There’s an old-time baseball tradition of discussing team strategies as either being “singles and doubles” or “home runs,” with the first strategy being about slow, methodical progress and the latter about big, lurching mini-victories that are harder to obtain. There’s a little of “tortoise and the hare” reasoning in the analogy, and the entire model could be fruitfully applied to the battle royale we’ve got going on now in Orlando between WDW and Universal (and the metaphorical knifefight we’re seeing now between Disney and Universal fans online!)

The assignment of the home run strategy, of course, goes to Universal. When a baseball team wants to build its strategy around home runs, it drafts new players who can swing for the fences–sometimes just one superstar; other times a select few players. The order you select for them to appear at bat (“the lineup”) is carefully chosen so that a few good single-hitters come up first, and then your big hitter(s) show up to try to earn more than one run with a single swing of the bat. Universal clearly has a home-run hitter with Harry Potter in IOA. The land is still always crowded, the merch flies off the shelves as if magically attached to enchanted Firebolt broomsticks, and most importantly, people still come back from vacations there and chatter excitedly about it with their friends. It’s a winning formula.


And Universal is clearly betting its next move–think of it as the theme park version of the player draft–on another home run hitter in the form of the Studios expansion of Diagon Alley, another Harry Potter section. To keep the analogy going, we could say that Universal has been hitting home runs lately in general. Transformers is not just a big, kinetic, popular, and successful ride, it was also built in less time than it takes Disney to get halfway through building one of their own smaller rides. The rumor now is that a King Kong attraction is possibly coming to IOA (on an expansion pad next to Jurassic Park), and that would be another big ride (another “home run”).

If Universal is swinging for the fences, the theory goes, Disney seems to be just hitting singles (and doubles?) Some fans decry that Disney looks like it’s standing still next to Universal, because the big splashy home run attractions overshadow the Disney “singles” like the Princess Fairytale Hall or even the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is not as “big” a ride as Transformers. The latter is an E-Ticket, but Disney’s train is going to feel like something less (D-ticket? C-ticket?) for the thrill-seeking crowd. And Disney has no immediate answer for Gringott’s.

Festival of Fantasy 2014-03-16-7055

That much is received wisdom (or at least commonly argued). What people are forgetting, however, is that you can win baseball games by hitting singles and doubles. And it may seem controversial to assert it, but the same is true of the theme park battle. The big hits are splashy and noticeable, but they do not in themselves guarantee a win.

Think of it this way: Universal has “momentum” now, and is on many people’s lips. Disney may look at first glance like it’s resting on its laurels and getting by on reputation. But it’s not. Disney is clearly spending money on things, from renovations and maintenance to new smaller experiences (interactive games, Princess Fairytale Hall, a great new parade, a completely revamped Downtown Disney, an entire bevy of small attractions in the “new Fantasyland”, and many others). If the first glance suggests Disney is simply coasting, the second (deeper) look shows you something else in the baseball analogy: Disney ALREADY has a solid lineup of E-ticket rides (“home run hitters”) and is fleshing out the rest of its lineup with alternate types of experiences.

Now, you could take issue with the idea that Disney has *enough* home run hits in each park (I take issue with that myself), but the fact remains that Disney is not necessarily doing something stupid by providing what amounts to “counter-programming” for the Universal home runs. (For those too young to remember, counter-programming refers to the old television days when a competing network wouldn’t try to match action movie with their own action movie, but would instead put on something to draw other audiences, like a romantic comedy).


And it’s around this time you remember that Disney already has a pretty solid line-up of “singles and doubles” in their parks. In fact, the deeper you scratch at this, the more it becomes clear that Universal has paid little attention to the “singles and doubles” segment of the theme park world. Can you name a dozen family rides in the Universal parks? I can’t, even when you add both parks together. Universal staked its claim early on as being more action-oriented and more edgy than Disney – this was decades ago – and the legacy of that early building means that Universal can’t really keep families around like Disney can. It’s a related, but separate, question to ponder whether Universal’s properties really have that much “pull” compared to Disney’s. Do they resonate as much with audiences? Some do, some don’t.

I agree Disney can (and should) be thinking of more home runs and not only singles and doubles. But there’s an argument for zigging when the competition is zagging, especially when you already beat the competition (arguably) on the current statistic and the competition is playing catch up (as Universal surely is). Let’s remember that IOA and Uni attendance does not hold a candle to the Magic Kingdom’s annual attendence totals.

It could be argued that MyMagic+ is like a VERY expensive batter who consistently hits singles. It’s not a home run in the customer’s eyes, but it could generate some nice feelings and some low-level excitement. Things that make a Disney vacation different from Six Flags, like when Mickey knows your name and speaks to you. And Disney likes it if it brings home the bacon, as it were.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 2014-03-22-7130

The problem with the “singles and doubles” strategy is, while fans like wins, they also like excitement. Baseball has seen its national attendance wane over decades – I’m not a viewer myself and apologize for the parts I’m getting wrong in this analogy – and Disney would do well to keep in mind the value of the viewer’s excitement. There is something to be said for “momentum” in the theme park wars mattering more than supposed “momentum” mattering in professional athletics. In the latter, it’s the players and their attitude that matters. But the opinion of the fans dictates who actually wins in the theme park wars.

Do you agree with the “singles and doubles” metaphor for describing Disney’s approach? Do you think it will work over the long term? Is it a better approach to take when targeting more than the thrill-seeking young adult crowd? Leave a (civil) comment at the bottom of the article to join the conversation!

Ultimate Orlando Clicks #14 – Ihu Breakaway Falls

Aquatica has opened a new slide for summer called Ihu Breakaway Falls; we look around (and down) the platform! Then it’s off to Medieval Times for a look around the authentic Medieval Village (not new, but new-to-me), and some glances at Eye Drive Live expansion for the Ferris wheel. We pause at Wasabi, a float/belt sushi eatery in the Florida Mall (it’s almost two years old, but also “new to me”), and also look at the construction walls around Islands of Adventure.

Direct link:

Ultimate Orlando Clicks #13 – Expedition Everest Challenge Photos from the Course and Backstage

I was late last week in posting the Clicks show, so it was not linked in the previous article. Here it is now!

We view the soggy Expedition Everest runDisney event – 5K race, obstacle courses, and scavenger hunt – and also look at some minor ways DHS has updated its operations (new Tower of Terror lights, queue pole changes, some new signage)

Direct link:

Ultimate Orlando

I’ve maintained a “side blog” since 2006 and have unified all my social networking around one site and brand. That means I only use the “Ultimate Orlando” venues/accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and a dedicated YouTube channel and playlist. If you follow me on any of these services, please update your bookmarks:



  • Tielo

    I think both resorts are doing the same investments. Both are adding and replacing restaurants and shops and both are adding (and/or remodelling) hotel rooms. Comparing both it looks Universal is going for unknown or unique restaurant where (at the moment) see Disney adding Hagen Dazz and the like but I’m sore more unique offerings will make their way. At least both are going at a frantic speed.
    Hotel wise Universal is going for the more affordable option while exceeding Disney’s value resorts theming and value wise and Disney is feeding the high end timeshare market while ripping the hart out of the Polynesian Resort.
    Looking at that Universal tries do diversify to mid range customers and slowly to families while Disney tries to milk the whales with expensive upcharge options dividing their customers experiences depending on their wallets.
    The only difference between the 2 parks is rides. Disney had a nice selection of good rides and a ton of rides and shows that are old and tired. Most of them live in Epcot and DHS and Disney knows it because they add endless events to them to make them attractive for their customers. On the other hand of the spectrum Universal is doing what Disney has always done before but stopped doing. They build exciting new rides and experiences that go above and beyond everyone’s expectation and pair that with special souvenirs, merchandise and food options making it a complete experience.

    Sure, in the end it’s what you like and love or the ip you care for. For me I loved Disney when each few years I would go I could find at least 1 or 2 things that blew me away and where new. Now that same excitement is given to me by Universal times 2 and stopped at Disney so I look my business to the other resort.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      This is excellent criticism, Tielo.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        …although I’ll add this about the “endless events” at Epcot: it wouldn’t be a half bad idea to build out that park to be the “endless event” park, and make that a part of the park’s DNA. Add in a couple more festivals a year, use some of the empty pads around World Showcase to build thematically integrated convention/event facilities and go whole hog into it.

  • CaptainAction

    Yeah, I would say WDW is getting a walk or two. It took my wife and me 20 minutes to explore New Fantasyland and say, “Is that it?’ It has the worst forced perspective I’ve ever seen at Disney anywhere. Cheap little Beast’s dollhouse 5 feet over my head? Rapunzel’s Dollhouse-on-a-stick, 10 feet in the air!
    Universal is now king of immersive lands with Hogsmead, Hogwarts, London, Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley, etc. It took me longer to see all the funny details in Springfield, for crying out loud, than it did to explore New Fantasyland.
    Universal is giving guests unique attractions with experiences we’ve never had. How did this happen?
    Universal won’t pass MK, but it probably will pass AK, DS, and Epcot in the next 5 years.
    Universal’s 5 year plan begins when Diagon Alley opens and they’ve already broken ground.
    Just the fact that we are having this debate proves Universal is begining to win.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      If Universal’s Florida parks pass the attendance levels of Epcot, DAK and DHS, it would really hurt Disney’s bottom line at their Florida operations, as that would be really indicative of people changing their vacationing patterns in Orlando, and no longer giving Disney as much of their long term vacation money. Since the entirety of the WDW experience is geared towards long-term guests spending $150-$200 a day on average (one assumes,) losing those guests will chunk out a lot of revenue for Disney (should that happen, that is.)

      Which is to say that up until now, Disney may have lost market share in Orlando but not actual visitors. Universal actually grew the market. But if Epcot, DHS and DAK are the “package deal” parks (since they drop off 6-7 million guests a year from the MK, there’s no reason to think that they’re not,) and Universal starts taking guests from Disney, they’ll be taking them in a multi-day way, eh?

    • AaroniusPolonius

      “Just the fact that we are having this debate proves Universal is begining to win.”

      Well, that’s hyperbolic and certainly conjecture, at best. But the fact that we’re having this debate certainly means that SOMETHING is happening in the ether of the theme park universe.

      At the very least, we’re starting to actually see a genuine competitor emerge into a game basically dominated/defined by one player for generations at this point. Competition is always good for the consumer and the product they buy.

      • CaptainAction

        Yes, I just mean that it is worth talking about now.

  • CaptainAction

    One other thing. Universal is building infrastructure too. They are doing the upkeep and maintenance.
    Citywalk is being completly transformed and new parking garages are going up but those aren’t THE reasons for guests to drop big $’s to visit a park. We should be happy WDW is doing maintenance?

    WDW could have put in Alice, Pinocchio, Mr. Toad (again), Casey Jr, Storybook Canal Boats, etc. All very inexpensive attractions by today’s standards. This would’ve relieved the crowd on the few attractions at the worst Fantasyland of any Disney park, but no, the cheapest thing to do was build one Dumbo next to the other Dumbo.

    The “bevy”of small attractions in New Fantasyland like the new Dumbo is the least WDW could have done. Then removing Snow White and 20,000 Leagues to do this like they are landlocked!?!

    Dwarf Mound is very cute but it was like WDW was guilted into doing this by public outrage of guests.
    Don’t think this was in the plans until guests really complained about the lack of rides in New Fantasyland. WDW execs, “Ah Oh, they noticed we just put in revenue centers”.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Cap, I heart you. Your approach sucks, but it makes me laugh every time.

      • CaptainAction

        Sorry about my approach but I’m glad you’re laughing.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      You’re right about the tearing out/landlocked stuff, too. I totally don’t understand why they just don’t build beyond the railroad tracks, if they need capacity and space in the MK.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    Kevin, I like the baseball analogy, but I think you left one part of the experience out: brand/team loyalty.

    In baseball, plenty of fans of the team will root for the same team, go to the same stadium, wear the team’s colors and so on, even if the team hasn’t won a game in years, if the stadium is unkempt, and even if another team is in the area hitting home runs (think the Yankees and the Mets, for example.)

    I think the Disney brand, on top of the singles/doubles versus home run strategy, is also helping them out here as well. It always has and to some degree, always will.

    Now, having said that, there’s no reason why Disney can’t build a modern E-ticket that fits with their family-oriented brand, one that amazes and astounds without being too bent towards the exciting end of the stick. NONE.

    They just built one of these in Hong Kong in the form of Mystic Manor, did they not?

    And while it’s great to have E-tickets like Thunder Mountain in the Disney roster of “players,” some of them are getting a little long in the tooth and could use some support from new “players” yes? And the back-up roster of A-D tickets could use a little “juuje” as well.

    And yes, Universal absolutely needs to balance out their attraction mix with more singles and doubles, as you put it. ESPECIALLY in Harry Potter themed areas. I mean, the franchise started as a children’s book, yes?

  • Park Hopper

    The big problem with your baseball metaphor is that when the home team has a heavy hitter, it doesn’t drive attendance at another team’s games. In the theme park world, if you’re going to Orlando for a theme park vacation to see the latest iteration of Wizarding World, you’re more than likely going to stop and take in Disney World while you’re there.

    For me, personally, there’s been a paradigm shift. Used to be, I went to Orlando to visit Disney World, and I might (or might not) hit Universal while I was there. Ever since they opened IOA, I still went for Disney World, but a day at Universal became a must. This October, I am going to Orlando to see DIagon Alley, and I’ll definitely be hitting Disney World while I’m there.

    Disney seems to be happy with this kind of a shift. They’re still getting the Lion’s share of my vacation, albeit, not as much as they used to, so they don’t mind the motivation for the trip is being supplied by their competitor.

    They should.

    Because the next step is my going to Orlando to visit Universal and I may or may not take in Disney World while I’m there.

    Admittedly, there’s no danger of this happening before Universal opens a third gate (and it better be a pretty darned impressive one) and Disney will need to continue its trend of charging more and offering less. And you need to take into account that I don’t have any princess-crazy little girls.

    But I can see the day coming, even if Disney cannot.

  • OprylandUSA

    I agree, Kevin. But, take the analogy further. Use the ‘Moneyball’ metaphor.

    Maybe the competition isn’t measured on theme park attendance alone. I would say that Disney surely doesn’t see it that way. As a former marketing exec in the hospitality industry, we didn’t measure our success that way. Our nightly ‘heads-in-beds’ was just a small factor in analytics. The amount an average visitor spends per *vacation* -not just per day, has to be the ninth-inning, game-winning score.

    Where Universal has a few, buff, new players (Potter, Transformers, Simpsons), Disney has a new, suped-up Louisville slugger with MyMagic+ that every one of their seasoned players (i.e. resorts, PhotoPass, Magical Express, AND attractions) can hit with.

    It’s hard for us everyday fans; from back here, we only see Universal’s ‘roided up new lineup at the plate.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Opryland, I can’t fault Disney for going for the Holy Grail of marketing with the insane, real time data they’ll garner from the system and use to target their consumers (I’m a marketing guy as well, and WOW.)

      But, I do think the system is a bit of a hard sell for the consumer (beyond perhaps the very planned vacationer.) There’s a podcast just posted here that sums it up: it answers a problem that didn’t really need solving, although perhaps that will resolve itself as the system evolves (or more likely, the data will reveal ways to improve the guest experience and generate more revenue per guest at the same time.)

      I’m all for My Magic+. It just feels very much like the cart before the horse.

  • Arcade82

    When it comes to vacations, anywhere we go is very expensive. I grew up going to Disneyland, but since my family and I have moved to the east coast, we have to carefully choose how we spend our vacation dollars. When I think of a vacation, Disney is always on my mind. However, something odd happened the last time we decided to go out to Florida and I was surprised by it. I bet you’ve already guessed it – we didn’t spend a dollar at Disney. Don’t get me wrong, while I was in Florida I felt there was something nagging at me and I figured it was my mind telling me that I needed to go to Disney out of habit. What’s better than riding Space Mountain the billionth time, or soaking up the atmosphere on Pirates, always looking up at the dirty pirate foot when you pass by? Or the the way when you’ve already stuffed after eating lunch or dinner, you let the best popcorn (or Churros) in the world draw you in because it smells and tastes so good (like home)? Nope not this time.

    In the past we’d always spend an entire week at the Resort, and rarely we spend a day during the week going somewhere else. Once we took a day trip to Seaworld and twice we went to Universal/IOA.

    This time we chose to spend most our week at Universal and at other attractions and I’m glad we did. I really don’t think Disney has the ride engineering (Imagineering) chops to truly top the experience that is Harry Potter. Just the sheer scale of the attraction and fun factor kept me coming back for more. What’s more, I just don’t understand why, at all times of the day (every day), there’s a 20-30 min wait to get a ButterBeer… but I digress.

    To use the baseball analogy, Disney puts their greats at bat. These are the veterans and perhaps the sluggers we are used to seeing and are timeless – when you see them at the plate, you revel in the history and the moment. With them, you know you are seeing something special. These batters are consistent at getting hits and steadily bring in the runs. Then Universal is up. They are like the bad news bears, misfits without a direction whose first game was shaky but you know they have a lot of heart. Through practice and persistence, they rise towards greatness until they get to the championship game. Disney vs. Universal.

    The time is here folks, and while we like to watch the greats play, there is something about seeing something truly spectacular unfold before your eyes. I believe this is it. While Disney will always have a place in my heart, future vacations will see me spending my dollars at Universal … and maybe… every once in awhile I’ll take a day trip to Disney.

    • CaptainAction

      This happened to our family too. My wife pretty much dragged us into Islands of Adventure. I hated missing a day away from Disney. We were staying at Port orleans.
      Before we finished half a lap through the Islands my mind and our 3 kids minds began to change.
      The next day we all went back to Islands of Adventure even though we had annual passes at WDW.
      Then we stayed at Portofino. Then several BIG new things at Universal every trip. Then Potter opened.
      We haven’t had WDW passes in 3 years now.
      Here comes Transformers, London, etc.

      • Kenny B

        “Here comes Transformers”, what? I really think, you may have have lost your mind CaptianAction.

        Please explain?

      • CaptainAction

        We like all the new E Ticket attractions at Universal that have been coming out about 10 times faster than WDW.
        If I list ALL the attractions and lands Universal put up while WDW is still talking about opening Dwarf Mound – the “WDW can do no wrong” folks lose their collective minds, because it’s so embarrassing.
        No comments on substance, just cries of “Stop posting that list!”.
        It’s like holding a bucket of water around the wicked witch of the east or something.

  • jcruise86

    Kevin, your relationship with Disney World is complex. You need to see other people. How about a road trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Cedar Point? Time to update your Tokyo Disneyland or Disneyland Paris books? (Which everyone should by many copies of, btw! Really!)

    Let’s look at the deepest home runs (grand slams all) in Central Florida history in increasing order.
    4. Island’s of Adventure’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter Phase one: a 525′ shot over the center field wall.
    3. Universal Orlando opening Island’s of Adventure with it’s then mind-blowing Spiderman attraction & CMs who were proudly paid more than Disney’s down the road. A 555′ shot almost out of the park.
    2. EPCOT–a beautiful, permanent world’s fair twice the size of the Magic Kingdom. This 800-foot WAAAAY out-of-the-park homerun back in the early 1980s would be a world record would it not be for the opening of. . .
    1. The Magic Kingdom & the rest of WDW opening in October ’71, rumored to have hit the owner of Cypress Gardens in the head many miles away. You drive down the freeway and three lanes point to Walt Disney World. You are welcomed into Walt Disney World by a sign and turn your radio to the Disney welcoming channel. You drive seven miles across flat, lush, pristine Disney property and park in a lot (.50 cents) that all of Disneyland could all fit inside of. Beautifully landscaped trees are all over the lot and you take your first ride of the day, the parking tram. Ride #2: a monorail takes you around Disney’s own lake, through the giant hotel lobby, past a giant Mary Blair mural in a resort called “The Contemporary,” but at the time felt more like the future. You arrive in front of the park and still can’t see that giant castle you’ve seen in pictures that can’t be that magnificent in person. You enter the larger Main Street USA and see it. The most beautiful castle in the world! By far. And it’s American! And it was built for we the people. You get a haircut on Main Street because you need to look a little bit better in this place. The rest of you day and your life are all uphill from here.

    • jcruise86

      Islands not Island’s. Grrrrrrr.

  • Ravjay12

    Great article Kevin! Always enjoy your perspectives!! Wasn’t Carsland and Fantasyland MK a response to the success of Wizarding World? Disney is clearly in defensive mode right now because Universal has momentum right now. Once Disney opens Avatar, Universal will be in defensive mode. I see a lot of things wrong with Disney and Universal everyday, but we all still go and visit. We’ve been visiting other theme parks this year like Holiday World in Indiana, and Dollywood in Tennessee. There are so many other theme parks doing incredible things, like Knott’s for example. The Minor league teams can be just as fun to watch as the Major league teams. It doesn’t really matter which side you are rooting for, in the end, we all just want to see a very good game! In the end, us the fans win! I encourage everyone to go see what the smaller parks are doing this year because they will surprise you.

    • danielz6

      Neither Carsland or new fantasyland are responses to potter. Carsland was announced years before potter even debuted and was the result of poor attendance at DCA since day 1.
      Regarding NF , as it’s been discussed potter has yet to actually take any business away from WDW, who’s market share has increased along with universals, albeit much smaller. So if anything you could argue that Potter has been good for WDW as it’s bringing new tourists to Orlando. So NF was built to ride potter’s coat tails so to speak, and entice some of universals massive new market share to also come and spend sometime seeing Disney’s new offerings. Captain Action is right in that it’s going to take a universal park passing a WDW park in attendance before we see Disney make a real response to potter.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        To be fair and accurate, Universal grew the supposedly mature Orlando market and took a larger share of that now larger market, so they DID take market share from Disney.

        They didn’t take customers from Disney, however (which, in and of itself, is flat-out remarkable,) and Disney grew their customer base as well, even as their share of the market fell. That Universal, despite spending the national economy of South Africa, has yet to measurably impact attendance at WDW is a testament to just how strong a competitor Disney is.

    • cruise

      “Once Disney opens Avatar, Universal will be in defensive mode.”

      I would be surprised if this were the case. I think Universal is too aggressive and Avatar is to far off. Its not crazy to imagine Universal opening another section of Potter by 2018, which would come in a year after Avatar and spoil its lasting effects, IMO.

      “It doesn’t really matter which side you are rooting for, in the end, we all just want to see a very good game! In the end, us the fans win!”

      Couldn’t agree more.

      • vegasrphplayer

        I completely agree with you in that the customers are the ones who really win in this battle. No matter who ends up ahead in terms of attendance, we, as customers win. Uni seems to be taking some of what Disney neglects and uses it to entice return customers. Disney has stopped giving passholders as many discounts as had in the past. Uni still does and has a refill program for beverages. For the average once-a-year tourist, it may not matter. But, as an annual passholder, the little things matter.

  • Trumpet

    Great article Kevin, but the matter of the fact is while you plan is correct, it is wrong completely for how theme parks should evolve.

    You say that Disney already has the E Ticket attractions, so there is no need short term to build any more. You see, I have not visited Florida for 11 years now, but very soon, I think it is worth a visit. Looking at all of the articles on Micechat and looking at the attractions on the official site, there has been nothing ground breaking new that I MUST visit for. Sadly, this is the mentatlity of the Disney executives, and while it might still have ‘magic’ covered in sprinkles, looking at it now, from the eyes of an older person, it feels lazy, and no effort has been put in.

    Yes, the New Fantastland is lovely. and I am not against it looking very picturesque, but really, what is there? A circus (which looks very half finished with the tents,) although the train station looks amazing, In the main land, we have the Little Mermaid ride, which is awful, and not worthy of the classic Disney film it is based on. Then, we have a MASSIVE restaurant, which, come on, should never have been this big and expensive, especially, when compared to the rest of the offerings in the area. A Princess hug zone, story time with Belle, and a Mine Coaster, which is too short for the length it takes to build it. And talk about anti climax!

    You might rip the head of CaptainAction every week he comments and says that he is a hater of Disney, but he has got it right, Universal have picked up the pace, and are building. As Walt Disney said, Disneyland will never be complete, and Universal knows that. WDW believe the have got the second coming of Jesus with all of the MyMagic +, which is a waste. It is stupid to spend 2 billion on this. Now, I can understand that this might be a small part of a large project, but come on, people return for new attractions, and that is what I want to see. I will visit again, to WDW parks and see everything the same in Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios (and a stupid hat) and Epcot (which is now more than half derelict). I always state that Disney have too many plates spinning, and to keep all the parks fresh is hard, but now they have neglected these three and focused on Magic Kingdom, as they know this park is not the one which is stuck in a time warp.

    Many fans will state that the classic attractions are the best, and want them to come back, some want rides to stay there forever, despite there significance has depleted, and this is where I think it is wrong how this has turned out. DHS has many attractions which are prime for updating, Great Movie Ride, Indiana Jones, come on, they need to stay fresh. People hate Universal as the remove classic attractions. People stil hate the Simpsons Ride took over Back to the Future, and now Harry Potter and Jaws. While these are classics, movie change and rarely look back. This would only be right to remove the old and have brand new attractions.

    Maybe the best part of this is the fact that the attractions will be the land and all of the shops and restaurants, with everything unique and feeling amazed by the immersion. This was Disney’s game, but now it is $$$$$$$$$$. That is all that matters. It is for Universal, but they work to get our money. Disney doesn’t need to, as they are Disney, but look at it from a person who has not been back for 11 years. That is the real judgement.

    Thanks Again Kevin


    • AaroniusPolonius

      “…but really, what is there? A circus (which looks very half finished with the tents,)…”

      Would you prefer the traditional circus yurts?

      • Trumpet

        Maybe a different theme, as not only tents, but not one, but two Dumbos!

        I kid, but maybe the circus theme doesn’t work, in a richly themed park.

  • JCSkipr79

    CarsLand and Potter were announced in the same year. Potter was July 07 and the first Cars art was in the 07 Annual Report. And CarsLand has way more similarities to Potter than New Fantasyland.

    • cruise

      I always have trouble thinking of these two as related. Can theme parks on separate coasts really be though of as competitors/answers to one another?

  • superlarz

    Last time I was at universal was before Potter opened. I really enjoyed IOA, and usually spent at least a day every trip. Moved to the west coast, so I haven’t been back, but was really excited for transformers out here. Let’s just say it was a massive let down. It’s like watching a movie and being Jersey around between scenes. Like Star Tours, only not as entertaining. Completely killed my enthusiasm for the original Potter ride. Gringotts bank lobby looks awesome, the ride queue looks awesome, but the ride is going to be the same rehashed universal ride we’ve gotten several time already. The Hogwarts train is the thing that excited me most, as long with the lands themselves. I hope Disney doesn’t start moving towards that type of ride or I’ll be spending my entertainment dollars going to the movies.

  • Nola ron

    Great discussion as always. Was wondering how, or if, potter land will affect Disneyland when it opens out on west coast?

  • Mousecat

    Universal never wanted to compete directly with Disney but when forced to they decided to out Disney Disney. This has be the working model since the opening of USF. It is their DNA. The only variable has been who owned the parks at the time.

    Sam Gennawey

  • jerrypatalano

    listen universal has the best rides but after 2 or 3 days there is not much to do except ride all over again disney is so much more (not taking away from universal) thats why disney world gets about 50 million people vacationing on property and about 25 million into the parks themselves. universal has many plus’s but disney has much more

  • jerrypatalano

    my pros and cons
    pros-universal -best thrill rides great shows
    cons- if you get wet on a ride you have to pay to dry off (you will get very wet
    most rides are not small kid friendly
    disney-pros huge best cast members around best parades and fireworks
    ok i am a little disney sided i am 68 and have been going to disney for 28 years with my family. i love meeting people from all over the world and people tend to be more friendly this is just my opinion but if you are going on a short vacation universal gives you more excitement but if you are going on a longer vacation disney definatly has more going for it

  • WTRiker

    Good article Kevin. But I see what to me are some glaring issues with your praise of Disney’s ‘singles and doubles’, and the sports analogies between the two ‘teams’. Praising them for spending on maintenance? Most of us have been raising issues with maintenance not being done to Disney standards since the early 90s. The fact that they are starting to possibly invest in this now is playing a never ending game of catch-up. Maintaining your players and your team is a cost of doing business, and a healthy top notch roster of players has a better chance of staying on top of the league.

    And again to the baseball or sports analogy – you spend on your team, on your “play roster” (in this case new attractions), to ‘win games’ or become the top team in the league…not on more box seats, more food/merch stands, etc, and you dont build a larger or expand your facility at the detriment of keeping your investment in your roster at the forefront…you do that to draw and keep the higher spenders to your facility, and Disney has been following that trend with locking in people long term through DVC, just like box seat sponsorships at an arena. But – it doesn’t win games. Different mentality. Universal seems to be more interested in playing the game by improving their team roster and investing in their players, where Disney seems to be taking a different avenue: trying to build and fill the box seats, even at the detriment of not only the team, but both the single game ticket holders, as well as the season passholders who want to still support the home team…because they always have, and when forced to, spend on “drafting” a single superstar with the hopes that it will improve the team as a whole. In this case, they seem to be banking on the new freshman…Avatarland, and in the meantime just trying to find any way to drum up interest in a roster of B and C players that they took on in order to wait for that freshman to be eligible to draft. But – what happens if he gets injured along the way? My point here being: we already saw that with the buildup to NFL which was kind of a drawn out flop…and the jury is still out on the new freshman – being Avatarland – being a big enough draw or not, even on name recognition.

    Princess hall? That was kind of like removing a C-ticket attraction (Snow) and replacing it with something that requires little or no investment to maintain (very small cost in personnel and little to no maintenance costs). Sure they got lucky with the sudden popularity of the Frozen gals, and can advertise a short term win showing 230 minute wait times as knowing what people want, but how long will that last before the character hall, even the face characters, is a walk-on like it used to be when it was in the circus tent?

    My issue with the parks in recent years is a bit different though: it has been the little things that have been lost: the overcrowded feeling, and the cattle-herding, in what is supposed to be a ‘resort destination’. And Magic+ has added to that, even though it was touted as a way to ‘move’ people. Ever since the expansion of the Emporium, the going plan in all the parks has been to put something wherever there is open space. A hat, a stage, a merch cart…anything. The problem is: now they are all obstructions. There is nowhere to move, to walk, and nearly nowhere to chill anymore. Wishes closes off 1/2 of the park (Fantasyland) to walking access because of the in park fireworks…Im still waiting to see how this affects the mine train (the supposed new E ticket) in the evening.

    Remember the days when you used to safely get the double-decker busses around Showcase and still had room for all the pedestrian traffic? That’s something that couldn’t even be attempted today.Now I know all of that is not directly related to the attractions wars, but when you consider the atmosphere of just walking around in IOA compared to walking around in the Disney parks today, its a lot more comfortable. (HP non-withstanding…we all know the issues with that area, Rowlings interventions, and the stories of why things are so ‘tight’ in there). But for the most part – you can walk 3-4 wide and talk without having to feel like you’re in everyone elses way. What I find interesting about it, especially when comparing to UO which has less physical land to build back on, and a more structured (boxed, or warehoused) design especially in the front end of the park is that: Disney has the land, the capability to expand, and they still keep packing everything into the existing spaces instead of expanding beyond the ‘burms’.

    Why are we getting “Cinderellas Tarmac”? Because with all the nighttime castle shows, and FL access being limited at night, you literally can not move from one side of the park to the other. Whats the cost? Ambiance. Atmosphere. Why do they want to tear down the waterfall in the Poly lobby and open tile the entire space? Ill bet you diamonds (from the mine) to dollars within 2 years of them opening up that space, its overcrowded with obstructions, carts, and such wherever there is an open piece of floor.

    I have to also agree with the earlier poster who pointed out the issues with Be Our Guest…investing in another food location, and a higher end one, when things like the Terrace (Noodle station, whatever you want to call it) spent most of their time closed. Yes they needed more places to eat that were open, but instead invested a lot of land and capital in a single higher end location, all while DDP was already to a point that they were having to open up exclusive burger stands on the Terrace just to get dinner served to the folks that had already pre purchased (back to the ‘under contract to…mentality). Not to mention again the sheer amount of land that takes up…how many attractions, even C tickets, could’ve been put into that area? Wasn’t one of the (of many given) reasons 20K went away limited capacity, and places to put people, vs. the sheer footprint it took up? (personally, I miss the ambiance of that area though…more concrete, even if disguised as mountains, and less water is not the way to go…another loss of that relaxing feeling).

    I think thats what bothers me more about the Disney parks today…and why with or without my family I just don’t enjoy them nearly as much anymore…its the cattle herding feeling you get. And in my opinion the whole investment in timeshares, dining plans, and now Magic+ has just exasperated that. I still remember the days when MK was literally sold out, and yet guests were never sent through the blow-offs backstage, and you could still move comfortably. Atmosphere is a big part of the enjoyment, the relaxation with your family, the reason people go to on vacation. But that seems to have been lost over the last few years.

    And adding all this pre-scheduling and pre-planning to it just takes it to a new level.
    I understand the current generation needs to be constantly stimulated, you see it with everyone walking with their faces in their phones all day long. Did Disney need to take it to another level though and build the whole day around scheduling and planning and forcing more people to keep their faces in those same devices?
    Is that really a single, or a double, or is that more just another hot dog vendor who is standing right in front of your view of the game during the critical play?

  • WTRiker

    And just another quick thought…continuiing the sports analogies…does anyone else find it odd that the team owner allowed the entire game to be broadcast (not just the highlights), even prior to gametime, and in their blackout area? Its almost like: why bother buying a ticket and going to the arena? Doesnt speak well to the team owners confidence in their star player to fill the seats.
    (speaking about the complete mine train POV ride-throughs that were allowed to be released last week).

  • KENfromOC

    I’d like to offer up another analogy, one among “techies” you hear all the time:
    Apple iOS devices ( iPhone , iPad ) vs Andriod devices.

    You often read or hear on podcast how Apple is losing out to Android, how they seem to be innovating less and losing focus ( since Jobs died ). – that the Google Android platform, Samsung phones and tablets cost less, offer more and allow a better user experience.

    I’m both a Disney and Apple “fan-boy” to be sure, yet I see some of those arguments as valid ones. After all, Android devices have flashy new phones and tablets every month– right? But with Apple you may wait a year or two for something truly innovative and huge.

    Sound like WDW vs Universal? Yep.

    But we all know when it comes to both Apple and Disney, they are the main targets of the other guys. And when those other guys blink …. Apple and Disney end up leap-frogging by way ahead, and they are playing catchup once again.

    We see this at Disneyland, just when you think they are resting,….Wham! You get Cars Land and once again Disneyland is way ahead. Honestly , Universal out here is mostly a bust fir great family fun. Six Flags… More like “six gangs”. We do enjoy Legoland, my daughter being 7 it’s great, and Knott’s is really coming around.

    But even friends of ours who went out to Orlando last year, with kids of similar age, said while they were amazed by Potter, the rest was just ok and not great for younger kids, say under 8.
    It made our decision that when we go to WDW in July, and being we are Disneyland APs and will upgrade and get a Premiere AP for all parks, we will skip Uni. for now. (Not too mention you will now need a Uni park hopper to really experience Potter- that alone would add about $500 to our trip cost. No, not worth it right now.

    I’ll stick with my iPhone and Disney thank you.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Your analogy to both Apple and Disney (at least Disney outside of theme parks) is somewhat ignorant of the histories of both brands.

      Apple went through a long cycle as an innovative tech company where they retained their vaunted image while not generating sales. It took a massive cash infusion from Microsoft to get Apple to the financially solvent position it needed to be in by the late 1990s, in order to launch the iMac, iPod and iPhone, which FINALLY paired the brand/product image with sales and market share. That’s their danger now, really…to be a brand identified with innovation in a market saturated by product. (Post written on iMac, incidentally.)

      Disney, outside of theme parks where they really never had competition in the first place, has also had moments where their brand and brand loyalty and reputation remained intact, but the product wasn’t resonating in the marketplace. Think Disney animated movies post-Jungle Book to the Little Mermaid. Or Disney animated movies post-Lilo & Stitch to Tangled. Each time, Disney came back to prominence, but it took work, effort and financial investment to get there.

      Now, in Disney’s case, we’ve never seen their theme park business in a truly competitive market. Really. Now, we’ve seen other theme park operators trying to peel a day off of a Disney vacation, and we’ve seen Disney attempt to answer those peeled days with a product of their own (attendance numbers indicate successfully.)

      We’ve also seen Universal attempt to join the ‘global world class theme park’ club with the launch of the original Islands of Adventure without Potter, and for that effort not to resonate.

      It will be interesting to see (a) if Universal can pull it off and become that global world class competitor and (b) how Disney will react and respond to a market changed by competition.

      One thing is clear: we’re all going to get better theme parks out of the deal. Thanks, competition!

      • KENfromOC

        I don’t think I am being in any way ignorant as my comment was about the current situation of Apple ( more specifically iOS) vs the many Android devices.
        It took some time, at least 3-4 years before some would say the Google Android operating system, along with the actual phones, came up to the level of an iPhone. And now, some opinions are that Apple has somewhat coasted on brand loyalty rather than true innovation over the last couple of years.
        While Samsung, et. all have brought out numerous cell phones and tablets, Apple has two iPhones and two iPads and basically only given us updated operating system.

        I admit I am an Apple brand loyalist with our household mostly Apple products ()we have a Kindle and a Nexus tablet as well ). I also admit that while some if the Android products are wonderful and highly innovated, it is not enough fior me to leave the iPhone.

        So, I relate this to our upcoming trip to WDW. We live in Orange Co. Calif and have had the premium APs for years. Last visit to WDW was in 2005 (my first was in 1978). My younger daughter was not around yet in 2005, so at age 7 it will be her first visit ( after probably 150 to Disneyland).

        MY POINT: like Android, Uni is not going to pull me away from WDW. We may go there one day, but I doubt it – and let’s face it, we are staying at a Disney resort and they don’t make it easy to get to another place without a car rental. So all told, a day at Uni with transportation, tickets for 3, could equal $500 if we want the full experience. THAT IS NOT WORTH IT TOO ME. And to be honest, we haven’t been the Uni Hollywood, just 50 miles away, for over a decade.

        Universal cannot offer the same family experience that Disney can. Yes, the entire Potter World sounds incredible! But that is the only single reason I would consider going there and I suspect that is true of more than half the people that enter Uni Orlando. (Transformers? It like the film has limited appeal for sure).

        Competition is fantastic, it pushes the best to the next level. So, bottom line: Both Disney and Apple may be resting for a while, but you know they can out-do the competition in seconds when they are ready! They have time and time again.

  • Indy Fan 1

    Universal has only one original attraction left: E.T. They killed King Kong, Jaws, and took out Nickelodeon Studios. USF is dead to me and they will never get my money again unless they put those rides back. I cannot accept Potter 2.0 unless they put back Jaws in some fashion. I am sticking with Disney and nothing is going to get in my way.

    • CaptainAction

      Fingers in ears singing, “It’s a small world after all” loudly…louder…louder!

  • KENfromOC

    One more thing a think is very relevant :
    Disney spend over 1.25 billion on Cal. Adv. – to put that level into WDW with 4 parks would take 5 billion, and to satisfy all the critics, they would need all these major projects to be fine at all the parks in 2 years. Should they do that… It would be great. Did they need to as Universal needed to ( as did Cal. Adv.) ?……. NO! No… Simple as that.

    • Kenny B

      Or they could spend 5 billion over five years on attractions…. and they’re not. So your comment is mute.

      I just want Disney World to add world class E ticket rides. We all do. They haven’t been, and the logic of “it doesn’t do anything for their bottom line” doesn’t float with us theme park fans. We spend good money, give us a good return.

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    Wow. This is one of the most cogent and analytical articles I have ever read on theme parks. Kevin Yee is a master at his craft. An essay by him is like a fine wine that is just aged to perfection and he makes the reader feel like a master sommelier who is greeted by these elegant notes, rich body, and all these layers.

    I love the baseball analogy. I am going to use it from now on. It’s just genius and brilliant. I have to admit that Disney makes it hard sometimes to be a fan. I want to cheer and brag about the home runs but Disney does not hit those anymore. But my sons are still young and I think too young for most of what’s in Universal. Forbidden Journey was way too intense for my older son. He was 10 when he went on it and he likes puffing up and being Big Man in front of his dad especially, but he was really shaken up by the ride. I should have said no but my husband insisted the little guy could handle it. I’m not going to put my younger son on it until he is 12 or 13. I am not making that mistake again.

    Disney is definitely for younger kids and families to do together. Universal for me seems to be more a park for single adults or families with teens. I think that’s good that it is more a thrill park. Disney has no interest in building a thrill park, though to me it seems like a no brainer that this is what they should do to DHS. Abandon the movie studio theme and just build thrilling high octane rides based on movie properties. Make that the purpose of DHS. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Incredibles, Guardians of the Galaxy all have the potential to be the themes of big thrilling rides at DHS. But cheapskate Disney doesn’t want to hit home runs.

    I think that will change the year that USF or IOA eclipse DHS in attendance. Then Disney will build some new thrill rides to boost attendance of DHS above USF or IOA, just enough to keep that comfortable lead but not go nuts.

    To complete Kevin Yee’s brilliant baseball analogy, DHS and Universal are really the two teams playing in the same league and playing the same game, in my mind. Disney is fielding four teams, really, but the four parks are all so different that they really don’t all compare to Universal. Magic Kingdom is it’s own thing altogether (let’s call it lacrosse), EPCOT is wordly and still somewhat educations (let’s call it chess), Animal Kingdom is really the competitor to Busch Gardens more than anything and to a much lesser extent to Sea World kind of (let’s call this polo), and then there is DHS which was rushed into creation because USF was going to be built and Eisner tipped Disney off to create DHS (baseball).

    You can make an argument that the park-within-a-park that is the Wizarding World at Universal is kind of a pseudo-third-gate (but not really)…which I would call quidditch. If they had built the Wizarding World as a third gate it could have been a castle park like the MK, and it could have had children’s areas and family stuff to do, but it would have been a stretch. The Harry Potter stuff is really a unique experience but it’s a park-within-a-park for Universal that enhances the “baseball” parks and delivers the home runs these days.

    As a Disney fan, I really want to see Universal clean Disney’s clock when it comes to “baseball”. This is good for the “sport” of theme parks…it is like the New York Yankees being beaten for several years in a row so that they get forced to up their game. We all win when that happens.

    But for the moment, Universal has never won a world series and DHS is still the Yankees in town, winning left and right. Mostly by default up until recently.

  • fjhuerta

    Disagree with you completely on this one. You say Disney has tons of “singles and doubles”. Sorry. They are mostly fouls, IMHO. Epcot is a crying shame. The greatest park of them all is now reduced to a laughable look at the past’s future. They never even tried to update it – they just were happy closing attractions and adding mediocre ones. It’s such a terrible, terrible wast e. MK is boring – AK has not that many attractions and closes early, and the Studios have the ToT, RnRCoaster and nothing more.

    What the WDC hasn’t noticed is that Universal Studios keeps adding rides, changing old ones and generally giving people a fair deal for their money. While Disney hasn’t done a thing, they are close to bringing two different HP lands on two different parks joined by an attraction – something Disney never did. Disney may thing singles and doubles will win the race, but it won’t be long before Universal’s string of home runs will beat them senseless.

  • jerrypatalano

    wow hot and heavy conversations i am glad there are both parks in orlando. i love disney it’s the place where i want to spend my vacation and while i am there i will visit universal.true disney should update there rides but i am sure it’s a money thing. as far as universal passing disney in attendance i don’t think you will ever see that. disney has there 4 parks 44 miles of property water parks themed hotels (around 22 of them) downtown disney west side and goes on and on. i think they spend there money pretty wisely you have to appeal to families singles people without kids and so on. thrill ride wise they can’t beat universal but they don’t have too. i am so glad there is much diversity around orlando

  • katmcw

    Wow! You people who post on here make me feel like a rank amateur, and I really thought I knew a lot about Disney. We visit WDW almost every year and have also been to Disneyland. We did visit Universal one day (they “peeled” us away for a day to see Wizarding World). That part was neat, but after riding the rides, buying a wand, and having “butter beer,” we were done. The rest of Universal IOA seemed poorly laid out, a bit faded or dirty, and not very cohesive.
    I like the details at WDW, like the flora and fauna that live in the park (wild rabbits, ducks, water fowl). Call me a sap, but I enjoy a nice character-shaped topiary. I like to imagine how long it took to grow and how it was built. Despite the rush of the crowds, we tend to take our time at Disney parks (once we rush to ride our favorite rides) and enjoy time people-watching and taking in the details. We love the history of Walt Disney, his dream (despite the fact that the Disney Corporation has done some things that may not live up to his original aspirations), and the nostalgic feelings that Main Street and DHS evoke in us. I enjoy the live entertainment (barbershop quartets, piano players, dancers). The only “live entertainment” we saw at IOA was a bunch of superheroes riding down the street on 4-wheelers.
    Like I said, I’m not an expert, but Disney always seems clean and well-maintained to me. Perhaps the next visit we make to FL, we shall give Universal another try, but I can’t imagine ever enjoying it as well, or in the same way, as WDW. I do appreciate reading all of your opinions because it gives me another perspective. Keep up the good work!