Is Walt Disney World feeling nervous about the arrival of Harry Potter?
As the opening day for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
approaches, I have been hearing more and more chatter about how Universal Orlando’s newest attraction will affect Walt Disney World. Will the inevitable stampede of guests heading to Islands of Adventure
have an impact on the attendance numbers at the Disney parks? Are the WDW powers that be feeling a little nervous?
This topic of conversation reminded me about a newspaper ad that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel almost twenty years ago. It was June 7, 1990 and Universal Studios Florida was welcoming its first visitors. That day a full page ad announced “Welcome Universal Studios Florida. What’s good for tourism and entertainment is good for Central Florida.” At the bottom of the ad was a picture of Mickey Mouse and the logo for Walt Disney World.
I’ve always felt it was a bit simplistic to regard Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando as competitors. I never believed that consumers took an “either/or” approach to visiting the Orlando theme parks.
Nor do I believe that the Potter attractions will have any significant impact on Disney’s success. Indeed, according to the Themed Entertainment Association’s recently released 2009 Global Attraction Attendance Report, if the new Potter attractions actually doubled attendance at IOA, the number would still fall short of Walt Disney World’s least attended park – Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Having said that, there is no denying that Disney executives have always had a degree of curiosity about the attractions designed and built by the team at Universal Creative. A healthy dose of media attention was invested the day Michael Eisner strolled into IOA to experience the Amazing Adventures of Spider Man. Several years ago I ran into Tony Baxter at an IAAPA convention in Atlanta. Noticing my Men In Black: Alien Attack construction team shirt he told me he’d ridden the attraction three times and was impressed.
However, while the Disney team has every reason to be impressed (indeed maybe even humbled) by the work of Universal Creative, I’m not sure that they feel even remotely intimidated by the arrival of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’d even go so far as to say that the Disney company is probably pleased about the attention the Potter attractions are drawing to the region.
In fact, I think it would be wise for Disney to play the same card again and take out another advertisement in the local paper. I’m almost certain they have a picture of Mickey dressed in wizard garb, don’t they?
The Orlando Sentinel thanks you for your suggestion, Tim. :-)
I think Harry Potter will help Disney. It won't steal their crowd, but bring more people to experience Orlando as a whole. I think WDW and Universal have always leached on eachother's crowds, (mostly Universal gets the leftovers of Disney vacationers) and for a few years, I doubt people will just go to Universal but rather will hit Disney World while they are there. After a few years, the new Fantasyland will have the same effect on Universal, only not as strong since WDW has a "Must Do" mentality whereas Universal has a connotation of "If we have time and money after Disney."
Well, Universal has Harry Potter and Disney has the return of Captain Eo. So I think the playing field is pretty much level. Right? So what is there to be nervous about?
The single word answer to the question...No.
Great article, and I totally agree.
I think Disney probably just feels that Universal has made some cool attractions that they should have thought up first, but they will not lose any sleep over that.
They are both awesome(and Sea World too)! We are the winners whenever something new opens. I can't wait to ride HP and the Forbidden Journey as well as old favorites like Space Mountain this Summer.
I had no idea the Walt Disney World had done such an ad - talking about class act! Not to mention smart. Writing about travel in and around Florida, yes, I believe everyone benefits from the other. Surely both the folks at WDW & Universal, as well as all the other supportive tourism entities will benefit far into the future as each grows, expands, and improves.
But what was Tony Baxter's high score? Did he get "the suit"?
Great stuff, TH. And overall, I agree that attendance at the Disney parks won't be impacted too much. Heck, if the greatest attraction of all time (Spider-Man) is not enough to draw folks away from the Mouse, than nothing is.
Enjoyable article, TH!
I can't see Disney being nervous at all. They know they're king forevermore. Love of Disney is passed on from generation to generation. Universal can't compete with that. Universal will always be Pepsi to Disney's Coke. It's a universal constant.
As I keep saying, the relationship between Disney and Universal is more symbiotic than competitive. When new attractions bring people to town, that usually means more people going to both company's parks.
Harry Potter is going to help WDW if it affects Disney at all. Harry Potter is one ride and 2 re-themings. It will not hurt Disney in the least.
Sylvain Comeau made an interesting point: "When new attractions bring people to town, that usually means more people going to both company's parks."
It's pretty much gotten to the point for me, that a week long visit to central Florida goes either one of two ways now, it's either a Disney vacation, or a Universal/Seaworld Vacation. Between the 2 Universal parks, 3 hotels and City Walk, and the 3 Seaworld parks, there is more than enough to keep me entertained for the span of a week. Ofcourse, Seaworld/Universal falls short on dining options, and lacks the magic that a Disney Vacation provides, eve with Harry Potter setting up shop this year.
I am a HUGE Harry Potter fanatic, I've read the books more than 400 times each, seen the movies more times than anyone can count, even been known to write fan fiction. But given the choice of Disney or Universal. For me it is Disney all the way. I would consider taking maybe a day (or half) to go to Universal to see the Harry Potter stuff only, then back to the Happy world of Disney for me. Universal seems too impersonal, too not family friendly for me. Disney is all about Happyness and Joy, making sure that everyone is taken care of and nothing bad can spoil the day.
It would be even more interesting if Disney used a couple of Marvel superheros that they now own in order to do a modern version of the full page ad above. Have Spiderman and the Hulk and Mickey Mouse in wizard garb all on the same ad showing some kind a comradery...
I think it's great for all Florida parks. The two times we've been to Orlando we stayed 11 days at Disney Resort. But we also went to both Universal Parks, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and anything else we could find down there. We're planning to go back Summer 2011 to do all these parks again.
Disney has nothing to fear and never will have anything to fear from USF, period. Deeper pockets, better innovations, more land, and the most well known brand in the world. Actually, having just said that I think I will go to Epcot tonight! :)
I am a HUGE Potter fan, and I'm chomping at the bit to get down there...but when I do, I'm going to spend 1 day (or less) at IOA, and the rest of my trip at WDW and Epcot.
I think both parks benefit when new attractions are added to either park. Disney has nothing to worry about. As a lifelong Disney fan, my family prefers to stay on Disney property and spend most of our days there, but, we also set aside a couple of days to visit Universal and Seaworld. I don't see it as competition, it simply enhances our vacation experience.
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