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Vote of the week: Star Wars vs. Harry Potter?

By Robert Niles
Published: May 6, 2011 at 2:15 PM
Disney and Universal count some of the world's most popular entertainment characters and franchises among their line-ups. But at the Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World Resorts, these rival companies don't limit themselves to their own characters. This year and last, Disney and Universal are competing using two of the world's most popular entertainment franchises, ones that neither Universal nor Disney own.

Star Wars versus Harry Potter.

Star Wars

Harry Potter

Universal Orlando opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year, and this month Walt Disney World opens the most anticipated new ride in Orlando this summer when it debuts the new Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Let's put aside for the moment which ride you'd prefer. Instead, let's vote on which overall franchise is your favorite.

Star Wars began with movies, then expanded into books, animated TV series and one musical TV special we'd all rather forget. Harry Potter reversed the process somewhat, beginning in a series of books, then adding the movies. Both franchises offer highly popular Lego-themed video games, too. Fortunately, so far, we've avoided the spectacle of the Harry Potter Holiday Special.

Do prefer your conflicts between good and evil to be set amid the magic, wizards and school-age mischief of the Harry Potter franchise? Or the alien worlds, battlefields and spiritual mysticism of the Star Wars universe?


Personally, I wish that Disney would do more with the Star Wars franchise, and create an immersive land for Star Wars fans the way that Universal has for Harry Potter. The Star Tours rides have been nice, and I'm looking forward to seeing the improvements in this new version, but I'd welcome the chance to walk through Mos Eisely or Coruscant in a Disney theme park as I can walk through the village of Hogsmeade in Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Caroline Davis on May 6, 2011 at 2:20 PM
Harry Potter x 1000000000
From Jack Curley on May 6, 2011 at 2:32 PM
I only like the Star Wars prequels. DHS needs a Jar Jar ride.
From Joseph Catlett on May 6, 2011 at 2:39 PM
Overall I think Star Wars is a richer total universe, but as far as theme park experiences go, Potter still rules. There is really no comparison, Potter took it to a whole new level with the Wizarding Wolrd while Star Tours 2 is just another ride.
From 173.65.179.192 on May 6, 2011 at 2:48 PM
As a long time passholder for both parks, Universal took it to a new level this past summer. Potter is a villege while star tours is a ride. Not to mention, the new potter ride is just about the best there is at a theme park. Personally, I like star wars better then Potter but, this is about a ride and the park..sorry, universal wins hands down in this case...with ease and butterbeer, the restaurant and all the shops blow away what disney has done...[ now if they have a true star wars villege, then watch out!!]
From James Rao on May 6, 2011 at 2:49 PM
Even if the only Star Wars film ever produced was the 1977 classic (and honestly, looking at what has happened to the franchise since 1977, I wish that were the case), it would still be the better franchise.
From Amanda Jenkins on May 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM
Star Wars is iconic, with some of the best and most quoted lines of the two. I love Harry Potter and Star Wars, but Star Wars has proven its power for over three decades. I believe Harry Potter will also prove it in the future, yet you can't help but be pulled to the dark side of the force :)
From 71.1.242.214 on May 6, 2011 at 3:23 PM
What?!?! Harry Potter has less than SW?!?! Harry Potter is the highest grossing series of all time, made billions in movies and the theme park land, while star wars only has 2 simulator rides. And SW is kinda,well bad.No offense SW fans.
From TH Creative on May 6, 2011 at 3:30 PM
Can't do it.
From Tim W on May 6, 2011 at 4:04 PM
They should absolutely turn the land around it into a Star Wars land.
From Tom Tatsey on May 6, 2011 at 4:07 PM
Voted for Harry But I wish Disney would get with it and do a SW land. It would give the Boys something and give a whole new reason to go to what ever Park it was put in.
From James Rao on May 6, 2011 at 4:38 PM
As Mr. Niles wrote in the poll: Let's put aside for the moment which ride you'd prefer. Instead, let's vote on which overall franchise is your favorite.

It isn't about the better ride, it is about the better franchise. And while I love the Harry Potter novels (the movies are a choke) as much as the next adult who reads kid's books, the Star Wars franchise is simply unmatched in richness of story and longevity. Not to mention the fact that George Lucas and his gang completely rewrote the book on how movies are made and marketed, and changed the landscape of cinema forever.

And while money isn't everything, the original (and still best) Star Wars film (the only film in either franchise that can stand on its own), with its domestic take of $1.285 billion (adjusted for inflation), remains the highest grossing film in the modern era.

From Terry R on May 6, 2011 at 5:18 PM
Franchise wise, sorry HP fans, Star Wars rules! Only because it's an older, more established franchise. But in terms of theme park experience, I definately think Potter rules this area! Disney can do more to enchance the Star Wars experience as long as they don't have Jar Jar or those teddy bear warriors!
From Michael Gilmore on May 6, 2011 at 6:07 PM
I am thrilled Disney finally got around to Re-Imagineering the world's first simulation ride: Star Tours. Since George Lucus (our modern day version of Walt Disney - although there will never be another Uncle Walt) gave it his thumb's up, it should be incredible.

Harry Potter? I am a huge fan of that franchise as well and even though it opened LATE, I applaud Universal for it's innovation and it's creation. The only thing here that saddened me is that only ONE attraction at the PWP is actually new...the others are just uhm...revisited :)

Star Wars Land? Great IDEA! Just remove the huge wasted space at DHS - that tram ride - and build the "Empire Bites Back there!" You can use that Catastrophe Canyon as part of Stars Wars lava fight and change the water to look like lava...like in Las Vegas.

Now...when are they going to reopen (and UPdate) Disney's River Country...what a waste of real estate.

Keep your ideas coming...I love to read them.
WHY? Because I like you :)

From Anthony Murphy on May 6, 2011 at 6:07 PM
You know, I am a bit suprised that Disney didn't just "go for broke" and make a land at DHS. I think it would be great, especially after the huge success of Star Wars Weekend. Also, DHS could use a bit of a sprucing up!

I voted for Star Wars pretty much because it has been a proven franchise for all these years. Harry Potter, in my opinion, is good too, but in book form. Harry Potter could be as popular, but it is still early.

From Colton McLaughlin on May 6, 2011 at 8:01 PM
"George Lucas and his gang completely rewrote the book on how movies are made and marketed, and changed the landscape of cinema forever."

No; he took the technology from 2001: A Space Odyssey and made it unrealistic, stole the plot from WWII, then gave different names to planets representing countries of Earth. Star Wars is unoriginal and the whole of the series pales in comparison to Harry Potter. The first movie was decent, but the rest of the movies are truly awful.

From chris cona on May 6, 2011 at 8:52 PM
They definetly have the space too. It would so cool to have a theme star wars area just like Harry's
From Thomas Caselli on May 6, 2011 at 9:20 PM
Star Wars all the way. I have never read a Harry Potter book or seen a Harry Potter movie. I don't see what all the fuss is about. I have no interest in Harry Potter whatsoever.
From Thomas Caselli on May 6, 2011 at 9:26 PM
Ok Colton, If you have a bone to pick with George Lucas, this isn't the place for it. The topic was Star Wars or Harry Potter.
From James Rao on May 7, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Colton, The Sentinel was a fine story (RIP, A.C. Clarke, Childhood's End rules!), and despite Kubrick's heavy handedness, 2001 turned out to be a decent, albeit slow-moving, sci-fi classic. The effects were ground breaking in 1968, but nothing compared to what Lucasfilm put on the screen in 1977. Was Lucas inspired by the works of great film makers who preceded him? Of course. But his improvements and advancements are unmatched, and still stand the test of time.

As for the plot of Star Wars, it is a tried and true tale of good vs evil, and has been used in various forms since the dawn of time (incidentally, one could argue Harry Potter has the same basic story - an impudent youth must master magic/the Force to defeat an evil wizard/the emperor). However, if you want to get real picky, Lucas was most heavily influenced by The Hidden Fortress, a classic Akira Kurosawa film, as well as the action-oriented serials of his youth.

Now, I don't want to mud sling, but can you really pick at the plot of Star Wars when the world of Harry Potter is just as unoriginal and unrealistic?

Potterverse is riddled with stolen ideas (read LeGuin's Earthsea books if you want to see where Rowling got the idea for sending a young boy to a school of wizardry), heavy handed exposition (every book ends with a long chapter where one character - who invariably gets caught in a monologue - explains everything that was hidden from the reader during the rest of the novel), and plot holes so large Rowling was forced to write extra chapters just to try to explain the flaws (for example, read the second chapter of book six when Snape offers contrived explanations designed to stem the tide of protests for his inexplicable actions later on in that same book).

And don't get me started on the HP movies, which are such lackluster conversions of the books upon which they are based that one would have to believe the man who wrote the screenplays (Stephen Cloves) must have considered Rowling a hack instead of an artist.

But, I don't want to go there. I very much enjoyed the Harry Potter books, both times I read them. And while I find the movies to be subpar, there is no denying the franchise is a good one, and is wildly successful.

Trivia time: What company does the visual effects for all the Harry Potter movies?
Answer: Industrial Light & Magic.

Isn't that the same company George Lucas started in 1975 to accomplish the special effects for a little film called Star Wars? Well, I'll be...it certainly is!!!

I guess that means that without the magic of Star Wars, and the constant drive of George Lucas and his gang to improve visual effects in film, none of the Harry Potter movies would have even been possible. So the legacy of Star Wars lives on in the World of Harry Potter!

May The Force Be With You!

From 75.59.219.102 on May 7, 2011 at 1:02 AM
Bravo James!! Very well said.
From David L. on May 7, 2011 at 6:29 AM
While Harry Potter is an amazing series, Star Wars is unbeatable. The Star Wars films are better than the HP ones be a mile. I haven't read any of the SW books, but the HP ones a pretty good. Ride wise, I can't judge yet, but it looks like HP will beat SW unless the upgrade really takes the motion simulator to the next level. IF Disney built a SW land, It would easily conquer HP world, but a SW land would be incredibly challenging and expensive(like 500+ million dollars if you wanted to represent more than one planet compared to HP's about 200 million).
From 82.12.125.140 on May 7, 2011 at 1:44 PM
oh man, this is FAR too difficult!
I love Star Wars as I was brought up to love it!
and with Harry Potter it's the first books I read that got me into reading and stuff!

AHHH - I think Harry Potter JUST tips it....JUST! :P

From 94.93.95.245 on May 7, 2011 at 2:25 PM
There is so much more that can be done with Star Wars. It has already stood the test of time and still is going strong. I have 7 great rides already with names. My favorite is Vader's Revenge- a dark slower roller coaster.
From 173.65.229.198 on May 7, 2011 at 4:50 PM
Thomas, you know absolutely nothing about Harry Potter, since as you stated, you didn't read any of the books or see any of the movies, sooooo how can you compare the two??
From Michael Owen on May 7, 2011 at 5:49 PM
As far as the franchise on it's own goes, I prefer Star Wars.

But there's no doubting that Universal have used Potter better than Disney have Star Wars. A SW land in DHS, with the right marketing, would be a huge crowd draw for Disney.

From Colton McLaughlin on May 7, 2011 at 8:32 PM
I'm sorry, this was sort of me taking out my anger at George Lucas. I do not like him at all, so I said Star Wars pales compared to HP, which isn't true at all. I just have a deep loathing for George Lucas.

I disagree, 2001 does not have a slow moving plot; it has a part full of flashing lights that doesn't really belong in the movie. Most of the effects in SW were taken directly out of 2001. The only truly new effects were the light-sabers and laser effects. The company, Industrial Light and Magic, was made because because Fox shut down its special effects team. Lucas gathered up a group of people, who were lead by the second in command to the effects artist of 2001, and told them to create effects. I don't doubt that movies would be as great as they are today without ILM, and that is the only aspect of George Lucas that I respect.

From 98.21.98.163 on May 7, 2011 at 9:14 PM
I voted Star Wars because it's a bigger more impressive franchise..... but I think Universal took Harry Potter way farther than Disney took Star Wars.
From Thomas Caselli on May 7, 2011 at 9:25 PM
I don't need to compare the two. I don't have any interest in witches and warlocks(Harry Potter)or wizards or whatever. Nobody has to know everything about everything to know what he likes or dislikes. I know what I like and I know what I don't like.
From 24.101.41.218 on May 7, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Just an FYI James which surprised me too, Industrial Light & Magic did not provide effects for Deathly Hallows, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0926084/trivia
From James Rao on May 8, 2011 at 4:07 AM
Colton, thanks for further explaining your stance in this debate. I am sorry you do not like Mr. Lucas. I have never met the man, so I can't speak to my like or dislike of him, but I do have a deep like of the things he has imagined.

As for that "second in command" you referred to, he was John Dykstra. And although he fell out of favor with Lucas early on, the advancements he made to visual effects while working on the first Star Wars film cannot be discounted.

And as for 2001, we will have to agree to disagree, knowing that the contributions of the film to its genre outweigh our subjective feelings regarding its pacing.

One thing we completely agree upon is the value of ILM to the visual effects industry. Without the talents of that little group Lucas brought together to make Star Wars seem magical, successful films of today, like the Harry Potter franchise, would likely be a lot less appealing.

From James Rao on May 8, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Yep, anonymous poster 24.101.41.218, a London based company, Double Negative, took the helm for the last two movies after assisting ILM on several previous installments.

ILM was just too busy!! =)

From Colton McLaughlin on May 8, 2011 at 11:53 AM
James, I think we can both agree with what we agree with and disagree with what we disagree with, and leave it that way.
From James Rao on May 8, 2011 at 12:01 PM
An equitable solution, Colton. I sense the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
From Anthony O'Neal on May 8, 2011 at 5:02 PM
I voted "Star Wars" but I do enjoy "Harry Potter." You can find inherent flaws in both franchises, so I'd rather not spend all afternoon doing that, so I'll leave it with this: Episode I and II were not that great and the last couple of HP movies have been disappointing, in my opinion (It is true that Episode IV is the only stand-alone movie in either franchise).

A truly immersive "Star Wars" land would be great, I think. Build upon some of the actual things that were good about the movies. I think a Mos Eisley cantina would be great ("You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."), and the Florida summer is like being under the two suns of Tatooine. Elements that would work for rides would be pod racing, speeder bikes on Endor, traffic in Coruscant, running the Death Star tunnel, etc. There could be a jungle gym/climbing area (they have one right now that is based on "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids") based on Chewbacca's homeworld (Kashyyk) or Dagobah (or Endor, if it isn't used in another area). So many possibilities!

From 74.242.242.132 on May 8, 2011 at 8:26 PM
Star Wars will be around long after Harry Potter is dead and gone.
From steve lee on May 8, 2011 at 9:14 PM
I always thought it could have been awesome if Star Tours emptied into a Star Wars themed area rather than just a gift shop (think of how Wild Arctic empties into the animal areas at Sea World). So much untapped potential. Of course, I also think it would be cool if you had to take a Hogwarts Express ride to get into TWWOHP...
From Robert Niles on May 8, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Personally, I enjoy reading the Harry Potter books more than I enjoy watching the Star Wars films. So that pushed me to vote Potter here.

Yeah, it's yet another Christ fable. But I love how J.K. Rowling's imbued the series with a warmth that's too often missing from the Star Wars universe.

That said, while Potter is at this point a franchise, Star Wars is a *platform*. (Computer geeks will get where I'm going with this.) Lucas has opened up Star Wars to extensions by other writers and creators. While they work with the Star Wars creative team, all those extra voices extend Star Wars in ways that Lucas never could alone. (Geek analogy: Potter = program. Star Wars = licensed API.)

Rowling's not yet opened her Wizarding World as a platform in that same way, so I understand why so many others see Star Wars as a more engaging and rewarding franchise at this point.

From Samantha McCrae on May 9, 2011 at 2:33 AM
From 82.12.125.140 on May 7, 2011 at 1:44 PM
oh man, this is FAR too difficult!
I love Star Wars as I was brought up to love it!
and with Harry Potter it's the first books I read that got me into reading and stuff!
AHHH - I think Harry Potter JUST tips it....JUST! :P

^^ that comment was me btw :P forgot to log in xD :)

From Scott B on May 9, 2011 at 5:28 AM
Robert hit the nail on the head. The Star Wars universe has been opened up to such a huge degree that it is hard to compare the two simply on content. I mean, the story alone in the video game "Knights of the Old Republic" was enough to rival any of the Star Wars films. And that was just one videogame. Star Wars has LOTS of videogames, and novels, and comics and......etc.

However, my vote still lies with Harry, as it is a singular vision that both starts and ends with Miss Rowling. Star Wars itself for me is better in idea than in execution. Look at Boba Fett for example. We all think Boba Fett is cool. But why? Look at him in the movies. There is no indication of why we should ever like him or even ever notice him. Lucas just kind of gave him over and the fans let their imaginations run wild with him. Whereas with Harry, the characters have a richness to them that is unmatched in Star Wars.

So in my mind, if we are going strickly by Rowling's Harry vs Lucas's Star Wars, Harry Potter wins hands down.

From 199.123.115.12 on May 9, 2011 at 8:21 AM
Star Wars, hands down, no contest, especially for adults. Having said that, there's soooo much more that Disney could have done - and still could do - with the Star Wars franchise at its parks. Here's hoping they get moving soon on it.
From Anon Mouse on May 9, 2011 at 8:48 AM
Neither. I was a fan of Star Wars, but I was very young. Now I'm old. I never caught up with Harry Potter.

It seems like Lucas did a much better job with Star Wars. Its production values are much better than Harry Potter; however, the dialog and storylines are so ridiculous and juvenile that I despise the prequels. The downward spiral began with Episode 6 with the Ewoks and never recovered.

Harry Potter did not fulfill its promise with the movies. They were played so straightforward that there was little suspense. I felt it lacked magic. The old series "Bewitched" did a better job with magical themes.

From Don Neal on May 9, 2011 at 11:19 AM
I am late to this party since I was out of town this past weekend. But it is a great discussion. And already one of my favorites in the last 5 years here on TPI. :)

James already pointed out all the reasons why Star Wars is so iconic and has a lot to do with paving the way for HP. But all that aside, the Star Wars universe is vast and always growing as the narrative continues along all kinds of prequel, post-Death Star, and parallel universes. The villains are diverse, interesting, and dark. The environments are just as diverse and provide many great themes from which to pick. Harry Potter is one island in one park. Star Wars could be three parks on it's own easily. It provides content easily integrated into about every ride system you can think of.

The ultimate dream would be Disney's fifth gate opening as an all Star Wars park. Yeah, I know. It won't happen. but imagine the possibilities!

From David Roth on May 10, 2011 at 5:55 PM
Lucas would never allow Disney to have a whole themed area as he's to much of a control freak. I hope I'm wrong as I would love to see it. But I would suspect he would build one in California with his own funds and have 100% control and not have to listen to Disney's input.

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