What's the deal with some Disney theme park fans and Universal?
What's the deal with some Disney fans and Universal?
It seems to me that no matter what Universal rolls out, some Disney fans will dismiss it. Take a look at the reaction to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Theme Park Insider readers love the new land, and its top ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, voting that attraction the best new attraction for 2010. Universal Creative's work has amazed attraction designers throughout the industry - even folks within Walt Disney Imagineering have (very privately) expressed admiration for the project.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey drew one million riders faster than any ride in Universal history, while helping increase attendance at Islands of Adventure this summer, even as attendance at other Orlando-area theme parks (including the Walt Disney World parks) fell.
The kids, in front Honeydukes at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park
I understand that Harry Potter doesn't connect with some theme park fans. No theme or franchise will wow everyone. Even Disney's most popular franchises leave some visitors cold. I get that.
But beyond folks who just don't care for Harry Potter, by no objective standard can one consider The Wizarding World of Harry Potter an inferior creative work than what is available today at the Walt Disney World theme parks. I'm not insisting that Universal's Harry Potter is better than everything at the Walt Disney World Resort, just that it is ridiculous to claim that it's worse than the Disney average.
Yet that's what a few Disney fans continue to insist. On online message boards, and overheard around the Walt Disney World Resort, these fans (many of whom I assume have yet to visit the Wizarding World), bad-mouth Universal's work.
"The opening was a disaster." "A flop." (This argument reminds me of the old Yogi Berra line: "No one goes there anymore; It's too crowded.")
"Harry Potter won't last." "It's just a fad." (With more than $5 billion in movie ticket sales and more than 400 million books sold to date, this franchise isn't fading out anytime soon.)
"It's not that impressive." "Disney could have done better." (The Wizarding World is "not that impressive" only to people unwilling to consider it. And if Disney could do better, well, I would love for WDI to accept that challenge and brew up something new which tops it!)
Not all Disney fans think this way, of course. I personally know dozens of Disney-lovers who can't wait to visit the Wizarding World, or who have visited and think the new land delightful. But I also couldn't miss overhearing a few others trash Harry Potter, while I was in Orlando. (FWIW, I heard not one negative comment about the new land while on Universal property. Only while at Disney.)
Here's my theory: It's insecurity. Some fans see their love for Disney as an affirmation of their good taste. As consumers, they've invested heavily in what's widely considered the best in the business (Disney), so that must mean they're smart customers.
But what if another company comes up with something better than (or even just as good as) Disney? What does that say about those fans' financial investment in being a Disney fan? Does that mean they don't have the great taste and smarts that they thought they did?
The easy solution, then, for these folks would be to dismiss the possibility that anyone other than Disney can ever do anything as well as Disney does.
That's just silly, though. If you've dropped thousands of dollars on a DVC membership, or annual trips to Walt Disney World - great. You've gotten a delightful entertainment experience for your money. (Or, at least, I hope that you have.) But entertainment isn't a zero-sum game. A wonderful new attraction at Universal doesn't diminish your Disney experience.
If anything, it can enhance it. Go ahead, spend a day or two up the road at Universal during your next Disney World vacation, and enjoy it. Or even if you don't, just wait to see what Walt Disney Imagineering comes up with as it tries to wrest the industry "buzz" back from Universal.
Trust me, WDI has the ears of Disney management now (especially John Lasseter) and they are playing to Disney's corporate pride. I continue to believe that's part of the reason why Disney's revisiting its plans for the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansion and why so many attractions at Disneyland in California are getting some much-needed love. Lasseter, Tony Baxter and others at Disney have no intention of letting Mark Woodbury and Thierry Coup at Universal Creative hog the industry spotlight for long.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey's been great for Central Florida tourism - and for the theme park industry. As we've noted before on this site, what's good for Central Florida and the theme park business is good for Disney, too.
So, to those few Disney fans who are dismissing it, you don't need to knock The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to prove your credibility as a Disney fan. Enjoy it, celebrate it, and wait with us to see (and, we hope, enjoy) Disney's inevitable response.
"It's insecurity. Some fans see their love for Disney as an affirmation of their good taste."
Great article Mr. Niles. This is so true. I'm a die hard Disney fan but guess what? Islands of Adventure since 2000 has been my second favorite park. Yes it's ahead of Epcot and Magic. Because you know what, universal took a chance and went away from the studio theme and came up with something great. It's a great and amazing park. Disney on the other hand fears taking risks and rather rest on their name. That's not good. I'm happy Potter is kicking some Disney butt. Then it will put some fire under the people at Glendale. Competition is the best thing for this industry.
I have never read any of the Harry Potter books and I have never seen any of the Harry Potter movies but I wouldn't be nasty about a ride that I haven't ridden. If I ever went to Universal, I probably would not ride it, but there are alot of rides at any given theme park that I wouldn't ride just because they are not my thing.
The problem seems to be that Disney, as of recent, have slowed down on the production of new and innovative attractions whilst Universal are arguably being more imaginative with what is being added to their parks.
I don't even like Harry Potter, but I will say that "Forbidden Journey" is hands down, the current best dark ride attraction in the world. That's it. Who cares what park it's in, or who built it?
Please lets give credit where its due. Universal has surpassed anything that the Disney has done to date. now in saying that it doesnt mean Disney isnt still great because it is but let also look at it this way just becuase it Disney Doenst mean it great. Universal this year has unveiled two things its doing better than Disney the Wizarding World of Harry Potterand and King Kong 360 3D. Two very diffrent attraction but they make you feel the same, FULLY IMMERSED. there are not to many thing that Disney can say you are Fully immersed in. Yes they do push you into different worlds but nothing like Kong or Potter.
I am a huge Disney fan, and I really dislike the Harry Potter franchise. But I love the theming of the new land, and I cannot get enough of the Forbidden Journey attraction. I go ride it whenever I get a chance.
Disney does a great job of building attractions for everyone in the family to enjoy, from age 4 to age 84. Sometimes this M.O. frustrates fans who know that WDI has the money, the imagination, and the clout to build the best "whatever" in the world. Despite the sometimes over-zealous desires of their hard-core fans, Disney holds fast to what has made them #1: family-oriented adventures. I say kudos to them for doing so.
Well said James! I couldn't agree with you more.
In this Disney/Universal mini-civil war, I try to stay neutral. I like anything that makes me want to go back again and again. But I'm a little bias for Universal because sometimes I think they get a bad rap mainly from the die-hard Disney fans. They always seem to talk about how Disney's attractions are "far and away the greatest in the world and nobody else will top them." If you ask me when it comes to cutting-edge, multi-sensory experiences (which I love), Universal currently has the upper hand. But those rides that the whole family can enjoy with story elements that resonate with people for years, you'd have to go with Disney. They both have different strengths, and it's good for the industry whenever Disney or Universal brings new experiences to their parks.
I'm a Disney fan who also loves the Universal parks, and can't wait to experience Wizarding World. I guess some people are so narrow minded that they refuse to accept anything besides Disney, or even give another park a chance. Their loss.
Well said, Robert.
I think that I am lumped into this group.....
I am actually annoyed by two things. Disney World fans who refuse to admit the impressive quality of Universal parks. And Universal fans who have an inferiority complex toward Disney World and have to overcompensate by constantly saying how Disney World is now trashy and lame and the worst. People, let's don't be corporate tools. Like what you like and chill out.
I'm so damn glad you decided to post this! Mr. Robert!
One thing I will add is that people, as Anthony said, are very quick to get on the back of Disney when something goes wrong but are less inclined to praise Disney when they do something outstanding. This seems to be especially a problem in the 'Theme park media'.
To Michael: the explanation for that is that Disney is the top of the mountain. They're the Yankees, they're the NFL of the industry. If you're on top normally to stay there or to go down are the only options. I agree that they should be judge like that. They're the straight A-students. People shouldn't be content with B's and C's from them. That's the whole deal about the Jeti. Disney if they're the kings. And they're. They should be judge accordingly. We shouln'd expect C's from them, is not like they're Six Flags! You're really expecting to have the same (or similar) hoopla cause Disney made a show. Even if is a great show, how you expect to compare that with a multi-million dollar adition with stores and a top notch attraction? That's the reason. Is not anti- Disney is that for my money since Expedition in 2006 Disney( I went to see it) hasn't made a top notch attraction. Not anything like this... Tokyo Disney Sea looks great but again what there is better than Forbidden Journey. Journey to the Center? I bet Disney Sea is great! But is all the waaay in Japan!
I'm willing to bet anything, that if the Disney Sea was the 5th park in Orlando, or the 3rd in California instead of Japan. The "Disney-insiders" would make look Harry's World coverage look like a hog dog cart opening! They would put the good old Mouse into God like status! They haven't done anything that massive in a while, and people still won't give props to Universal. If "Disney-insiders" had anything new ( this interesting to cherish) they would go crazy! I'm not interested in traveling to see anything that Disney's done lately. I've still go, cause Disney is great but the MK expantion it's not for me, but Potter's and I have a date set... -Francisco-
I've just returned from a vacation in Orlando. I was disappointed to see much of the Magic Kingdom was in renovations AT THE SAME TIME, during peak-season. This makes zero sense to me. If you want to renovate, why not do it in off-season? And while you're at it, why not do it one or two rides/areas at the time, instead of doing it all at once? Large parts of Fantasyland were closed, including my favorite ride (it being my favorite for no real reason other than nostalgia), "It's a Small World". Also, their new Winnie The Pooh ride, other than being dull (but I guess that's what you get when you're two 20-something-year-old and one 40-year-old going on a Winnie the Pooh ride....! In my defense it was not my idea to go on it), was extremely tedious waiting in line. The line took WAY too long, and it appeared like the ride was incomplete (its outside seem to still be in the works) and that it was not functioning as efficiently as many of the other rides are. Which makes me wonder why would Disney bother opening an incomplete ride, that still doesn't work as fast and as efficient as it SHOULD. It's not a very LONG ride, there's no reason the line should take as long as it did (I believe we waited somewhere around the 30-40 minutes in a fairly short line that seemed to slowly crawl foward).
^I have never visited TDS, Michael, and I consider it the best theme park in the world! =) Man, I'd love to visit...
Michael O., you didn't just compare World of Color to Harry Potter? Category or not, Harry Potter is so unique and just plain awesome on so many levels. World of Color is just another nightime show, again showing effort but still just another evening show. Over time, millions will travel from all over the world just for Harry Potter. Doubt one, from far, will schedule a trip to DL just to catch World of Color.
"Enjoy it, celebrate it, and wait with us to see (and, we hope, enjoy) Disney's inevitable response."
The type of person you describe is familiar to anyone that has spent time in online message boards. They remind me of 12 year old girls in 1965 that thought you could like the Beatles or the Stones but not both. I find them to be infinitely tedious.
I'm coming out of lurk-dom here. As a family, we've never been to Universal. However, I have a coaster-crazy 8 yr old, so I would say a trip there is forthcoming.
What you have all forgotten.
Universal is riding on the the success of Disney. It does not matter what universal does, Disney has the land for long term development and creative success. In the long term universal will not keep up, one attraction does not make a park a winner, nor does attractions. There is much more to making a theme park a winner. Sorry universal, you might win the battle but you will lose the war
I'm a big Disney fan who doesn't trash talk Universal. I would really like to see the Wizarding World next year.
I am a Disney nerd, and you will constantly see me on these beloved forums trash talking Universal.
Come on people even if JK did go to Disney First she knew that they couldn't pull off what she wanted to see. As for a World of Color which i have not seen. Its 100% Disney trying to make you feel all warm and fuzzy with video, lights and water. Poor king kong was so hipped up people where actually hoping to see kong. Even thought they are screens the 3D experience is not comparable to anything out there. Uh hardcore Disney fans will never see that just because its not Disney doesn't mean it isn't extraordinary. Why dont we all keep are minds open to new attractions. I think the only thing Disney really has better then Universal is its NOSTALGIA. We all want to return to the place that made us smile when we were little. I mean how many attractions have left Disney parks through the years not many. Ive been a theme park junkie since i was young and loved both Universal Studios and Disneyland.
we live in louisiana...and go and stay at a disney resort for a week every 3 years...me and my family love it...disneyworld is our family get away...but...we always take 2 days to go to universal studios...which is awesome.
Could some of the bias toward The Wizarding World be that old religious zealotry "that anything having to do with wizards and witches is of the devil", again? I heard that story quite a bit when reading the HP books and then again when the movies came out. Those same folks tend to gravitate toward Disney because it's so "wholesome and family-friendly", yet they tend to forget about the "spirits" in the Tower of Terror and The Haunted Mansion. Are they friendly ghosts or evil spirits? What about Leota was she a witch? And don't forget about Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins (was she a miracle-working angel, or should we be crying WITCH!!!). And of course, lest we forget, even the Disney icon, Mickey Mouse, idol to millions of children everywhere, was (GASP in horror) THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE!!! It's all so silly. ;)
I love Disney so much that I'm a seasonal cast member, but I can't wait for FL to cool off and have smaller crowds so I can go see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! My entire family loves Harry. A friend of mind went there with her family and they had the best time! No, it doesn't take anything away from WDW. I'm quite sure the Fantasy Land expansion is directly caused by WWofHP. It is good for the Imagineers to get a little nudge to bring us newer and better attractions.
I am a very big Disney Fan....however the engineers and workers for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter did an extremely good job. I was there last week, and it blew my mind...their technology and accuracy was great.
As one who is from the religious right, I can tell you Disney isn't on their "nice" list.
I went to Wizarding World of Harry Potter twice and loved it! Although I'm a Disneyphile who prefers Walt Disney World over Universal Orlando, I deem it as a hallmark of innovative design and fun-generating. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey can't be beat even for me! (Heck, it's my second favorite ride to Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit at the entire Universal Orlando Resort!)
I have not really noticed what I would consider a large ammount of bashing Harry Potter Land. If anything, I hear people talk about it fondly more than I care to hear about it (just saying...... there are other things to talk about, and I guess since I am not that interested in Harry Potter and don't want to ride on a kuku arm or whatever it is I just am not overly thrilled with it). I have not been to it and don't really want to, but I figure if you liked Potter and were interested in riding that type of attraction you will like it. Did they go big with it..... yes.... well sorta, I mean, it is really only one new ride..... but the buildings and stuff they built with it are impressive looking to me. I am kind of starting to get tired of hearing about it...... not because I have to hear about Disney all the time, but it's kind of like when you turn on the news and something big has happened and your starting to get tired of hearing a different angle on the same news story over and over even though the angle is not that different from the time they told it the night before.
We finally broke down and visited USF and IOA in 2007, taking advantage of the close relationship between the Loews hotels and the theme parks, and frankly, I kick myself for waiting so long.
I've read similar "average" reviews from Disneyphiles about the new Kong 3D portion of the tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.
I am late in the game, I never visited WDW as a child and the first time I went was in 2002 when I took my children (ages at the time was 6 and 3). I totally fell in love with Disney and have been a fan ever since. After visiting IOA for the fist time in 2004 and Universal for the first time in 2009 I am also a big fan of Universal Florida. I have to admit I could care less about Harry Potter coming to IOA as I am not a fan at all. I've never read the books haven't see any of the movies (don't plan to either) but I am a theme park junkie and I love to be entertained, period. I could care less if the rides about Harry Potter or Star Strek (I'm not fans of either) but as long as the ride is entertaining I'm all for it. I'm planning a family trip with in-laws for June 2011 and we're going to both Universal parks and MK. I've heard great things about Harry Potter and look forward to seeing the new attraction. The only thing is I won't get the full effect of the attraction since I am not familiar with it but that's fine I'm sure I'll enjoy it anyway.
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