Disney opening Avatar in phases: Terrible idea, or no big deal?
Disney's going to open its new Avatar land
in phases, as we reported yesterday
in the news round-up. Will that be a big deal for theme park fans?
Avatar land concept art courtesy Disney
Opening New Fantasyland in phases didn't hurt Disney's bottom line. Disney's theme park division earlier this month reported big earnings for the year, driven by increased attendance at the Magic Kingdom, where a big ticket price increase didn't trim the crowds. It only added to the money that New Fantasyland helped the company earn.
Also to consider: If you're willing to stretch the definition of the word, all theme parks develop in phases. Theme parks stop developing new lands and attractions only just before they close forever. The huge costs of some theme park developments force companies to spread the work, so that plans often come to life in stages, even if they're not always sold to the public that way.
Would fans rather see four new attractions open over two or three years, or settle for just one or two attractions at once? Obviously, the most enthusiastic fans would like to see everything, all at once, but that's almost never an option.
The challenge for theme parks is to manage fans' expectations. Insider reports suggest that Universal had a phased plan for its development of Harry Potter all along, one that would begin in Islands of Adventure, then expand to Universal Studios Florida. But no one thoughts of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter as "phase one" of Universal's plan. Fans saw it as a complete work, unto itself, and embraced it as such. Universal kept its entire focus on the initial development, and word of "phase two" didn't leak until well after the Wizarding World's debut. (Though, in hindsight, the way that Universal branded the Wizarding World almost as a separate entity instead of making it subordinate to Islands of Adventure should have provided a big clue that Universal had grander plans for the development — plans that extended beyond IoA.)
Getting fans to see a project as complete is key. Fans understand that theme parks aren't complete works, but platforms for an ever-expanding and often-changing line-up of attractions. But fans don't want to feel ripped off by paying for incomplete attractions within those parks.
That's the big problem with Walt Disney World's approach to New Fantasyland. Disney built the edges of New Fantasyland first, and left the middle for last. The literal centerpiece of the new land, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, will be the last thing to come online, more than two years after New Fantasyland's first elements opened to the public.
That created an impression of an unfinished land for many visitors. If Disney had completed the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first, then waited two years to open, say, The Little Mermaid ride, one suspects that many fewer fans would have taken to the Internet to complain. New Fantasyland would have felt complete upon the opening of the Mine Train, and then felt as though it was simply growing even bigger when Mermaid opened. Construction that way would have proceeded at all times beyond the park's apparent boundaries, instead of happening so conspicuously within it, as has been the case for the past several years.
If Disney builds Avatar in phases that gradually extend Animal Kingdom's boundaries, most fans might not even notice the phased implementation. But if phase one leaves a giant, under-construction Tree of Souls in the middle of the land, surrounded by wooden walls and a solicitation to come back in three years to see the rest of Avatar, Disney ought to brace itself for a flood of fan complaints.
Still, as we mentioned, Disney's experience with New Fantasyland suggests that such a flood of complains won't stop the flood of those visitors' money.
So is 2017 the completion date or just the date of the first attraction
If Potter opened in phases with some shops and only the two re-badged rides, the Disneyphiles would have jumped all over it. I would have been severely disappointed as well.
NB writes: "Too bad Disney doesn't move with the swiftness of Universal when it comes to construction."
Walt Disney said it: "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imangination left in the world."
I am just glad they are planning on opening something new in Animal Kingdom. If it has to come in phases, so be it.
I dislike opening new lands in stages because the new land looks like crap when you open part of it and guests can see the construction when they visit. A good example of this is the new Fantasyland and the new Cinderella Mine Coaster.
Isn't Universal opening the Gringotts Hobbit Coaster in phases?
Truth be told, the construction site in the middle of Fantasyland is unsightly. But whether or not Pandora is opened in phases is less important than how it is opened. If the construction does not impede site lines then ... meh.
I think a lot of it has to do with how you present it to the public. Sure, NBCUniversal planned to open Harry Potter in phases all along in its Orlando property, but its original opening was perceived as a complete idea. In addition, the expansion is happening in the sister park, so it doesn't feel so much like an expansion but an entirely new idea. Announcing right from the get-go that a new area will open in stages brings nothing but complaints to me.
Hee, hee -- "Gringotts Hobbit Coaster"... now that's just funny!
I'm just happy to have a new land and a major expansion of a non Magic Kingdom park.
I see zero reason to open in phases. NFL did it because Mine Train was a late change to the NFL lineup. They have plenty of time with no interruptions because CMM will be closed and that part of the park will have no guest access.
Also, my next question is..
Note to Ms. Howe (On Behalf of all of the TPI regulars): Please don't encourage him.
I responded with "no big deal", but that's only on several assumptions. First of all, I'm assuming that they've learned from New Fantasyland and won't be up giant construction walls while part of is open. Like you mention in this post, that was a terrible idea.
As I wrote earlier, there is absolutely no reason why this land should open in phases. New Fantasyland was different because it was different projects with different properties all approved at different times. However, this is still just one land based on a single property with all the time in the world to make things complete. Universal is doing a complete rebuild of an area for the upcoming Potter Land and it will open as a whole (see James, there is grounds for an apples and apples comparison). Frankly, I'm a little shocked that so many fans are willing to let Disney do this.
Since Avatar is a new land at AK it should open ALL at the same time. Phases is a terrible idea for an area that no one currently has any access too. Fantasyland was and is a whole different ballgame it was something that allready existed and was just being updated to bring it more life and capacity.
As mentioned above, sometimes life gets in the way. My wife and I are looking to start a family here quite soon, but we were able to get down to Orlando twice since getting married, to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (phase one), as well as a return trip to see New Fantasyland. Sure we haven't seen both completely finished, but with the next few years looking like raising some children, we probably won't be able to get back down to Orlando for quite awhile, well after both Wizarding World and New Fantasyland are 100% completed. So personally, do I wish they had kept both of these areas closed until completed? NOPE! If so,
Opening in phases isn't the problem. It is how the new land or attractions are sold. The New Fantasyland was "opened" in December 2012, but the main attraction of the Dwarf's coaster was vaguely dated as ready by Spring 2014. The other attractions like the Princess Hall was opened later like September 2013.
I usually don't stick up for Disney World. I dislike the whole taking forever to build attractions, and the whole cutback on their versions of attractions (Pirates being a prime example). HOWEVER!! I do have to say that the reason we are getting the Dwarfs coaster last is simply because the first idea didn't work for that area of New Fantasyland. Remember during the 2009 D23 Expo, there was suppose to be two top end meet and greets in that area. It was planned and ready to go, but people like myself hated the idea of changing Fantasyland into a very "girlish" place to be. I'm not saying anything bad about there not being a place for girls to like, but I do have a problem when that's all there was being added. Lots of people wrote to WDW about this problem, so they moved the princesses to the spot Snow White Scary Adventures use to be, and added a new Snow White "coaster" to where the planned meet and greets are now. That's why this coaster is taking so long to be built. It needed to be finalized through imagineering and then through the accountants before construction could begin. Now do I think construction could move a little faster, OH YOU BET YA, but I do understand if theres a little delay. But the delay that it has now, is just uncalled for. It should have opened around this time.
TH, I think people are seeing how fast USF can knock out these huge projects and expect the same or better from a company who has deeper pockets and a larger fan base.
NB writes: "TH, I think people are seeing how fast USF can knock out these huge projects and expect the same or better from a company who has deeper pockets and a larger fan base."
New Orleans square is the standard to which I measure all theme park lands and attractions. It is Disney's magnus opus and it rides set the industry standard for decades. Even today it remains one of the best theme park lands anywhere imo. New Orleans square actually opened without any rides. Pirates of the Caribbean opened 8 months later and haunted mansion a whole 3 years later. So with that said I don't think a phased opening is that big of a deal. Nobody likes construction walls but we all love what comes after. Misinformed guests who were expecting a complete land but disappointed at the incomplete new fantasyland are just that: misinformed. Anyone of them could access Disney's website and learn exactly what is being offered in the new land.
"Opening the land while the movie you based it on is still relevant."
Maybe I'm wrong, but comparing WWHP and NFL doesn't work. After all, Universal already had a fully built attraction and built the rest of the land around it.
It's all about presentation and good show. In theory, all lands are in a state of perpetual phases, but the roll out of a brand new land, the likes of which Disney is billing as something people will have never seen before, is something I'd like to think you would make sure is as "complete" as it could possibly be. When Carsland opened up, there were immediate comparisons made to Potter as both were fully realized lands based off of a single IP. But with each one residing on a separate coast, it wasn't really the head to head match-up theme park fans wanted. With Avatar set to open on the East Coast, where the Disney/Universal competition is at it's fiercest, the scrutiny that will undoubtedly follow once Avatar Land opens will be insane. Now you can sight attendance figures and ticket sales all you like for making a case of why not to, and that's fine, if that's how you choose to gauge what ideas are good or bad. Certainly it's the way fiscally responsible companies go about making their decisions. For me though, I guess I'm just an old fashioned idealist when it comes to the creative and artistic process. I would like to see the whole section (all that we have seen thus far) open up at once and blow everybody out of the water, from the biggest nay sayers to the greatest Disney supporters. The impact of a fully realized Avatar land, on the level we have been led to believe they are trying to achieve would garner tremendous good will through out the fan community as well as an obscene amount of press from the main stream media. It would finally be recognized as that proverbial shot fired across the bow from Disney saying to Universal, "don't forget, we taught you how to do this, and we still do it better". As a realist and a number cruncher, the phases approach will be just fine in the end. As a person who prides himself on having a high level of artistic integrity, I say make a grand statement and give us all you got!
Maybe they're playing the odd/even game. Last major undertaking - Disney California Adventure (FLOP). DCA expansion topped off by Cars Land (SUCCESS). Avatar - not Disney property (will probably FLOP). Star Wars Land (probably will be SUCCESS). Either that or they're already hedging or cutting their losses on what might turn out to be a loser franchise. Sort of like how the Matrix got crappy by the end of the trilogy. Unless it's the biggest con of the century. For example: In a stunning turn of events, James Cameron becomes the sole legal owner of LOTR and the Avatar project is really a front for a LOTR theme park in AK or potentially replacing AK. Imagine in the near future that society and the government will no longer tolerate theme parks that happen to have zoos in them and outlaws them. The phased approach gives time for the Tolkien family to sell out and a way to end AK if pressure on parks like Sea World gets more intense.
Initially, I think it would hurt a park to open a new area in phases, especially if they've already announced everything. I've got a feeling that if DCA had opened Cars Land without Radiator Springs Racers it would have gotten a lukewarm reception versus the overwhelmingly positive one it received. The same would likely happen with Avatar: if it opens with only one of the two attractions available, that will be perceived as the entire area and met with disappointment after all the hype. Expansions to an existing area, however, can be done in phases as long as the attractions are promoted individually.
TH, the spin master....
I voted no big deal.... but I wanted to clarify that I think it is no big deal if the phases extend outward like Robert suggested as oppose to having sections in the middle of the new section that people are walking through and around still not complete.
I think it really depends on how the land is "phased in". In my opinion, they would be making a huge mistake if they can't open a land complete with an e-ticket, c or d ticket, and a restaurant/show. Why would people go to a land just to walk around or just ride one ride? There's got to be enough there to stimulate them and enough to whet the appetite to return when the successive phases are complete. It's like building a shopping mall...Most malls can be successful if you have at least one "anchor" store and a bunch of smaller stores supporting it. However, if you just open a few smaller stores and say the anchor won't open for another year or two, those smaller stores better be pretty darn important. The converse also applies in that you can open an anchor without the smaller stores, and while that type of phasing-in is typically successful, is it really a shopping mall or just a Macy's?
"I am excited about the new Fantasyland regardless of the roll out order though..... but I do think the idea of working toward the outer edges instead of starting with them and working inward works better. I myself though, chose to wait until the whole land was completed to visit. So I really have yet to see New Fantasyland."
First of the New Fantasyland thing is just ugly. The whole land could be opened in one fase and construction could go on not interrupting anything. With better planning the snail mini mine train could have opened much quicker but it's clear Disney pushes it to the opening of HP fase 2 and that is sad because their ride will never get as much media attention then the Potter land. Also there is no need to compete because New Fantasyland has a complete other public then HP.
NB writes: "I feel like I should explain myself..."
TH, I respect you and your opinions. I just don't have to agree with them....
NB writes: "TH, I respect you and your opinions. I just don't have to agree with them...."
FWIW, Festival of the Lion King's last performance will be on January 5th, 2014 and won't reopen in its new theater for six months. For me, opening Pandora in phases is a terrible idea.
No TH, I disagree with almost everything you post...
I'm just trying to figure out how this is a debate? I mean where do we disagree?
"Oh and while I have your attention, it's weak sauce when a theme park resort in Orlando charges hotel guests to park."
"Always some sort of defense for Universal's (parking) decisions...."
I would rather them tack it on to hotel room costs than have to go through the pain of paying at the parking lot. Just like the dining plan, I would rather have all my meals paid for than have to pay for every meal.
(THC helps NB up off the floor and waves to the audience)
I voted No Big Deal, because even though we themepark nuts may find it less than ideal the majority of people, especially Disney-fanatics, will eat up whatever Disney offers up as "new".
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