Doug Jenkins

Published: August 23, 2013 at 2:48 PM

No "what if's" Disney made a valiant effort, and I love those parks, but individually, Sea World, Busch Gardens and Universal have surpassed the Disney efforts. Disney needs to do a better job of "keeping up with the Joneses"

Published: August 23, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Nice article. This short history lesson also proves how Disney's management has faltered in Central Florida and opened the doors to much better and fresher offerings at Universal Orlando.

One wonders if the serious dollars Comcast (UO's parent company) is investing in the Harry Potter land to open in 2014 at Universal Studios Florida will pay dividends in Universal finally moving ahead in overall attendance at the Central Florida theme parks.

Might at least one of Disney's Orlando parks fall behind Universal? That remains to be seen. However, what's crystal clear right now is Disney's offerings are looking mighty stale next to Universal's considerable construction efforts.

- Brian

Dan McNeely

Published: August 23, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Great Article! I love learning the history and stories behind the parks.

Published: August 23, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Doug, I have to agree. I'll take Busch Gardens over DAK any day, simply because it's less crowded and has some great thrill rides.

Brian, if Universal ever becomes as popular as Disney when it comes to yearly attendance, you won't be able to walk in either park. Universal was PACKED on our last day this July. I had never seen anything like it in all the years we have gone.

Cory R

Published: August 23, 2013 at 6:51 PM

The Universal parks will never surpass the Disney parks in attendance. First of all, the family factor will always be in Disney's favor, and you need to win the families to win the attendance battle, especially in Central Florida. I find it hard to believe that any family with kids under 13 (which make up a large majority of Orlando's tourism) would choose Universal instead of Disney. Granted, Harry Potter and now Despicable Me are big with kids and that has certainly swayed families to Universal, but most of those will do Universal in addition to Disney, not instead of. I bet there are very few families with younger kids that would choose Universal over Disney if they could only afford to visit one resort, especially if it's their first visit to Orlando.

Maybe even more importantly, the Disney brand worldwide is, and will be for the forseeable future, unbeatable. The name Disney has stood for family entertainment for 90 years. Just the name brings an association for people that name Universal cannot. And internationally, Disney is much, much better known than Universal. European, Asian, and South American tourist make up a fairly significant portion of Disney's attendance compared to Universal.

And as far as IOA or USF overtaking at least Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios in attendance, I don't see that happening either. Most families who visit Magic Kingdom and Epcot get park hoppers and visit all four parks. Very few tourists at least just go to Magic Kingdom without visiting the three other parks. So as long Magic Kingdom leads the world in theme park attendance, the rest of the WDW parks will never be far behind.

As for Animal Kingdom, I still prefer it to Busch Gardens. The lands are much better themed and more immersive. Busch has nothing like Kilimanjaro Safaris (at least not for free). The shows at DAK are much better. And while Busch has some great thrill rides, they are mostly not much better than a Six Flags coaster in terms of theming. Cheetah Hunt is the best themed, but it doesn't compare to Everest in themeing, even with Disco Yeti. The one advantage Busch has is a much wider variety of animals, and many more walk through animal exhibits. Oh and Howl-O-Scream is amazing too. But DAK still wins for me. Just wait til Avatar: World of Pandora opens!

Published: August 23, 2013 at 7:09 PM

I had always wondered why they went with Dinoland USa, and now I know why. Thanks TPI. Funny that they made the land based on a rather forgettable CGI movie.
Wow, could you imagine Disney doing that again?! Making a whole land based on a very forgettable CGI movie that did well but became rather obscure and not a very profitable licence?
Good thing Disney learns from their mistakes, right?

Published: August 23, 2013 at 8:27 PM

I thought it was interesting that there was pretty much no mention (unless I missed it) of the rapids ride that came with Animal Kingdom. Maybe it is because it is one of the more underwhelming Disney versions of a ride system that is used in many theme parks. It's a classic ride concept, but the first time it was at the WDW resort in any park. However, it is so short.... and compared to the one at DLR's California Adventure.... I'd say it was somewhat disappointing. But having said that, being in Florida.... a rapid ride was much needed and this park brought one finally to WDW resort.

Published: August 23, 2013 at 9:15 PM

^i beg to differ. I find Montu to be incredibly themed along the track. Busch Gardens does put more work into the landscaping and theming than Six Flags does.

Published: August 24, 2013 at 2:39 PM

I suppose Disney went with Dinoland because most young children go through a phase of really liking dinosaurs. I agree that Grizzly River is better by far than Kali River (would you believe I have never got wet on that ride!!) but it has improved since 1998 but all the Disney parks in Florida could do with a bit of a kick up the backside, yet we all keep coming back, see you in September.