springfield at USF or are you merely stating an opinion just by looking at pictures and trip reports? It IS amazing and I’d rather spend my money and time there on unique food and beverage items than at Disney’s recycled attempts at creativity.

    • BC_DisneyGeek

      The Simpsons characters, for those who grew up on them, are just as iconic as Mickey Mouse or Sleeping Beauty.

      The show may be past its prime creatively, but the Simspons are a permanent part of popular culture.

      Disney’s new offerings are based off of The Little Mermaid and Snow White, characters who are arguably more past their prime than Bart and Homer. ‘Nuff said?

  • The Lost Boy

    The wife and I are looking forward to a trip to Disneyworld next week. Looking at my Disney holdings, it’s good to know that success stands on it’s own. I wonder who will own Universal in ten years after Comcast sucks the cash out and dumps them?

    • Kenny B

      Another mute point.

      Comcast is pouring, billions of dollars!, into their Universal properties. Hoping for Disney World, long term results.

  • DisneySam

    The question becomes, how long can Universal maintain their high level of spending before their shareholders decide they would rather put a damper on spending to see results? Like Disney, Universal is owned by a larger entertainment company. While the parks division of Comcast may be doing well it would only take a few bad movies by Universal (the film company) and bad results by NBC before the corporation has to review what they are spending overall. Disney is in the same boat. At some point spending on improvements comes to a halt and there is just the cost to maintain infrastructure. Everything is cyclical.

    • Eric Davis

      As long as the ROI is there, they will continue to spend.

  • JCSkipr79

    ^^ But Comcast is run by someone who LOVES the parks. Who actually DREAMED of running a Disney park. Steve Burke. And his vendetta against WDW while they are down for the count is nothing but enthralling. First Eisner denied him running DL or WDW, then he got denied for his takeover bid of TWDC during the Save Disney drama. Now Mr. Burke has WDW and Iger exactly where he wants them. It’s like the theme park version of an 80s soap. Mr. Burke has won his revenge.

    • Kevin Yee

      ^ I do agree with that – Burke is a big reason why Uni is spending much and making things immersive. And he ought to be able to continue the buildout. Which again is a good thing for consumers.

      It will make Disney take notice more and more… which is why I think Disney *will* respond aggressively.

    • DisneySam

      I don’t believe anyone has won anything yet. If someone was running a company (or division of a company) based on revenge or some sort of vendetta I don’t think that would be a business model built for the long haul. WDW has been around for 40+ years. I think that the knowledge that Disney maintains from operating a resort area for that long (and longer if you factor in Disneyland and other properties) can’t be compared to the relatively short history that is the Universal resort. An overabundance in short-term spending does not always see long term results.

  • BigBobxxx

    ——————————————
    Kenny B
    August 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Sadly, strobe lights are closer to 25 bucks. The Yeti may utilize 7 of these. We may be talking 200$ here! Where’s a loan when Disney needs it!
    ——————————————

    You made me login just to say ROFL!

  • rushtest4echo

    Does anyone on here have even a basic grasp of how a business works? I don’t want to belittle anyone but here are a simple term to chew on-

    Supply & Demand – Occupancy at the resorts has continued to rise, as has demand for DVC. When there is a demand for new attractions, Disney will act accordingly. I still can’t believe the lack of enthusiasm for New Fantasyland, it truly goes to show just how jaded most Disney “fans” are around here. Honestly, the park got-
    – A massively upgraded Dumbo, which for the under 7 crowd is a must see
    – A solid omni-mover dark ride that has one of the few queues done to Tokyo Disneysea standards
    – A replacement for that god-awful land known as birthdayland/starland/toontown that was never well themed nor did if belong
    – A train station that is a billion times more superior than the tin-can tuff shed that it replaced
    – Several unprecedented meet & greets between Ariel, Belle, Gaston & the others that will be coming at the Fairy Tale Hall. Even Mickey got a fabulous new meet & greet area. Each and every one of these is a large upgrade compared to their replacements
    – A few new restaurants that all look great, especially be our guest
    – A new family coaster with a small dark ride portion and an innovative new train design

    All plusses, all add to a typical family’s experience. Adding at least a hour worth of attractions to see at the park. Great new eateries, massively improved crowd flow and it’s not even finished. I know though, Magic Kingdom should have just left the area an eyesore, not bothered at add several thousand guest per hour capacity to dining, attractions and meet& greets. They instead should have installed a giant mid-capacity E-ticket with a 42 inch height requirement that thrills older audiences and costs more than everything mentioned above.

    I’m so glad Disney doesn’t put any stock into what the hardcore fans want… or we’d still have old Fantasyland & Toontown and I’d still be wishing for them to rip it down and do exactly what they did. 🙂

    • The Lost Boy

      The 180 day dining reservations is always a complaint of the constant complainers. Why have 180 day reservations? BECAUSE THE RESTAURANTS ARE POPULAR AND FILL UP QUICKLY.

      On our upcoming trip we volunteered to try out the MyMagic+ we’ll see how this works out, at the very least the vendor ships the wristbands out in a few days. We have FastPass+ reservations for all E ticket rides, the only exception is Peter Pan which my wife loves dearly.

      To bad there are those Disney hating trolls that have so much time on their hands that they can repost the same manifesto for many different topics.

      • CaptainAction

        Ever notice how sad these WDW supporters sound? I can easily imagine them crying while they write these goofy little insults and speaking through tears. Thumbs planted in ears and singing “la, la la, la” loudly for the last 10 years. Yelling loudly from the second Dumbo Ride while holding the only Shank Steak and Lafou Brew WDW sold that day, “Come on guys you can finish the kiddie coaster this year..or next…I bet!”

  • Orlando71

    Has any one else read an article by theme park insider with the exact same name (The Empire Strikes Back) reporting hollywood studios was getting cars and star wars lands?

  • Kevin Yee

    Robert has an article with the same title? Argh! I don’t read every blog every week – looks like I should have in this case. Oops, mea culpa.

    • Marko50

      He did give you props on your headline, Kevin.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Honestly, the Mouse made a huge mistake at this year’s D23, by not revealing more of this “strikes back” plan. One of the things they did fundamentally correct with the relaunch of DCA was the revelation of the plan, and the granular plan reveals at Blue Sky Cellar along the way. It made a lot of what they were doing seem more enticing and exciting (notably: “we took these off-the-shelf carny rides and gave them a better skin!”)

    From a purely marketing perspective (which is something Dis usually does so well,) just having Avatar teasers and vague Star Wars “possibilities” didn’t exactly burn up the presses. I think I’d have given them the benefit of the doubt with “Orange Harvest” if the centerpiece of the conference would have been a big Avatar reveal (I mean, how long have they had this license? A decade?) It would have solved a couple of problems: the perceived lack of interest in the Avatar project, and a perceived lack of investment in Florida by Disney.

    I understand why they limit their reveals regarding Shanghai (as mainland China has, uhhh…interesting intellectual property laws,) but they really need the early adopter vote/press whatever here.

  • JCSkipr79

    “”I’m so glad Disney doesn’t put any stock into what the hardcore fans want…”l”

    ^^ Yet, somehow this works at DL and saved DL for the 50th. Hilarious…

  • JCSkipr79

    “”A massively upgraded Dumbo, which for the under 7 crowd is a must see””

    With the most obnoxious queue. And it’s still a spinner. No dice.

    “”A solid omni-mover dark ride that has one of the few queues done to Tokyo Disneysea standards””

    Yea, a 2010 dark ride using ride tech from 1967 and show scene tech from 1955. And to say the queue is TDS quality is insulting. It’s at LEAST, Paris quality.

    “”A replacement for that god-awful land known as birthdayland/starland/toontown that was never well themed nor did if belong””

    – “”Several unprecedented meet & greets between Ariel, Belle, Gaston & the others that will be coming at the Fairy Tale Hall. Even Mickey got a fabulous new meet & greet area. Each and every one of these is a large upgrade compared to their replacements””

    Yea, and some of us remember when Disney made actual rides instead of passing off rooms of college kids dressed as characters as actual attractions. Waste of space. And taking out a dark ride for a meet n greet? UNPRECENDENTED.

    Storybook Circus is a RETHEME, not a replacement for Toontown and hardly an improvement.

    “”A train station that is a billion times more superior than the tin-can tuff shed that it replaced””

    A train station retheme is now something to get excited about and plan a trip around????

    “”A few new restaurants that all look great, especially be our guest””

    Three F&B locations and we got ONE ride. YAY. And BoG is overated crapateria.

    “”A new family coaster with a small dark ride portion and an innovative new train design””

    A KIDDIE coaster that will have ONE INTERIOR show scene and replace the traditional scary subversive Snow White experience w/ a sing song GGG rated experience this is perfect for 10yo girls and their 400lbs grandmoms.

    • CaptainAction

      Well written. I’d love to read more about the current Disney leadership that have let down the guests the past 10 years at WDW. Really enjoyed your earlier post.
      Feel sorry for these folks that have their thumbs in their ears singing loudly while pretending to love the innovative Dumbo next to the other Dumbo. None of them can address either Potterland compared to New Fantasyland and Immersion at Universal compared to the WORST use of forced perspective we have ever seen at WDW.
      People who are willing to be used as Walking Wallets by current Disney Leadership are riding Jungle Cruise in De Nile. I’m not rewarding WDW Current Leadership for their lazyness.
      WDW won’t learn their lesson until Universal beats AK, Disney Studios, and EPCOT in 2015.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Just playing business-person here: why? Why would Universal’s increase in visitors past the three other parks provoke Disney (considering that Disney just posted record-breaking attendance, I doubt that’s the case, but I’ll play with your hypothesis.

        If it costs Disney maintenance plus nothing to get 10.5 million people to go to Epcot, and it costs Comcast say $300 million a year over half-a-decade to generate that level of attendance, or maintenance plus $300 million…why would that cause Disney to learn their lesson?

        THIS IS A BUSINESS. If the lesson learned is “people will come whether we invest or not,” then why would Disney alter the paradigm there? Universal Orlando has to actively TAKE business from Disney, and cause the attendance drop to eat into their profits.

        I think the argument that massive investment yields massive returns is certainly floating through the halls of Imagineering in the wake of DCA 2.0, but WDW has learned their lesson: over the past decade plus, they did nothing and didn’t suffer attendance drops (why do you think they’ve been so slow on the uptick?) The “minor” Disney parks at WDW, despite their lack of investment (or BECAUSE of their lack of investment,) demonstrate massive ROI to the company, so much so that the theme park division basically erased massive film and television division losses over the last couple of years.

        They just posted record attendance numbers across the board, except for Disneyland Paris, so I’m sure the powers that be that are on the “people keep coming to our parks with minimal investment” side of the divide have ample ammo for their argument (as are those that recall the over investment made in Paris on launch.) If anything woke Disney up, it was the DCA 2.0 and expansion of HKDL, and the realization that they could have so many MORE visitors to entrap exclusively on their property in Florida, and that massive investment pays off huge for the parks and the company as a whole.

        As a theme park fan and as a Disney fan, their actions…pretty much from Pressler on, have generally sucked until DCA 2.0…maybe TDS. They haven’t gotten my money, outside of a Drink Around The World trek to Epcot in many years (last time, in fact, paired with an IOA trip.)

        But the attendance numbers and the profits generated don’t bear out anecdotal evidence. Numbers are up at WDW, at DL, at DCA, at HKDL…so someone (a whole lot of someones) is going to Disney parks, despite Universal’s efforts and despite their two half-day parks (DAK/DHS.) Math doesn’t lie, it just is.

      • StevenW

        @AaroniusPolonius: Your argument to stay the course appears to be the course that Disney should be taking with WDW, but that isn’t happening. Thus, Disney sees an advantage to improve their offerings.

        Whether the competition from Universal has a real impact or that having a stagnant attractions slate is the problem, Disney previous business plan of going slow appears to not be their plan going forward. Despite all indications of a ramped up attractions development, we are still in the same place of not knowing Disney’s true intentions. We don’t know yet. That’s a shame.

        I see Disney going forward with new attractions in a BIG WAY for both reasons. Even though Universal is still pecking at Disney with no real impact to Disney’s business, Universal has changed the game. A big company like Disney will not sit still. How can it? To intentionally allow this go on another decade doesn’t make sense.

        Disney has been stagnant in revenue and attendance. Unless they want to remain flat, they must increase their attractions slate to invite more people to stay longer in the parks. Their side projects of MyMagic can only succeed with increased attractions to sell. E-Tickets are their selling point. They haven’t done much to make people excited about their marquee attractions.

        With all the DVC and hotel developments, they can only sell more rooms and accommodations by having more things to do. DHS and Animal Kingdom are all underdeveloped as theme parks. EPCOT can use a few more E-Tickets as well in their closed Future World pavilions, and country pavilions.

        BTW, Universal has provoked Disney from the beginning. That’s why Eisner built DHS to derail Universal Studios. I would think Animal Kingdom is Disney’s answer to SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      To be FAIR, half of Harry Potter land is also a retheme of prior IOA attractions (and the Simpsons ride was a retheme and removie of BTTF.) To be JUST, those attractions were vastly superior to Disney’s Toontown retheme.

      I can’t defend either company regarding the use of themed spinning rides, however, and that includes Kang & Kodos. No matter how you slice, dice or decorate ’em, they’re cheap to make, to install and to operate. At least USO only has one, where the MK has FOUR of these cheapies (two Dumbos, one Astro Orbiter, one Flying Carpet.) I mean, we’re talking about two multi-billion dollar corporations installing a ride that one can experience at any traveling fair.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        @SteveW, first of all, I think that the “minimal investment” argument is one of three floating around with regards to WDW, at, at least from a bean-counter vantage point, it makes sense, because visitation hasn’t been stagnant: perhaps the most surprising news regarding WDW is that they’ve gained in attendance and spending per guest (as has Universal Orlando, with the loser being SeaWorld; clearly the “Disney and someplace else” paradigm is still in place.) So, I’m certain that there are people in power from the “old guard” who are pushing this minimal investment push. It’s a cynical view, but if people are happy to go on a reskinned Test Track versus demanding a new ride at Epcot, and we retain or gain attendance numbers, then why push more?

        I think the second argument floating around Disney is the moderate investment level. New Fantasyland reflects this mentality. I love what they did with the area, but it really does feel like it’s missing that one key E-Ticket attraction that would set it apart. For example, imagine if the centerpiece of New Fanstasyland was an E-Ticket “Malificent Mountain” taking the place of the aged and smelly Speedway (the bean counters could even retain that ride as the kiddie component of Test Track, building a course under the outside parking lot section of that ride.) I think that there’s a vein of thought inside the Mouse that’s leaning in this direction: if we create moderate resort improvements, we’ll gain attendance and revenue without going “whole hog,” if you will. Now, while I’d rather them take this track than no track at all, there’s danger here, where Yeti’s mountain is scaled back, where well-themed clones rule the day and so on.

        I think, in the wake of DCA 2.0 and the expansion of HKDL, there’s a third wave of thought, which is to invest a premium amount of money into the theme parks, in order to massively gain attendance and revenue (but where the cost of that massive investment will eat into the profits in the short term.) I suspect that the argument against this level of investment involves WDW history. Remember, unlike DCA or HKDL, none of the gates opened at WDW as an attendance bomb. They may have opened with nothing to do, but people still came to visit them, spend their money and stay at their hotels and resorts. To use AK as an example, they opened as a 3-hour park, at best, and became a 1/2 day park by adding a(NOTHER) spinner, a Wild Mouse dino-coaster and a near-off-the-shelf rapids ride. People still came, despite these pathetic additions.

        If I were in the hallowed halls of Mickey, I’d be arguing that the three non-Magic Kingdom parks are, in fact, not remotely retaining enough guests from the 17.5 million that go to the MK. I’d be arguing for the full investment package for each park, with the goal that each of them: Epcot, Studios and AK get optimum investment to drive attendance at each of those parks to 15 million visitors a year, so that you’re only losing 3-4 million to MK, rather than 7.

        Part of the problem at WDW is a mentality issue; they look at the attendance numbers at their theme parks and note that their long-term guest base is driving attendance outside the MK to 10-11 million guest per year with minimal investment, when they SHOULD be noting that 6-7 million guests per year are choosing NOT to continue their vacations at WDW after spending time at the MK. That’s a huge loss of revenue, no?

        I’m in the latter category: I think they should invest heavily in all four parks, with a targeted goal of 15 million per year for Epcot, DHS and DAK, and a targeted goal of 20 million per year at MK. I think each park should get a bucket of cash: between 1 and 1.5 billion, to accomplish this goal, with at least half of that bucket in each park devoted to E-ticket, premium attractions. I think that the argument to the counters of bean should be that this investment will drive more visitation and more profits. I think, on top of that, it will fully activate the potential of MyMagic+, by making the system more appealing via more appealing attractions (seriously: they have FastPass+ on rides nobody goes on anymore…when was the last time you waited to Listen To The Land? 1985?) Finally, I think that the investment of new, premium experiences as an overlay to those that evoke nostalgia and reverence can only enhance and engage the guest experience, not detract. Or, to put this another way, Space Mountain should be a secondary, nostalgia experience in Tomorrowland, behind a new, awesome, E-Ticket attraction, not the primary Weenie in the land itself.

        I think the debate between these opposing views of thought is what’s slowing WDW down…and I think the VALIDITY of all these opposing views of thought is keeping them from jumping forward in one direction or another with the gusto that Universal Orlando has.

      • StevenW

        “I think the debate between these opposing views of thought is what’s slowing WDW down…and I think the VALIDITY of all these opposing views of thought is keeping them from jumping forward in one direction or another with the gusto that Universal Orlando has.”

        This may be true 2 years ago, but not necessarily right now. I suspect much more is happening recently behind the scenes and they have not announced their intentions. An article about Avatar is posted at JimHillMedia explains that BIG plans are afoot and Cameron has slow walked the project. It would seem like Disney is taking its time with its newly acquired franchises and it will soon be a new Disney decade as they decide the best way to exploit its franchises.

        I do think Disney has overdid it’s DVC and they are premature with MyMagic+. However, occupany at DVC is not wanting, and MyMagic+ appears to gain new interest. To fully exploit such resources, attractions must be added. That is the sad truth. Disney must ramp up its attractions slate or the whole thing will implode. Luckily, I doubt there will be an implosion.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Here’s a thought-starter, to get us out of either the “bash Disney or bash Universal” mentality and the blissful ignorance of mathematics regarding attendance:

    What would an “Empire Strikes Back” plan look like and cost for all four Disney parks in Orlando?

    What attractions would you add?

    Take out?

    Where would you go full-on DCA 2.0 and where would you just insert better attractions?

  • Not My Real Name

    It’s demographics, guys. Most WDW visitors are families from some other part of the country and globe for whom WDW is a once-in-a-lifetime visit. After coming to Florida on their one trip, they go to Europe or Asia or South America or some USA resort on their next vacation and probably not visit even one theme park. These visitors aren’t going to notice or care if a ride is a relic from an earlier time (POTC, HM, Space, Splash) as long as they have a good time (and those are still good rides). WDW doesn’t really cater to the theme park nerds and locals like us who’ve been to the place umpteen times and want to see something new.17,500,000+ went to MK last year and I’d bet my DLR AP that a full two-thirds of that number were people on that one-time trip.This doesn’t mean, naturally, that WDW will not build new rides. They will, but for the purpose of increasing summer-time capacity.17,500,000 is a lot of people for a park that covers only 100 acres and about 20 of those acres are the open area between F-Land and the railroad. I bet that in the future, that empty space will be used.

    What I’m trying to say is that new stuff will come, but the people who want something on every trip is a small part of the demographic and as long as people keep coming, expansion will happen, but slowly. Disney is not in a rush.

  • Olivier Sanguy

    My personal feeling is that Kevin is right. Disney is reacting slowly because it is a “big machine”, but we could be rather surprised by the magnitude of the upgrades to the parks once they will be done. It takes time? If it is to do it right rather than quickly but poorly, I prefer to wait, even if it is frustrating…

    • CaptainAction

      WDW is LIGHTENING FAST when it comes to RAISING PRICES, TURNING OFF MUGGS so some poor sap doesn’t get an undeserved SIP, BUILDING RESTAURANTS, STORES, and SNACK SHACKS where MONEY can be TAKEN from WALLETS! These WDW guys can stop on a dime and pick it up. They can’t seem to be troubled with new rides or attractions though.
      Anyone seen Scrooge McDuck lately? I think I know where he is employed.

  • Dreamsinger

    It seems to me that one of Disney’s biggest issues is getting stories that have a lasting impact. Star Wars will do this, but Avatar? For example, take the Harry Potter area at Universal. There was already a huge audience base of loyal Potter fans. Star Wars can provide that, but Avatar has no such audience. The Marvel franchise is another good one for Disney, but the problem there is some of that has already been licensed to Universal. I think some people will see a themed Marvel universe as simply copying Universal.

    About the only thing Avatar has going for it is that it’s pretty. The storyline is basically Pocahontas in space. In other words, it’s a story line that’s been done many times over with various theme overlays. Disney is going to have to do much better than that if they want to not only attract consumers in the short term, but also in the long run. They should have picked up Lord of the Rings. Middle earth is another franchise that has loads of faithful followers who would love to visit middle earth, eat the elvish cakes, and drink Hobbit ale. Disney used to understand this, but it seems like they’ve lost the ability to come up with or find material that audiences will love for long periods of time.

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