I consider myself to be a "partial" SW geek -- my husband, on the other hand, has been completely geeked out since he was a kid! We've often talked about this concept since he's in the attraction/theme park design business himself. To do it right, I think you would need to create various "lands," such as Tatooine, Naboo, Hoth, the Death Star, Dagobah, Cloud City, etc. Can you just imagine the possibilities?
With all due respect, Potter is one ride and two retrofits. Fantasyland is a brand new area introducing multiple new attractions and technology.
Disney is always looking for ways to get guests to spend more and more time on property, and what better way than to give them another theme park to explore. The last true expansion of Disney World occurred in 1998 with DAK. That theme park finished a facelift a couple of years ago. EPCOT's Futureworld just finished a big renovation, and MK is about to get it's biggest infusion of cash since Splash Mountain. There's very little renovation needed to keep guests coming through the gates, as all four parks operate at or near capacity for more than half the year. With limited expansion space in each of the park's masterplans, aside from EPCOT, which could still use some Futureworld "tweaking" at the Energy, Life, and Imagination (after Captain EO publicity dies down) pavillions along with the new country spaces (Spain, Greece, India, etc...), there's very little Disney can do to get more guests through the turnstyles. New attractions would get guests in, but on the busiest days of the year, the maximum capacity of the parks doesn't change. A 5th theme park would increase that maximum capacity and give Imagineers a new palate to work with, especially a set of colors/characters that other theme parks take advantage of, and Disney is always accused of ignoring.
Additionally, while most people who come here for theme park information understand that Harry Potter Land is just a small corner of Islands of Adventure, Universal is marketing it as an entirely new theme park, and lots of people are buying the promotion hook line and sinker, as evidenced by guests willing to stand in line for 4-6 hours just to get into the tiny corner of IOA while Spiderman, Hulk, and other IOA rides operate with 30 minute or shorter lines. The best way for Disney to combat that would be to announce a new theme park of their own. Along with the acquisition of the Marvel properties, a heroes/villains park would provide the balanced family experience guests expect out of Disney, while Universal is stuck with the limited, yet pretty wide, net cast by Harry Potter. Disney characters span the gammit of interest from the very young to the very old, while the Marvel characters hit home with the teens and young adults. Harry Potter is certainly popular with the adults, but it's core audience is very similar to the Marvel audience, one that Disney sometimes ignores.
Most of the Marvel concepts would be tricky to pull of because of the presence of so many of those characters at IOA, but I can think of one successful character/group of characters that has ZERO presence at IOA, and that is Iron Man/The Avengers (minus Hulk). Over the next few years, multiplexes will be innundated with these characters (Thor, Captain America, and eventually an Avengers movie), and while Disney would have to move fast to capitalize on the initial interest in these characters, they've all had pretty wide appeal over the years, and will likely spawn very successful franchises in years to come. Much like how IOA is anchored heavily by it's Marvel Superhero Island, a Disney heroes/villains park could have an entire land dedicated to the newly acquire Marvel properties.
Other sections of the park could be dedicated to iconic Disney villains like Maleficent, Jafar, Lotso, Ursula, and Scar. Fantasia's sequence "Night on Bald Mountain" has always been batted around as a concept for DAK's BK project, but would fit the mountain requirement needed for a successful Disney park (TOT has always been the "mountain" for DHS), and could even serve as the park's central icon (Tree of Life, Castle, Ball, Hat).
I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and while a park or an entire section of a park based on one of my favorite movies of all time would be cool, there's really no need for Disney to spend all of that money on overpriced intellectual property when they've got so much great stuff in-house. Updating Star Tour was a necessity, but expanding Star Wars further is a waste, and DHS is already an undersized park with a serious identity problem. A Star Wars stunt show would certainly be cool, but not what I would call a serious expension of the brand within DHS that could compete with Harry Potter. Also, Disney already taps in really well with the Star Wars audience through the Star Wars weekends and the super-popular Jedi Training Academy. In reality, if Disney wanted to do Star Wars justice, there's just not enough space in DHS to pull it off, and upgrading Star Tours and overlaying Star Wars on the Indy Stunt Show is not going to get Star Wars fans to geek out any more than they already do.
The best way Disney can get fight back against Harry Potter Land is to fight fire with fire, and launch Disney World's 5th full-day theme park, Disney's Heroes and Villains.
Why? Because Disney is at its best when it does what it did for WDW Phase 1 or what has happened with the Disneyland Resort. That is, bundling a bunch of different functions (attractions, hotels, dining, retail, recreation) into complete, multiuse resort destinations.
So, I propose Disney close the D-Hollywood Studios as a separately-gated park. It should be converted into a single, integrated complex containing resort hotels, nighttime entertainment, destination retail, large-scale meeting space, recreation, AND attractions.
As part of this, Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset could be converted into a Hollywoodland Resort. New multi-floor hotel buildings could be built adjacent to the existing structures. These two streets could then become a food/retail/entertainment corridor similar to the Boardwalk thoroughfare. This space would be open to hotel guests and non-guests alike.
The ends of these streets would feature three separately-gated, small scale destination attractions: PIXAR Place, A Star Wars or Lucas-themed land (which I guess would be Indy + Star Wars + I dunno...Willow? Tucker?), and a Nighttime attraction anchored by Tower, Rockin'Rollercoaster, and the Fantasmic ampitheater, with a reborn Adventurers Club and a proper haunted house helping to fill out the place (plus: booze).
The objective with these "mini attractions" would be twofold: 1) Offer moderately priced tickets(maybe $50/day...similar to Typhoon or Blizzard) that can be considered "cheap" in the Orlando market, enticing an extra-day stay 2) Provide a more robust (and spendy) "kicker" to multiday passes, something that would include the waterparks and this.
On a bigger scale, taking D-Hollywood Studios off the "big dog" theme park grid would allow Disney to not need to focus on the many, many problems this park has. The mini attractions could be addressed with a different approach and budgeting structure. The addition of other revenue streams (DVC anyone?) would bring new oportunity to this property.
AND by doing this, Disney could recommit to its three remaining parks, building each one up as a multi-day experience. Remember when Disney used to tout EPCOT Center as a two-day park (in part to push three day passports)? Well, back then it really was! Maybe it still is, but without headliners that drive that mindset, most guests don't buy that theory.
So: close the studios. Use existing assets as tentpoles for new development that provides more moderately-priced experiences that provide alternatives ways to play or IP not available elsewhere. Use teh energy that woudl be split between four parks and concentrate it on three, bolstering each to what most guests believe to be a multi-day attraction.
Future World-Re-do Universe of Energy with a dark ride based on the Weather to include different climates and include hurricanes, lightning, tornados, tidal waves, floods,winds and rain, etc.
Animal Kingdom-Beastly Kingdom with Journey to the Center of the Earth (Volcano for Disney Sea's)
Disney Studios-The Great Disney Movie Ride-Re-themed to post animatronics and music from classic Disney movies. It could start out with older movies and the technology could progress. (Cinderella, Aladdin, Lion King, Mermaid) (No Pixar)
Disney Studios-(Back Lot) create a scary dark ride based on the Resident Evil video games. Create the creepy mansion façade and gardens in front. (Kind of a Haunted Mansion for teenagers and adults) Animatronic zombies!!
Magic Kingdom-Scrape the two Dumbo’s and put in an Aladdin dark ride. It could highlight the cave of wonders, Genie on the Island, Jasmine and Aladdin at the balcony, the parade, and Jafar.
Animal Kingdom-Beastly Kingdom with Journey to the Center of the Earth (Volcano from Disney Sea's)
At present there's three and a half parks at Walt Disney World and to turn AK into a fully-fledged Disney Park it needs an addition land, with one E-Ticket attraction alongside two or three high-quality attractions.
Whilst there's no doubt the addition of Expedition Everest was a success one attraction simply wasn't enough to change the fortunes of the park.
If I was given $100 million now (The cost of Everest) I'd add two or three high-quality attractions rather than another large scale single attraction.
Hmmmm, a Disney theme park in New Jersey. Hmmmmm. Pyra likey!
As to the person that recommended a Matterhorn in Florida, they already have one. What do you think Expedition Everest is? Just think about it. Disney is the king of clone rides and re-imaged rides.
Someone, somwhere needs to develop attractions based upon the rich fantasy world of Tolkien's (and Peter Jackson's) Lord of the Rings. Tell me you wouldn't want to face the fires of Mt. Doom in a bullet coaster à la Fire Mountain. Or travel to the frightening depths of the Mines of Moria. How about a visit to Rivendell, Minas Tirith, or Lothlórien?
Lord of the Rings, baby, now that would be awesome.
Beastly Kingdomme could easily become a rival for the island if it was done right. Thrilling attractions and great theming would have to be implemented.
Fantasyland Expansion will be the thing to put Disney back on top. I'm with TH on this one, it will be beautiful and magnificent. It will keep Disney World on top and become an amazing new addition to Magic Kingdom.
Australia won't exactly be wowing people and attracting them away from IOA. While its a good idea, its not what the company needs to build. It should be built somewhere down the line when they are in need of new rides for AK. But of course this should be done once a WS expansion is completed, once Beastly Kingdomme is built, once DHS is given a major facelift, and once FW acquires some new rides.
Murph-Tone offers a common comment: "While I am apprehensive about it being geared more towards the girls ..."
I would respond (using hypothetical numbers): If the addition to Potter bounces IOA's revenue by $1 million dollars but the MK Fantasyland expansion bumps revenue by $3 million is it still considered an "answer to Potter" when the two attractions play to two different demographics?
Beastly Kingdom never came about for a reason, Disney isn't the kind of company to go backwards. I would love an Australia themed land, but I don't see how it would fit.
Instead of Star Wars, maybe a Lucasfilm themed land as they are already half way there, with a classic dark ride based on the first Indiana Jones film (complete with face-melting Nazis).
I'd really love to see a ride based on Hercules that takes you through lots of Ancient Greek mythology, however there is no Greece in Epcot at the moment, so that would mean making a new country (Where? Do they have space?).
What about Tomorrowland? Its last refurbishment was in 1998 and they didn't exactly hit the nail on the head with it. Sometime ago, I recall a thread that suggested Lasseter's team of artists and engineers should completely redesign Tomorrowland in the perfectionist style of Pixar. The rides can remain intact (except for the Indy Speedway - yeesh) but the restaurants, shops, and theming could get a massive makeover to coincide with Tomorrowland's refurbished neighbour.
Alternatively, focus on improving individual sections of each park. Scrap Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama. Improve the Backlot Tour. Fix the Yeti. Update Universe of Energy, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, Maelstrom, and Innoventions. There's plenty of fixes to be taken care of around the World.
Beastly - I really don't get why people say this doesn't fit with the general DAK. Especially if they put in other E-ticket rides like a new 20k Leagues and/or Journey to the Center of the Earth. Rides that mimic the "Expedition" feel of Everest, Dinosaur, and Kilimanjaro Safari and yet have a fantastical creature element to them. Both Everest and Dino are fantasy-based rides (Yeti, Time travel) and have already laid the foundation for Beastly's fantasy. Having a main attraction in each area that is a journey-based ride would be cohesive and help tie all of the areas together.
Journey/Center of the Earth (like Tokyo's) would supply the much needed second roller coaster to DAK, while the 20K Leagues ride would also be a much needed-indoor (well, underwater) ride, AND would be an instant draw by those of us who look back on the original with fondness. This area could remain open later due to the lack of animals, AND also feature a nighttime show like the World of Color show that would finally be the equivalent to the fireworks shows at the other three parks and would have minimal impact on the animals.
Or if they did not want to go with the Jules Verne route, they could always do a rollercoaster ride based on Maleficent, and therefor fulfill the Dragon-lore of the area AND bring in some villain magic which Disney really needs to inject into the parks with actual theming. (Scar for Africa, Shere Khan in Asia, etc).
Australia - Has some amazing visuals and areas, and has enough diverse fauna to have a whole 'trail' like Africa and Asia do. The Rescuers Down Under already fits into the conservation feel of the entire park, and could be used to bring in some other child-level rides for the young ones, which currently only exist in Dino area. Also could bring in another wet&wild ride with the Great Barrier Reef, a Soarin' type ride, and an Outback Safari/Walkabout to match Kilimanjaro.
I would think that the Fantasia theme would work better in the new Fantasyland. MK could then open a fourth "mountain" based on Bald Mountain. Tomorrowland could get a big kick from the Tron franchise, regardless of how well or poorly the new movie does. Song of the South/Splash Mountain is proof that the source material does not need to be current or even popular for a ride to be popular.
Or Fantasia in HS. I mean, the icon of the park is from Fantasia, no less. HS needs a better layout and/or removal of the backlot area which really has nothing to draw people in. Expanding the Star Wars area is fine, especially since it's balanced by Pixar Place, but I don't want to see the Indiana Jones stunt get shuttered for it. It seems to me that there's already a whole lot of unused space in the park to begin with.
I Respond: Well .... Mr. Iger made a comment in an interview. I'm not sure that constitutes an "announcement."
On a different note,I absolutely love the Indiana Jones stunt show and would hate to see it replaced, even by a Star Wars show (which I'm sure I would also love). I much prefer the idea of expanding the area to a sort of Lucasland. However, I doubt they will ever do that because there just aren't enough Lucas fans to make it viable. Like I said, it's not like HP where literally every child in the country knows at least the very basic plot of the stories. Many of my friends (most of whom a very nerdy) have only seen some or none of the Indiana Jones or Star Wars moves, but ALL of them have read or seen Harry Potter. It's just not the same.The same goes for Lord of the Rings, for the most part.Keep in mind that sometimes it's not amount of fans, but fan personality. I have a friend who has read LOTR over 20 times...but she abhors theme parks and I doubt she would brave one even for her beloved LOTR.
Basically, Disney is screwed until they can find something equally perfect for themeparking. =P
A expansion to Fantasyland will not be enough to help WDW compete agaisnt The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or IOA in general. When people ride an attraction they want to be Wowed and have their breath taken away. There are very few rides at WDW that do that other than Rockin Roll Coaster, Tower of Terror, Expedition Everset (well sort of), and Toy Story Mania(because of the technology behind it). However IOA and Universal have many rides such as Spiderman, the Hulk, Forbbiden Journey, Dragon Challenge, The Mummy, The Simpsons Ride (well for me it did),Men in Black (becuase of how fun it is compared to Buzz Lightyear), Popeyes( because of how wet you get compared to other rapid rides), Jurassic Park (the T-REX scene mainly), and others do accomplish this and have an "X-facotr" or something about the ride that leaves breathless. Examples of this are the technology behind Spider-Man and Forbidden Journey, The near misses on Dragon Challenge, the fast pace shooting and the bug scene in Men in Black, the T-Rex scene and the drop in Jurassic Park, the visual effects of the Simpsons and the story behind the ride, the special effects of the Mummy, and the launch on the Hulk. In order to compete agaisnt IOA and Universal, WDW needs more thrill rides that leave people shocked.
I Respond: It's interesting how none of the Walt Disney World attractions Mr. Radillo references are in the Magic Kingdom. And yet, according to the Themed Entertainment Association's 2009 Attendance Report, the Magic Kingdom welcomed far more guests (17.2 million) than Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure ... COMBINED (9.9 million).
Considering that the Magic Kingdom (the park without the "wow" rides) has outpaced the Universal parks by such a wide margin, I am not sure what Mr. Radillo means when he writes: "An expansion to Fantasyland will not be enough to help WDW compete agaisnt The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or IOA in general."
I Respond: Oh please.