The Disney Empire Strikes Back

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

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.