Sorry to dig up an old thread, but this came up when I googled something about universal. I am a technician currently working at Universal Orlando.
After reading through this thread, I felt I have to respond. Now I am not defending UO just because I work there, but I feel there are some facts about the parks that should be presented.
1st, there is a big difference between Disney and Universal. Disney world is and always has been owned by Disney. Not true of Universal. NBC/Universal is the company that runs the theme parks, but NBC/Universal has had 11 different owners since the park opened. It is currently owned by General Electric (and all of our lights finally work, lol). The Universal Theme parks were never designed to make money. In fact they were designed to lose money. The reason being is that the real money maker in NBC/Universal is Movies and Television. The parks are designed to be a tax write-off. Because the parks lose money, this helps the tax situation throughout ALL of GE Corporation. Until GE took us over, the other companies ran us like we were a tax write off. They spent the park's budget on advertising and marketing instead of upkeep and improvements.
Since GE took us over, things have drastically changed. The higer-ups at GE are financial masterminds and really have a good grasp on "the big picture". The first thing they did was unify safety standards throughout the park (we didn't used to even meet OSHA standards...the other companies that owned us probably bribed them to leave us alone.) The next thing they did was cleaned the place up. They hired 500 extra "Park Services" personel (janitors/cleaners). They now spend all night long combing the park, spraying every square inch of the grounds with pressure washers.
And the final phase of the plan was maintenence and improvements. Our "Operational Readiness" Standards have risen by 72% over what it previously was. It's rare that a ride or attraction is closed, now (Unless it's a planned week-long rehab of the ride, which happens only once a year and only on the most problematic rides such as Ripsaw Falls). The "Monkey McBean" attraction that you mentioned is now fully operational (though the name was changed to "Sky High Trolley). They have begun updating some of our out-of-date attractions. "Back to the Future" is becoming "The Simpsons". "Earthquake" is becomming "Disaster". Most of Lost Continent and some undeveloped land is becomming "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter". They even added more shows. such as "Blue Man Group". More Restaurants in City Walk such as "Bubba Gump's Shrimp". There is another massive roller coaster planned that is secret. Even we don't have details yet, but we have been told it's coming in 2009. It will likely have some big name or licence which would explain the secrecy.
In Closing, The Universal Orlando Parks have become a place worth visiting again. You will find them clean, well-maintained, and fresh.