Disney World is in much bigger trouble than the company or its shareholders may want to recognize. And the problem isn't really Universal or Harry Potter. It is Disney themselves. The company has let Walt Disney World decline, become stale, and has failed to invest in keeping the parks vital.
While Disney made a calculated decision to ride out the economic slump by cutting costs and discounting, Universal used that time to their advantage by building the single best amusement park attraction ever (in the United States).
The signs are now obvious that if the Disney Company isn't in a state of creative decline, its Florida property certainly is. The new Fantasy Forrest expansion to Fantasyland is nothing more than a tiny bandage on a much larger problem.
The Magic Kingdom could use at least one MAJOR new E+ ride and several new family rides. It has far too many shuttered shops and restaurants. Epcot is in dire need of attractions in the World Showcase section of the park and some sort of cohesive theme in its Future World section. The Studios park is a total disaster, relying solely on Tower of Terror and the increasingly painful Rock'n Rollercoaster to pull in crowds. Only the Animal Kingdom has been showing progress, but even that park requires a major new land to help the park feel more like a full day experience.
Disney World is a money pit at the moment. Why? Because the company failed to invest as necessary as it went along. And now that Harry Potter has made Disney World's failures obvious to the average visitor, it will be difficult for Disney to recover quickly. Especially if its management team continues to block all major progress and push for clones and character meet-n-greets instead of spending the billions it will take to fix Disney World. The budget allocated to fix DCA is nothing compared to what it would take to put a suitable amount of dazzle and magic back into Walt Disney World.
Unfortunately, the new Fantasyland expansion will likely be a public relations backfire for Disney. Universal builds a MAJOR E+++ ride and land which is fun for the WHOLE family. Disney counter-strikes with a Fantasyland expansion targeted at 10 year old girls. Total misstep on Disney's part. I'm not saying that the Fantasyland expansion won't be lovely, but it certainly won't address the real problems at the resort. It is a cheap attempt to fix a problem which it doesn't even come close to addressing.
I feel terrible for the Imagineers who work so hard to present wonderful ideas which continue to get shot down by clueless theme park management. But one or two amazing new rides is NOT what Disney World needs at the moment. It needs a major comprehensive redevelopment plan on a massive scale. Everything from resort transportation, entertainment zones, theme park redevelopment, and staff member training should be included. And those in Orlando management who stand in the way should be very quickly swept aside. The next manager who cheerfully presents PowerPoint slides showing how much money was saved by incrementally cutting food portions or delaying maintenance should be thanked for their time and then fired. Disney World needs to refocus from an organization 100% focused on the bottom line into one which focuses instead on quality of show. It is one thing to overcharge for a product which is clearly better than what anyone else is capable of offering and quite another to overcharge for a product which it is increasingly difficult to justify its sliding level of quality.
Disney world has too many MBAs and not enough creative types. And that will ultimately be its undoing, not Universal and their AMAZING, inventive, and star quality Harry Potter land.
Disney World CAN be fixed, but it will take far more effort than I fear its management or the Disney Company is willing and able to provide.
Where is the Oriental Land Company when you need them?