Theme Park Insider

Insider's Update: The horror! The horror!

September 6, 2014, 12:41 PM · We mentioned in this in an update to this week's Halloween News round-up, but in case you missed it: for the first time, Universal Studios Hollywood is letting fans buy tickets to the Eyegore Awards that precede the opening of Halloween Horror Nights on Sept. 19. This year's awards honor Greg Nicotero from The Walking Dead, filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and John Landis, and guitarist Slash. The presenters will be Chris Hardwick, Danny Trejo, and horror make-up god Rick Baker. Tickets to the event are $50, and you'll need a ticket to that night's Halloween Horror Nights, as well.

Portobello Mushroom and Spinach Flatbread Pizza
Say good-bye to this beauty: The Portobello Mushroom and Spinach Flatbread Pizza at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, with herbed marinara, artichokes, pesto and ricotta.

A couple of weeks ago, we honored the top 10 counter-service restaurants at the Disneyland Resort. Second place, after Disneyland's Plaza Inn, went to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, which was the highest-rated eatery at Disney California Adventure. Theme Park Insider readers gave the Boardwalk high marks for its delicious flatbread pizzas. However, as of yesterday, those pizzas are gone, replaced by the greasy, thick-crust, flavorless "Disney pizza" found over at Redd Rockett's Pizza Port. So if you're in the mood for pizza at the Disneyland Resort, skip the "new" Boardwalk and just walk over to Downtown Disney for the top-quality pizza at Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria instead. (For WDW fans who might be wondering about that name, yes, Naples is the sister restaurant of Epcot's Via Napoli — both are operated by Los Angeles' Patina Group, not Disney itself. Patina also operates Catal, Tortilla Jo's, and Tutto Italia.)

Insiders visiting the park report that Disneyland's refilling the submarine lagoon in Tomorrowland, in preparation for the return of the Finding Nemo ride this fall. Disney saved a bunch of cash by not running the notoriously labor-intensive subs all spring and summer. But one would hope that the water bill for refilling the lagoon during an epic drought wouldn't come cheaply, either.

In Orlando, Disney celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Hoop-Dee-Do Revue dinner show at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground by reuniting the original cast. Here's Disney's video:

Over at Universal Studios Florida, the park will be promoting the upcoming animated film The Boxtrolls by welcoming the main characters to the Character Party Zone, next to Pantages Theater, through Sept. 26.

Finally, Busch Gardens Tampa has welcomed a newcomer of its own, too. A baby aardvark:

The baby, whose gender is not yet known, was born Aug. 5. Guests can't view the baby yet but will be able to see him/her at Jambo Junction in "the coming weeks," according to the park.

Replies (13)

September 6, 2014 at 3:06 PM · I don't get why people like flat bread pizza - to me it's not really pizza, it's just an already baked bread crust with toppings on it. Real pizza is baked from the start. The flat bread pizzas at Boardwalk were hard and dry, almost like a cracker crust. Redd Rockett's might not be great either, but it's more of a real pizza than flat bread.
September 6, 2014 at 6:40 PM · Universal's Boxtrolls does not sound like a franchise. There seems to be a lack of competition in the animated movies with Disney dominating most everything except for Despicable Me. I would advise Universal to have a partnership with Fox and 20th Century to have some IPs in the parks.
September 7, 2014 at 7:34 AM · Why does something need to be a "franchise" in order to be promoted in a park? Universal is simply using their platform to build awareness of the impressive-looking Laika project. Universal actually has very little to do with the film, and is just serving as the distributor. They did the same with previous Laika projects Coraline and ParaNorman (you could actually see the stop-motion puppets for that one in the museum inside Universal Studios Hollywood, and how the company makes their iconic stop-motion films).

Also you seem to be mistaken in thinking that Disney owns the animated market right now. So far in 2014, the highest grossing 2014 Disney/Pixar animated feature has been Planes Fire and Rescue. There are five animated features from other studios that topped it (Lego Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Rio 2, Peabody and Sherman, and Nutjob---yes a movie that was quite possibly the worst animated film in years). Certainly Disney's Big Hero 6 will probably top all of those aside from Lego Movie, and Frozen's 2014 gross (movie was released in November 2013) alone topped all of those aside from Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2, but Disney is not ruling the current animated market as much as you're suggesting. With no Pixar release in 2014 (Inside Out is coming in June 2015), Disney has failed to step up in what has become a wide open market.

I would agree that Universal could use some more animated IPs for the parks (people have been clamoring for years for Universal to push How to Train Your Dragon by partner Dreamworks for years), but Despicable Me and Shrek have maintained popularity for a long time, so neither of those are going anywhere any time soon. The addition of another modern IP would possibly take away from one of those. The word is that USF is going to be reworking KidsZone soon, so perhaps that will feature new IPs including a more intricate application of Curious George.

September 7, 2014 at 4:57 PM · Shrek is rumored to be removed from Universal, and I strongly doubt Shrek will remain in USH when the new Harry Potter land and Simpsons land opens. Universal did not keep their licensing agreement with DreamWorks for Shrek and Madagascar for their overseas parks.

Since you mention Universal has little to do with animation, then that's why their theme parks are at a disadvantage.

What's up with you in your detailed rebuttals? Okay, other studios done much better than Disney in 2014. What's that to do with Universal? Universal is still in the same mess of not catering to the kids demographic. Regardless, it's better to have a franchise than not.

September 8, 2014 at 9:59 AM · Boardwalk Pizza had very good pizza for a theme park. I don't know the numbers but it looked like they did good business too.

The Village Haus at Disenyland had also recently switched from Disneyland's old Foamizza to the higher quality flatbread style(although with less varieties to choose from compared to Boardwalk). I wonder if that means they will also switch to Red Rocket's spongy specials?

--tomo

September 8, 2014 at 1:21 PM · Universal doesn't have their own animation studio, so they're reliant upon 3rd party IPs to put into their parks. Dreamworks Animation makes the most sense since they rent space on the USH lot to Dreamworks (and provide US offices for Illumination as well), and own a stake in the studio.

Animation studios are very expensive to operate, and recent films seem to suggest that the market is over-saturated and not as lucrative as it seemed a decade ago when dozens of studios popped up out of nowhere trying to be the next Pixar. I don't think it's to Universal's advantage to create an animation studio just to fill their parks with internal IPs, and I don't think Universal parks are at a disadvantage by not having internally owned IPs. They seem to be doing just fine with their existing licensing agreements, and have done a good job staying ahead of the curve with their licensing agreements without letting them go too far past their useful life. Some may disagree about Twister, T-2, and a few others, but their parks are rather current, especially compared to Disney which still has E-ticket rides themed to a movie they disavowed nearly 2 decades ago.

"What's up with you in your detailed rebuttals?"

You're the one who commented on Boxtrolls as not being "franchise" enough for Universal. I merely retorted with the fact that Universal is simply running promotion for the Laika film, and that there's nothing wrong with that, especially since Universal stands to benefit from the success of the film because they own the US distribution on the project. Disney does the same thing with their movies by running special events and previews to promote upcoming releases. Why does something have to be a "franchise" in order for a park to run in-park promotion?

You're also the one who seems to think that Disney is "dominating" the animated market, which is false, and you needed to be corrected. If you take away Frozen, there are many other releases that made just as much, if not more, money than Disney/Pixar releases over the past 5+ years.

As far as franchises, I noted that Universal was rumored to be working on agreements to put How to Train Your Dragon (definitely a franchise) into their parks. They also are rumored to be adding a Lorax attraction, which is another property that they distributed.

September 8, 2014 at 3:52 PM · What's wrong with thinking Disney is dominating in the animated movie market when Frozen earned over $1 Billion in box office receipts? You keep saying non-Frozen and 2014. Okay, if that's your criteria to win the argument.

"If you take away Frozen, there are many other releases that made just as much"

Huh? What? Who else did over $1 Billion? This is such a conditional reply. I won't take Frozen away!!!

The horror of Russell. The Horror.

September 9, 2014 at 7:52 AM · Yes the horror that I discount the one anomaly in the history of animation. You seem to want to discount Despicable Me, so it's only fair that I discount Frozen, a movie that Disney is still scrambling in surprise at its success, trying to capitalize in any way possible (WB has already announced a sequel to Lego Movie, while Disney has only announced a "short" for Frozen, which was released 6 months before the WB offering)

Yes, Disney has every right to tout the success of Frozen, but over the past 2 decades they have steadily lost market share in the animation genre, and if it weren't for the acquisition of Pixar, Disney animation might not have had the courage or capital to release a movie like Frozen after nearly 2 decades of miss steps.

Let's look at the all-time domestic receipts for Disney (non-Pixar) animated films over the past 2 decades courtesy of Box Office Mojo...

1. Frozen ($400 million)
2. Tangled ($200 million)
3. Wreck It Ralph ($180 million)
4. Tarzan ($171 million)
5. Dinosaur ($137 million)

Now the non-Disney/Pixar releases

1. Shrek 2 ($441 million)
2. Despicable Me 2 ($368 million)
3. Shrek the Third ($322 million)
4. Shrek ($267 million)
5. Lego Movie ($257 million)

Now, I will grant you that adding Pixar to the mix gives Disney a pretty dominating edge with just about every one of their animated films pulling a $200+ million haul, but in a year, like 2014, when Pixar doesn't provide material, you can see how other studios are cutting into Disney's once dominant position. Even in 2013 when you count the anomaly and a Pixar release...

1. Frozen ($400 million)
2. Monsters U ($268 million)
3. Croods ($187 million)
4. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 ($119 million)
5. Epic ($107 million)
6. Planes ($90 million)
7. Turbo ($83 million)
8. Escape from Planet Earth (%57 million)
9. Free Birds ($55 million)
10. Walking with Dinosaurs ($36 million)

**Does not include Smurfs 2 ($71 million), which is live action/CGI combo.

Looking at the top 10 animated releases from 2013 ($1.4 billion in total domestic box), Disney/Pixar took 54% market share, which included one of the highest grossing animated films of all time. Take away Pixar, and Disney owned just 35% of the market in a year where they had their biggest all-time release.

Compare that to 1994...

1. Lion King ($312 million)
** no other animated film cracked the top 100 (#100 - 3 Ninjas Kick Back grossed $11 million)

Disney owned close to 100% of the market share just 20 years ago.

Even if you look just 10 years ago to 2004...

1. Shrek 2 ($441 million)
2. The Incredibles ($261 million)
3. Polar Express ($162 million)
4. Shark Tale ($160 million)
5. Spngebob Squarepants: The Movie ($85 million)
6. Garfield ($75 million)
7. Home on the Range ($50 million)
8. Team America World Police ($32 million)X
** - no other animated films appear in the top 100 (#100 - Ella Enchanted at $22 million--again a live action/animated combo)
X - Yes, I know Team America is not a family movie, but it still stands as an animated film, as much as a Studio Gibli film, which Disney owns the US distribution rights to.

So in 2004, Disney owned just under 25% of the market share.

Now, I don't think there's much doubt that Disney/Pixar have a strong standing in the market, but competition is growing ever more fierce in the space, and the company will need a huge performance from Big Hero 6 to take a respectable market share in 2014 (currently just 7%, and would be 32% if Big Hero 6 grosses $200 million). To draw a comparison, Disney/Pixar is the Apple of the space, but much in the way the iPhone has been losing market share to competition like LG and Samsung, so has Disney begun to lose market share to WB, Fox, Dreamworks, and others. They are undoubtedly the big boy of the animated feature sandbox, but Disney no longer dominates as they did 15-20 years ago.

September 9, 2014 at 9:13 AM · "Disney/Pixar took 54% market share"

This is the definition of dominance. Yet, you didn't even bother to tally the performance of the individual studios for their marketshare. Thus, Disney could still be dominating even if it was below 50% in marketshare if other studios are well below it.

It is ridiculous that you'll yet again condition your response to Disney versus Pixar. Pixar is Disney.

I didn't discount Despicable Me. I said "Disney dominating most everything except for Despicable Me." In fact, Despicable Me 2 exceeded Monsters University in box office by $100 million. I give Universal Studios a big thumbs up for distributing the film.

Ignoring the foreign box office. Again, something that you did again to make your point.

"Disney no longer dominates as they did 15-20 years ago."

Another goalpost change. Notice the sentence confirms that Disney still dominates. Does not conflict with my original post.

BTW: How is Frozen an anomaly? In fact, Frozen's success is right up there with Toy Story 3, and the rest.

Frozen: Worldwide: $1,274,219,009
Toy Story 3: Worldwide: $1,063,171,911
Lion King: Worldwide: $987,483,777
Despicable Me 2: Worldwide: $970,761,885
Finding Nemo Worldwide: $936,743,261
Shrek 2: Worldwide: $919,838,758

September 9, 2014 at 9:52 AM · 54%<100% if I'm doing my math right, but yes "dominating" is a bit of a nebulous term. I don't think you can argue that Disney has dominated 2014, and they do not dominate the market anywhere close to the way they did 20 years ago. Frozen is an anomaly because Disney had no idea the movie would be so popular. It took them by complete surprise that they had ZERO plans to capitalize upon it. In fact, nearly a year after release, they have yet to offer a 3-D home version of the film, have no announced plans for a sequel--direct to video or otherwise aside from the animated short they announced just last week, and have squandered the popularity of characters in their parks by limiting access and failing to quickly develop attractions to take advantage of the overwhelming popularity of the film. Yes, Frozen is an anomaly in today's movie market, an original animated film that was only outpaced by a superhero sequel (Iron Man 3) and teen phenomenon sequel (Catching Fire) and for which the releasing studio only had moderate expectations.

Like I said, Disney is a lot like Apple in that people perceive them to be the dominant player in the market, but when you look deeper at the numbers, they are not as dominant as when they defined the market, and in fact no longer own majority share of a market they created. Perception does not always equate to reality, and while Disney may continue to be a strong player in the animated feature market, they are no longer the sole dominant player, even after gobbling up Pixar. You can argue that Disney is a dominant force in animation, but it's just as valid to say Fox, Dreamworks, Illumination, and WB are dominant as well. Disney's market share over the past 2 decades has degraded, and if it weren't for the acquisition of Pixar (and Marvel--source for Big Hero 6, and Lucasfilm for that matter), Disney as an animation brand would be in serious trouble.

September 9, 2014 at 10:35 AM · Nebulous is another ridiculous attempt at a rebuttal. Disney's dominance is clear. I don't know if Disney will dominate in 2014. The year is not yet at an end. So you're waiting for something, anything, that will rescue your argument. This thread will end pretty soon so we can't have that debate in another few months.

I looked at the numbers and you're still scrambling.

"You can argue that Disney is a dominant force in animation, but it's just as valid to say Fox, Dreamworks, Illumination, and WB are dominant as well."

Wonderful. Disney is to Apple as "Fox, Dreamworks, Illumination, and WB" is to Android. This analogy doesn't work. Each studio is responsible for its own movies.

Frozen is NOT an anomaly when you look at the extent of Disney's success. That's what I did. The problem with going big is sometimes that falls flat. So Disney was modest in its marketing. They didn't overhype it. Let the movie speak for itself. Disney never expected Lion King and Toy Story 3 to be such big hits either. If you can predict a box office blowout, then you're unique in the movie business. No one's a psychic in the movies. Most are car dealer-types.

An overhyped movie was DreamWork's Turbo. That movie was overadvertised and blew a tire at the box office. It was an obvious rip-off of Cars. No one cared.

September 9, 2014 at 1:37 PM · You completely missed my analogy, I was comparing Disney to Apple in terms of the iPhone not IOS. Apple's share of the smartphone market (iPhone) has been steadily declining even though they almost single-handedly defined it. However, over recent years, Samsung, LG, Nokia, and others have chipped away at Apple's market share to the point today where Apple is no longer the dominant player, and instead Samsung holds the largest share of the smartphone market. If you ask the average person on the street, most would say Apple/iPhone dominates the market, but it's simply not true, in fact Apple/iPhone only owns 8% of the market while Nokia (15%) and Samsung (26%) top it. In this corollary, Disney=Apple, while WB, Fox, Dreamworks, et. al.=Samsung, LG, Nokia, and others. I'm not making the comparison to phone operating systems (IOA/Android), just smart phone makers (Apple, Nokia, Samsung, LG).

The comparison actually works well because the companies' market shares shift based on product releases, just as they do in the movie business. Apple's most recent iPhone releases (5 and 5s/5c) have been less than stellar (today's may help stem the tide though), just as Disney hasn't had a Pixar release to prop up it's market share in 2014. Think of Frozen as Disney's iPhone 4S release that saw a rejuvenation of the brand and surging sales, but then saw competitors release better smartphones that eventually eclipsed the 4S shortly thereafter.

No matter how you look at it, Disney's share of the animated market has shrunk over the past 2 decades. I'm not saying that Disney does not continue to make money, and Frozen demonstrates that they still have strong releases, but the emergence of competition in the space has diluted Disney's once dominant position as the greatest animation studio on the planet. Disney used to not bat an eyelash at a competitor's animated release (Don Bluth films from the 80's or early Dreamworks Animation from the mid 90's (Prince of Egypt)), but the space has become far more competitive, reducing Disney's share of the market. The dominance that Disney once held over the space has eroded, and while no single studio has overtaken Disney's overall lead in the space (it may happen this year), if trends hold, it won't be long before Disney doesn't even hold a plurality of the animated feature market share.


As far as 2014 goes, the year is certainly not over, but as I noted, if Big Hero 6 does $200 million, which would be above current expectations, Disney would still only hold 32% of this year's market, while Fox would hold 42%, and that does not account for other animated releases this year like Boxtrolls (Universal) and Book of Life (Fox). What do you say about 2012, when Disney held less than 40% of the market share when you cut out their 3D double dipping (Finding Nemo, Beauty and the Beast, and Monster's Inc.) and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie? What do you say about 2011, when Disney was limited to 23% market share when eliminating the 3D double dip (Lion King, which would be still less than 30% with LK included)? What about 2010, when even with Toy Story 3, Disney still only managed a 37% share of the market? Or how about 2009, when Disney held 38% of the market? Shall I go back further????

If you mapped Disney's domestic market share over the past 20 years, you would see a slow deterioration. There's little to argue about that. Whether the remaining market share is held by one studio or multiple studios, the fact remains that Disney's share of the domestic animated feature market is declining as competition has increased, and the size of that market has been relatively steady over the past decade ($1.4-1.8 billion).

The success of Toy Story 3 was completely expected as part of a beloved franchise. Disney pushed the film aggressively (Pixar didn't even want to make it, and wasn't going to until Disney bought them), and gave it one of the widest releases in the history of animation. Studios are getting better and better at predicting box office success, which is why we're seeing far less risk taking and experimentation in film these days. Big studios don't even invest in films anymore that they're confident will make money, even in-house productions There are still flops and surprises from time to time (Turbo being a flop, while Frozen being a surprise), but with focus groups and preview screenings, studios have a pretty good idea what a movie is going to make months before it opens. I was actually pretty shocked after seeing a preview screening of Frozen a couple weeks before its release that Disney did not push it harder. I guess they didn't really need to, but the lack of recognition to build upon what has become a surefire hit is baffling---the best they can do is a short 16 months after the original release???

Guardians of the Galaxy, which I recall you downplaying earlier this summer because you thought people would confuse it with Dreamworks' Rise of The Guardians or WB's Legend of the Guardians, was tracking to gross over $200 million before the summer even started, and while it exceeded expectations, the movie hardly came out of nowhere like Frozen did. Read any analysis of Frozen, and you will see "shock" or "surprise" in the story. I'm not discounting the success, just merely calling it an anomaly/blip on the radar when comparing the past 10-20 years of Disney releases to other studios' releases.

September 9, 2014 at 1:10 PM · "Ignoring the foreign box office. Again, something that you did again to make your point."

Using foreign box office numbers is like comparing apples to oranges in this scenario (analyzing market share over time). Not all studios have the resources or desire to push a film and jimmy it into an international release schedule, so to compare a film that is released in nearly 100 overseas markets and tallying those receipts against a film that released in 12 is not a fair comparison. The domestic market makes for a far better and more faithful comparison, and while many studios are starting to lean more on overseas receipts to increase the profitability of their films, it doesn't make sense to use the international numbers to compare films and evaluate market share over the past 10-20 years. Just 10 years ago, only a handful of US films opened in more than 10+ international markets. Today it's a rarity that a major US release does not get a strong foreign push in a dozen or more international markets. Animated films can be even trickier, because they cost more to release overseas due to the overdubbing required (can't very well subtitle a film targeted at children and families).

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