Let's play 'Connect the Dots'*
Here's a huge thank you to several Theme Park Insider readers, who shall not be named but who have helped me play "connect the dots" between several recent developments affecting the theme park industry.
Wait a minute - Am I going to Disney World?
In case you missed it, Hollywood gossip says that new NBCUniversal owner Comcast is ready to make some changes at the top of Universal Studios. In the proposed shakeup, Universal Parks & Recreation CEO Tom Williams will move up the organizational chart, becoming a direct report to NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. That's great news for theme park fans, as it would represent a strong statement by NBCUniversal about the value it's placing on theme parks within its business.
But the move that should get your attention is the one that would see current Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer move on to other duties in the company, clearing the way for DreamWorks CEO Stacy Snider to come back to run Universal. She'd be bringing her partner (and longtime Universal theme parks consultant) Steven Spielberg with her, of course.
But there's a snag.
You see, a few years ago, Snider and Spielberg signed a distribution deal with… the Walt Disney Studios. So Snider and Spielberg allegedly can't decamp for Universal without being released from that Disney contract first.
Now, if you're running Disney, what might Universal have that you'd really, really want, in exchange for letting Snider and Spielberg walk?
(Yeah, this would be a much bigger deal than Al Michaels for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit - the last time Disney and Universal swapped assets.)
If Disney were to get this property it covets, it would of course want to make sure it had assigned a top Imagineer to Orlando to oversee its introduction into the parks and resorts there, right?
And if Universal were to give up this asset to Disney, it would want to rush construction of a new thrill ride similar to a highly-popular one themed to this soon-to-be-lost asset, right?
And if you were Universal, you would want to hold back officially announcing this new ride, as well as the other major new development under construction in the same park, until you needed those announcements to "soften the blow" of giving up this prized asset, right?
Fascinating hypothetical, isn't it?
*Update: And now (Tuesday), Deadline New York is reporting that the Snider/Spielberg deal is dead, and the two are staying with DreamWorks and Disney. That blows up the picture, doesn't it?
Well Robert, you were ahead of the game on Harry Potter Phase 2 so you have a good track record. I'll be watching this space eagerly to see whether your hypothesising is on the money again...
It sounds more like a Dreamworks and Unversal merger than a re-organizational. Can they separate the persons from the product and leave the Dreamworks distribustion deal intact with Disney?
That is a very plausible hypothesis Robert! There are still many other possible reasons for the moves being made by both companies, but if you’re right, there would be a huge shake up in WDW and UOR in the next few years. Only time will tell. Orlando brace yourself!!! :-)
Hulk, Stormforce, and the lamentable Fearfall can all be given an easy makeover to some new theme (Madagascar?). But Spider-Man would be a more difficult change. You can't just slap a new theme on such an immersive, narrative attraction. So, are you speculating that Spider-Man would close completely at IOA at least for a few years until a suitable replacement could be crafted? If so, then the park would suffer a HUGE blow. Harry Potter may be the top draw, but without Spidey, IOA is a vastly diminished experience.
If Disney gains the Marvel rights in Florida, then they could add a great land to DHS or possibly a 5th gate down the road and it would be a great addition to WDW. But what would be next for Universal? They would have to come up with something quick to replace Marvel Island, otherwise IOA would take a big hit. Storm Force, Hulk, and DR. Doom would be easy to switch over to a new theme, but Spiderman would take time, and the scenery would need to change too, which would lead to some serious downtime for that area in IOA. I had thought hypothetically before about a Hasbro Land possibly replacing Marvel in IOA. They could have Transformers, GI Joe, and Battleship (which Universal already owns), so it could have worked in well. But since Transformers is going in old SS 44 in USF, a Hasbro Land in IOA wouldn't make sense. So the other idea discussed on TPI before was DC comics taking over IOA. I think that this could be one of the best ideas for a replacement as long as Universal could get the rights from Six Flags. I know Universal Creative would do a great job with DC and utilize the characters and themes in more immersive way than ever before. It would be awesome to hop from a Marvel land at Disney to a DC Island at IOA all in the same vacation. It's a comic book nerd’s paradise!!! I would defiantly miss Marvel at IOA though! :-(
These next few years, I believe, are going to be quite interesting in terms of announcements. I can't wait to see how it all will unfold. And I completely agree with the above statements on your track record, Robert, for prediciting news
James, if Universal really was struggling to re-theme Spiderman, they could very easily replace it with Transformers (it is basically the same ride and layout) and just make MARVEL Super Hero Island into a Sci-Fi City like in Singapore.
James...he's speculating that Spiderman will close in the near future and that its replacement has already been fastracked and is currently under construction...transformers.
Nick, Transformers has an ENTIRELY different layout then Spiderman.
Robert, interesting idea, but rushing to build Transformers just doesn't jive with it, IMO.
Nick, I wrote that statement based on the assertion Robert makes that Transformers is going in at Studios. Obviously two Transformers rides wouldn't be a good idea.
Cool report, Robert! (although some of us were looking forward to hearing your thoughts on an EPCOT remake today ;)
Sorry for the delay on Epcot. The Bistro de Paris and Cedar Point announcements forced me to push the Epcot piece back a day. It'll be up tomorrow.
A little birdie told a a month or so ago that a few Disney face character castmembers were already entering the early stages of training to be a few Marvel characters. I would take that information with a grain of salt, but at the same time I fully trust my source.
This was really interesting and it all makes too much sense. All we have to do is wait for the official announcement on Transformers and everything else.
Well who's to say Transformers is going into ss44? Universal hasn't actually announced anything for that space yet even though construction on the building itself has begun. Obviously if Universal were to lose the marvel characters from IOA, then Transformers could easily take over the Spider-Man attraction, and the idea of a Hasbro themed land would be interesting and very different. Like it was said earlier, they have the potential of using Battleship as well as G.I.Joe characters. Granted I would miss the marvel characters at IOA, but the change would be welcomed. At the same time, adding the Marvel characters to WDW would seem very hard as to where they could fit in aside from DHS which seems the most obvious, or possibly taking over the Imagination pavilion at Epcot would be interesting to think too.
I 'm going on record as saying i don't think Spiderman will be going anywhere soon.
I think it's in character what Disney is doing all the time. After their own brands like the fab 5 and the hand drawn animation studios dwindled down because of bad management. They bought their competitors like Pixar and Marvel. They also want everything all the time. That's why Potter went to Uni and their licenses are executed poorly because they don't "get" franchises like Star Wars and Indy. They even wanted Oswald back and didn't do anything with it (money not so well spent). It's to Warren Spector's credit to put him in a video game.
James/Dominick - One could still replace the scenes in Spiderman with those from Transformers and still have a coherent ride. And James, yeah, two Transformers rides probably wouldn't be the best. :D
Well, Snider and Speilberg are staying put at Dreamworks.
I think that this conjecture is too big a leap at this time. More information is needed to connect the dots. And they may well be pointing in a completely different direction.
It was obvious this was coming way back when Disney got the goods. Was only a matter of time before they started putting it to good use and building something with it. Universal will be just fine to move on. Seriously, how many more mediocre superhero movies can be shoved down our throats before public fatigue sets in. Aside from the very good Batman movie series that's ending, it's been little more than the beating of a dead horse since the turn of the century.
I think and it is just my uneducated opinion only, that if disney wanted to go after the rights of something Universal had, they should have gone after Harry Potter.
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