Why Universal Orlando is Losing

Universal Orlando: A former employee's take on the state of the park and why Disney keeps widening the gap

From Brian B
Posted May 8, 2006 at 9:38 PM
As a former employee of Universal Studios Florida, then Universal Studios Escape and finally Universal Orlando (all the same place for those that don't know), I returned to the park recently on a free ticket promotion. I have not visited in several years and thought I'd brush up on a few new rides. Since I still work in the industry I may be a bit more critical that most, but I can tell you some obvious reasons that Universal is losing the battle of theme parks in Orlando.

First off, let's mention that Disney has been, is and will always been the King of Orlando, plain and simple. There are reasons, however, that this gap keeps widening between Disney and Universal.

Lets start with attractions. Has anyone noticed that since 2000 Universal Orlando has added (I believe) three attractions at USF and zero at IOA? Mummy, Shrek and Jimmy Neutron with Mummy being the most impressive. As a matter of fact, Islands has actually closed more rides (Triceratops Encounter and Boat Tours ) since 2000 then they have opened (zero). Since the "Grand Opening" in 1999 IOA added Storm Force (read - Teacups) and Flying Unicorn the following year and nothing since. Hmmm, Epcot alone has added Mission:Space and Soarin' in that time, not to mention Philharmagic, Pooh, etc etc etc, but lets stick to Universal for the moment.

I began at Universal Studios, and overall everything seemed pretty decent. A couple observations though; Although Mummy was a good ride, I was a bit irritated that only one side of the ride was open, forcing everyone to stand inside the warm building for 35 minutes. Another tip for outsiders, when theme parks aren't extremely busy, they will remove vehicles or slow things down to force a wait. Seeing one side of the building dark was bit irritating but oh, well. Another comment for "Fear Factor Live". Entertaining show, but I must ask, after watching two audience members drink spoiled seafood, meat, curdled milk and blended bugs and worms and be handsomely rewarded with two plastic Universal mugs, is a T-shirt too much to ask? Keep in mind, these folks already paid $9 JUST TO PARK.. That just looks cheap. All in all, Universal Studios was ok.

Now, on to Islands of Adventure.

As an "opening team member" I was amazed at the detail and thought that went into this park. I have been to parks all over the world and had never seen anything like it. Fast Forward less than ten years, and the park is barely recognizable from when it opened. Let's mention first off, that there was a small sign located by the ticket window that said Dueling Dragons was closed. Since I came basically for Dragons and Hulk, could this not be posted near the parking garages? Nope, Universal waits until you've paid to park and come all the way in to spring this treat on you. If you're a coaster fan (which I am), your list has just gone from 3 to 1. Not to mention all those folks that would have been walking the endless castle queue are now in the Hulk queue, which I will get back to.

Anyway, with Dragons down and Hulk at a 90 Min wait, we headed to Suess. My girlfriend had never seen "If I Ran the Zoo" so I took her there. For those who dont know, when IOA opened "Zoo" was a treasure of interactive characters and experiences. No more. Most of the things were broken, paint chipping. Things that used to spin or shoot water sat lonely or dry. Next was the Carosuess-sell, or the carousel. Again, most of the characters were broken or in disrepair.

As we left Suess we walked past the (still) closed McBean attraction, which has been "coming soon" since 1999.

Lost continent was next. Summary; fountain was "sleeping", and dragons closed. Lets move on. Next was Jurassic Park. My gf had never seen the DIscover Center, and I told her of the eggs hatching, etc. We got to the door and ooops... Closed. Apparently the Discovery Center closes at 5p when the park closed at 8p. Well, education doesnt make money anyway does it... Anyway, River adventure and Flyers are 60 minute waits so off we go. Toon Lagoon hold more gems. Ripsaw is closed (although no signs indicated this) but we did get to see some fast moving water. I went to the top of Me Ship the Olive to shoot water guns at those on the ride below (ooops, 2 out of 4 were broken). I walked down Comic Strip alley to find many of the effects were broken, including the huge water hose that used to pour into a container, now simply pours on the ground, thus flooding the entire street. Keep going, Circus (or whatever) is still "dark" and empty and into Marvel. As it was getting late, we skipped Spiderman and Doom and went to Hulk. I must say, I was MORTIFIED and disgusted by the Queue line at the Hulk coaster. When we went in, the guest in front of us pointed out two small piles of what appeared to be feces on the floor. This stranger turned to us and said "That is F*&kng Disgusting. This would never happen at Disney".. This is important because I dont want anyone thinking I am trashing UO. This was a park guest who paid full price and had to walk beside what could be serious biohazard. As we progressed, I counted three different turkey-leg bones on the ground. All the drinking fountains were clogged, filled with old water and a mountain of trash. There were water and beer bottles on the ground and paper everywhere. It was like being at the county fair. We rode the ride and left. To wrap things up, we went to Guest Services to ask how long Dragons would be closed and waited behind two other families in an empty lobby. No Guest Services people to be found. After 4 minutes of lonliness, we left the park.

Like I mentioned, I am not trying to "bash" Universal, just give you honest recap of my visit. I am a local, and I was there on a free ticket. How would I feel if I shelled out $70 per person??? I understand Universal can't open a "Spiderman" or "Hulk" every year, but how can I expect there will ever be new attractions when the existing ones are falling apart? Besides that, it is the little things like filthy lines and rude employees that turn people off, I believe.

From big bell
Posted May 9, 2006 at 2:23 AM
You were actually more generous than I would have been from our most recent past visits. Universal no longer makes any pretense about their prinary objective....cut costs and make money any way they can, damn the future. At least Disney gives the impression that pleasing their "guests" are their primary concern.

From Brian B
Posted May 9, 2006 at 7:19 AM
Well, I could have gone on and on, but I thought I covered enough. I know there's going to be people here that say rides go down at Disney too, which I agree, but it's hard to understand Universal adding a shrimp restaurant, fireworks show and a kids train ride and justify charging people that came last year another $73 for 1 day 2 parks...

From Anthony Murphy
Posted May 9, 2006 at 7:19 AM
Universal started out with a good thing, but then they stumbled as the years have gone by. I know it makes everybody seem more shallow, but they need to open new rides! Even if they are terrible so that we can see if there is any life in Universal. I think that Universal took ideas from Disney (like the Downtown area) and started to make Disney sweat. Howver, Disney now has nothing to worry about! If course Disney is at a distict advantage having all the land to put their stuff in and bascially have made the theme park scene in Flordia.

I believe this also shows that thrills and a couple of superior rides do NOT make the ultimate park. They believed they could do a "Disney" and take off with it. Now we all know that Disney was right all along!

From Melinda Webster
Posted May 9, 2006 at 7:52 AM
I feel like Universal goes in phases. I had purchased an anual pass a few years ago, because with the cupon from Burger King you got the second year free. During the 1st year, which was 3 years ago, the park was clean just started using the Express Passes, The Royal Pacific was just opened and it felt like a resort/theme park destination. Then somewhere into the second year, I felt like Universal had gotten really complacent. Places to eat in City Walk began closing or were empty, the parks were dirty and started feeling second rate or low class. The had fewer theme park workers and the food even got worse (hard to believe I know). I feel like Universal is near rock bottom, and maybe they will be in an upswing soon. I just renewed my pass for a third year after holding out,but I missed Marti Gras this year and I like being able to go whenever I feel like it, but if this year becomes worse than last year, I am afraid to say I will not be renewing my pass.

From Chris Walton
Posted May 9, 2006 at 3:48 PM
Well...from a PRO-UNIVERSAL point of view I have to disagree with all of you. Universal has gone through many changes in ownership/management over the last few years,Universal was already starting to fall hard before Vivendi passed the torch to NBC, so NBC had their hands full from the beginning. NBC has not gotten off to a good start, since taking ownership of Universal they have taken away free Express Pass, closed Nickelodeon Studios, made certain attractions seasonal, gotten rid of characters, and actually had the nerve to raise ticket prices. Yes, NBC has made many mistakes since taking over ownership of Universal, but I believe things will turn around for NBC/Universal with all of the upcoming attractions. Universal was not blessed with the surplus of land like Disney. Universal (especially IOA) was not designed to allow much room for expansion. I still have plenty of faith in Universal and their ability to turn things around. Universal has proven to be very innovative with their attractions even more so than Disney's Imagineers I would say. I have yet to see an attraction like Spider-man matched by Disney. Universal is not down for the count, their just resting up for the next round.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted May 9, 2006 at 5:11 PM
Well Chris, from a PRO DISNEY standpoint, I think it is a KO for now! While what you say is true about new management, I do believe that they have fallen behind and Disney keeps going along. It is also true that there is no response for Spiderman. I am actually very suprised that Disney hasen't done anything yet. However, as you know, one ride does not make the park! Also, though Disney has the space, the new attractions that they have been put in reciently have placed inside the parks boundries. Can Universal compete? Yes, I am not naieve to think that Disney is the only one. In factm, I enjoy Unversal as well, but Universal needs to get their act together NOW.

Also, I find it a little unprofessional that the only way they can sell their park on TV is to bash Disney for two minutes! I think (though clever) is being petty!

Do I think Disney WOrld Ko'd Universal in this round? Yes, but the match and battle is far from over!

From Chris Walton
Posted May 9, 2006 at 5:30 PM
Well, what I'm getting at is that Disney has alot more in their favor than Universal does. Universal has had many obstacles to overcome especially since Walt Disney World was already well established before USF was even thought of. In the last few years Universal has been in some what of a limbo from the time Vivendi put Universal on the market to the time NBC purchased Universal. Disney has not had anything to overcome because they have always been on top in the theme park industry, if anything they have gotten help by getting id of Eisner.

As far as advertising goes, maybe it is alittle low for Universal, but can you really blame them, it's just a new marketing tactic for Universal to try.

Believe it or not I really do love Disney, but I think it's just the fact that I grew up WITH Universal Orlando, I mean I grew up going to Disney and Universal, but I truely saw Universal Studios Florida evolve into Universal Orlando and I'm really greatful to have had the opportunity to watch it grow...So I am partial to Universal.

From Derek Potter
Posted May 9, 2006 at 9:04 PM
Universal will always be at a disadvantage to Disney in Orlando for a few reasons. First, Disney has the advantage of having it's own private district in which it governs, meaning that if they want to build a hotel or a new ride, or build a new park, it gets done quickly because there is no interference from outside government whatsoever...no inspections, no approval or permits needed. They are free from the restrictions and time constraints that business owners and builders go through with the city. This isn't the case with Universal because unlike Disney, they didn't get the keys to the kingdom when they arrived. Example...When Universal announced they were coming to town, Disney hurried to the drawing board, designed and built their own studio park, and beat Universal to the punch by a year, mostly because they didn't have to go through things like city approval, zoning, building inspections, permits...etc. A lot of people don't know that Disney is in a sense like a small state. They pretty much have free reign within their land to do what they want without any rules.

Second, Universal's primary goal is and always will be movies. While Universal does have the pocketbook to be a contender to Disney, the owners of the company choose to be very passive in the industry. Islands of Adventure was a gigantic step in the right direction, but except for The Mummy coaster, they have since chosen not to capitalize on that momentum. Unlike the first Disney advantage, something like this can be cured with some money and attention, but to their own fault, they've decided to be complacent. Disney on the other hand continues to invest millions and millions of dollars into new attractions and hotels, and have a completely self reliant and self sustaining resort, where guests often never leave their property.

Third, Universal does not have the iconic status that Disney has. Disney is a sort of rite of passage for youngsters of today, just like it was for the last generation of youngsters, and the generation before that as well. Disney has always maintained an image of "magic" (although if one scratches the surface a bit they may find a few things less than magical), and people have bought into it for years. Family friendly destinations will always rake in the money, and Disney is indeed the ultimate family destination. Does that mean it's a better destination? not necessarily. IOA is a much better and more balanced park in terms of having thrills, eye candy, and family attractions in the same park, but the majority of families like their fun sickeningly sweet and sugar coated, which is what Disney is and always will be. My analogy is this. Pop music sells the most records because it has mass appeal, it's not necessarily. good music, but that doesn't stop it from making millions.

Universal is indeed losing at the moment, and it will continue to lose if they don't pay some attention to the operation. It's really hard to compete when you build something great and then do just about nothing for 6 years to improve it and keep it fresh. Universal needs to get off of the train of complacency and build something at IOA.

From Brian B
Posted May 10, 2006 at 8:13 AM
I get the responses about Disney's mass of land, deep pockets, etc. The point that some people are missing is that I completely agree that Universal has world-class attractions. Spider-man is second to none. But seeing smaller attractions broken,venues closed, theming broken or taken away, and a generally dirty park has nothing to do with the size of your land or your history. Its quality, not quantity where I think Universal is slipping.

From Gareth H
Posted May 10, 2006 at 10:03 AM
The biggest difference between the two:

Disney, 40 Miles square or so. No need to leave Disney Property for anything except arriving and departing!
You can fill a full 2 week vacation without having to leave.

Universal, 2 days at best.

I still prefer Universal. Disney is a fantastic resort and I love Typhoon lagoon, but I just hate how many people they cram in.
I also agree that the Disney Magic is very shallow! You hear lots of stories about cover up's and such.
I guess I also prefer that Universal is more Adult than Disney.
I don't have kids and maybe my attitude would change if I did...

Still, USF all the way for me, and lets face it, things can only go up for them!

From Anthony Murphy
Posted May 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM
Yeah right Chris (ha ha ha, Just Kidding). No, you make great points and show why Universal is great! I do too think Universal is great! Lately, I have been a little disappointed in the direction that MGM was going so if I want my "movie fix", Universal is my park. Also, it is also good to root for the underdog, which Universal clearly is. I brings out good stuff in us. I am a little worried that Universal is preparing something to sideswipe Disney, but I am not sure what it is yet. If I were to rank my overall favorties in Theme Park companies, it would of course be Disney, but Universal comes in a close second! Universal does bring in a good crowd even with Disney, but they seem to be in a panic which is probably farthest from the truth!

From Tombraider Ty
Posted May 10, 2006 at 12:47 PM
we went as a family in 2004, and it was still okay. Popeye wasn't open to the last 1/2 hour of the day, but that was the only disappointment

From Jennifer Arroyo
Posted May 11, 2006 at 6:24 AM
As a themepark enthusiast, I enjoy both Universal and Disney. However, lately Disney doesn't seem to have the "magic" it used to have and I don't expect it to. Everything breaks down in time and businesses just don't invest back into the company anymore. Every year executives look at where they can cut back on expenses to pay their shareholders, etc. Why would themeparks be any different?
Think about costs this way...you spend $70 to get into Animal Kingdom that only has 1 roller coaster (Mt Everest - NEW) or Epcot that has new attractions but no coasters or Magic Kingdom with only 1 coaster or even MGM with only 1 coaster and yet Islands of Adventure has 3 coasters at one park for the same price. I think even if you only have 1 coaster open, you're still getting the same deal you would have at Disney and Disney doesn't offer free tickets to locals. I think you got more than your money's worth.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted May 11, 2006 at 8:35 AM
Why are you spending $70 to get into the Disney Parks? The tickets are around $50! Disney also, in my opinion, has not lost their magic, but now have competition which shows that they are not the only thing in Flordia. Flordia residents do get reduced price annual passes. You are defiantly getting your money's worth at Disney or Universal. However, the last time I went there, Universal was more expensive.

From Gareth H
Posted May 11, 2006 at 10:21 AM
Universal, like all other local parks, raise their prices when one of the others do, so that way they have the excuse to raise, without losing any potential visitors.

This generally happens within 24 hours of the other park announcing the raise!

Don't forget, with Universal, $73 gets you into 2 parks, plus CityWalk, The $50+ for Disney is 1 park only.

From Erik Yates
Posted May 11, 2006 at 8:19 PM
I love how disney never has anything wrong with it. Lets forget that when you go onto a ride you can see the paint clearly chipping off, the streets are indeed dirty and trash cans are oozing with said turkey legs. We can agree with one thing....turkey legs have poisoned this earth for far too long. Both chains have their faults. Disney's is being way too big to care, and Universals is being way to small to afford anything else. Out of the two parks, I'll go Universal every time though. Maybe its because it is a smaller park, maybe its because I can navigate both parks in less than half a day. I do know that I have AP's to both parks, and I will continue to renew my UO AP.....my disney pass will go by the way side.
You can catch both parks on bad days, but if you are a disney fan, you enjoy waiting in long lines for outdated rides, and think that getting to a park after 12 is good enough, then Universal will never be good enough for you. There will always be something that you find wrong with it.

From Brian B
Posted May 12, 2006 at 9:38 AM
I knew the Disney bashers would come out eventually.... I understand that there can be bad days at Disney too. I am going to Busch Gardens this weekend so I'll see how that compares.
As far as Disney's attractions being "outdated", I could submit Back to the Future as a bit dated, and the Disney bashers have to recognize that Disney does continue to add attractions to all the parks. There is no disputing the fact that IOA has not added anything since 2000. How many parks do that and expect to increase attendance? Not many.

From Brian Hicks
Posted May 12, 2006 at 10:42 AM
This is my first post here, but I wanted to chime in and support Universal Studios. I have been going to the parks in the Orlando area every year since the late 80s, and I've seen Universal since their beginnings, and I absolutely love their parks. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Disney too, but I certainly prefer Universal and think it is a better park (especially for adults). Granted, Disney has the kids thing locked up, but for adults who want a fun place to party and ride great rides without all the "kidsy" "cuteness" of Disney; you can't beat Universal. As you can tell, I like that Universal has a more adult theme and isn't so "squeeky" clean and "sanatized" as Disney is. Also, as a part of this same, more adult, feel; I absolutely LOVE Universal's City Walk. It is hands down, much better than Disney's Downtown Disney. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Emeril's restaurant, and the others are all awesome here.
But as far as the parks themselves go, the movie rides at Universal and the coasters at Islands of Adventure are much more intense and fun than the rides at Disney. The movie rides at Universal are second to none anywhere. I've thought this since they opened, and I still think so today. (And yeah, I still think "Back to the Future" is the best theme park ride ever).
Anyway, I hadn't realized that Universal was supposed to be "down" or having troubles until I read about it here. But as far as this fan goes; it is still tops in my book. I like Disney and go there most years too, but I LOVE Universal and would choose it over Disney if I couldn't do both sets of parks. (BTW, as far as Disney goes, Epcot is by far my favorite of their parks. I like the science theme, and I love the world showcase area. I usually do both Universal Parks and visit City Walk each year, and then also try and make it to Epcot for sure.)

From Chris Walton
Posted May 12, 2006 at 3:46 PM
True...BTF is outdated, but not 30+ years outdated like The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Carribean, It's a Small World, etc. Atleast Disney's finally doing something to rivive their classics like the Hauned Mansion and Pirates of the Carribean rather than preserve them and not change them at all. The only people who can TRUELY enjoy the untouched classics are the babyboomers and the people who remember them from their childhood, today's kids (primarily pre-teens) are looking for a little bit more than "classics" their looking for fun new innovative rides, luckly, Disney provides 3 other parks for the newer cooler rides.

From Mark Walker
Posted May 13, 2006 at 1:44 AM
IOA, all the way!

From Bev Hamilton
Posted May 13, 2006 at 6:25 PM
Actually Dueling Dragons and Ripsaw were not closed at the same time. Universal only closes one ride at a time for refurbishment. Dueling Dragons began its rehab after Ripsaw's was complete. DD is also opening on weekends during the rehab. And Jaws is not closed and hasn't been for several months. The Suess Sky Trolley will be opening in about 3 weeks. If you worked for Universal you would have known of the problems encountered with opening the ride when IOA first opened.

No signs about Dueling Dragons be refurbished? Are you blind? It's on the website and there is a sign before you pay for parking saying DD is closed. There are also signs at the gates for those that somehow missed it. These same signs were up when Ripsaw was being rehabbed. One coaster does not a thempark make. My favorite ride at Disney is Pirates. I didn't see a sign there before you park that it is closed. It is up to consumer to do their homework.

The winner for Fear Factor gets 4 one day/two park tickets, a tshirt, and a FF baseball cap. Second place gets two one day/two park tickes and a basball cap. The only people who just win mugs are the gross food challenge.

Now this statemnt is just laughable: "To wrap things up, we went to Guest Services to ask how long Dragons would be closed and waited behind two other families in an empty lobby. No Guest Services people to be found. After 4 minutes of lonliness, we left the park." That is a load of crap. There are always at least 2 Guest service coordinators and most often 3 or 4 at all times in the lobby, not to mention the Guest Service Coordinator that is in the Lost and Found which is also inside the lobby. Why did you need to ask when Dueling Dragons would be open? There are two Dueling Dragons team members stationed in front of the ride along with a Guest Service coordinator also stationed in front of the ride to answer questions about the refurbishment.

If you can't be truthful about DD, Jaws, and Ripsaw all being closed at the same time, the prizes for FF, the lack of signs of closure at the parking booth, and the completely fabricated guest service lobby, then how can we trust anything else you said?

From Erik Yates
Posted May 14, 2006 at 4:32 AM
I love when you say one negative thing about disney that you're a basher. And I agree with everyone, some of the rides at Universal are outdated, and some need face lifts. BTTF is definately one of my least liked rides. The screen is old and worn, and it desperately needs a new ride system. But lets talk about Haunted Mansion. The walls in the first room havent been touched up so old that you can see them shaking, and you can see the paint marks on the wall. In the dancing ghost scene, you can see the ring marks on the floor where the ghosts constantly dance. I'm not calling for a complete overhaul, I'm just saying that you need a bit of touch up here and there, especially on the old old old rides like Peter Pan, Snow White and Jungle Cruise. It loses 100,000 gallons of water a day, how can that be good for disney? And as far as Customer Service, Universal, in my book has always had the better service. Why? Because they know they have to compete with the rat. Example...I had two instances where my children met the height signs outside, but when we get inside they are less than half inch short. Of course I was infuriated, so I asked to speak with a lead. The lead listened to my story, remeasured, apologized and called ahead to another ride to tell them to allow us Express access. One similar thing happened with my daughter on Space Mountain, and this line is much longer on a regular basis. We were told she couldnt ride, and I asked to speak with a lead. The lead told me, sorry.....I guess she needs to drink more milk. Of course we got child swap tickets, but was that response neccesary? Everyone has the off days, I understand that....but in my opinion, disney has them a lot more often. People are just to busy being at "The Happiest Place on Earth" to care. And to support other comments, when you speak to all of my older friends about going to a theme park, they say disney. The younger ones, Universal. Its an age thing. The babyboomers were brought up on disney, and so they, in most cases, cling to it. Bottom line. Is one park better than the other? Probably, not. But people are different and choose differently. I choose Universal.

From Ron Lakemead
Posted May 14, 2006 at 7:17 AM
I agree with all the comments. Whilst I do think that Universal is much better than Disney (personally I feel Disney is dirtier) I have been to Florida for the last 6 years and have NEVER managed to get on Dudley Do Right's Ripsaw Falls. It seems to be constantly 'boarded up' with no warning anywhere to say that it's not in operation. Surely by now they should have come up with a paint which doesn't need redoing every year.

From Eric Malone
Posted May 14, 2006 at 4:29 PM
Man, I can cut the bias in this topic with a knife.

From Brian B
Posted May 15, 2006 at 6:42 AM
As much as I love the classic Disney/Universal battle, I didnt want to start an all out war. As you can see, I have admitted Universal's attractions are world class, and there are "bad" days at Disney.
"Bev", I hate to argue, but I was at Islands on a Saturday and Dragons was closed. It did not open at all. At the same time, Ripsaw was also closed. I am not attacking UO as a whole, just stating the facts. If people use this board for information or travel planning, lets not tell the Dragons is open on the weekends when it is not. I was there and it was closed. In addition, unless you were in the Guest Service Lobby with me you cannot tell me there are "always 2-3 coordinators." Again, this was a fact, not opinion. I stood there and saw an empty lobby with my own eyes.
I am sorry some of you disagree with my opinions, but you cannot disagree with the facts.
As far as McMonkey, I was at IOA during the hardhat days and I do know the initial problems. I just dont know why it took 7 years to fix.
In summary, I am a fan of the theme park industry, not a particular park. I just commented that I have seen a slip in the level of service offered by Universal and IOA in the past few years. Apparently others have as well since I read Universal's attendance was down 15% for the first quarter. Again, this is a fact, not opinion. You can read it for yourself:

Universal attendance down 15%
Florida Today - Melbourne,FL,USA
Universal Orlando reported Friday that paid attendance at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure dropped by 15 percent in the first quarter of the year ...

From Mark Walker
Posted May 15, 2006 at 9:41 AM

Shame on you people who have lost faith on IOA. While Disney has really great parks, Universal is always the better place to go. Universal will lose battles, but it will win this so called 'war'.

Sorry if I'm a bit grumpy than usual but that's how I feel right now.

From Bev Hamilton
Posted May 15, 2006 at 3:45 PM
"I hate to argue, but I was at Islands on a Saturday and Dragons was closed. It did not open at all."

Dragons was open on May 5, 12-13, and will be open again on the 26-28th. It doesn't open until 11:00 on some of those days.

"At the same time, Ripsaw was also closed."

Ripsaw is most defintitely NOT closed.

"If people use this board for information or travel planning, lets not tell the Dragons is open on the weekends when it is not."

It is open on the weekends except for one (May 19-20).

" In addition, unless you were in the Guest Service Lobby with me you cannot tell me there are "always 2-3 coordinators."

Brian, you of all people, should know how Guest Services is run. It is never closed until the last guest leaves the park. Also, there is a Guest service coordinator in the Lost and Found which is also in the Guest Service lobby at IOA. And yes, I do know that for a fact as do you.

From Bev Hamilton
Posted May 15, 2006 at 3:56 PM
And I forgot to mention: why the need to go to Guest Services to find out when DD would be open. There were two DD team members and one Guest Service Coordinator stationed in front of DD to answer any questions.

From Melinda Webster
Posted May 18, 2006 at 8:33 AM
Ok, not to beat a dead horse but .... I went to IOA yesterday on a field trip with my neices school. There were no signs when you go to park that any attraction was closed but there was 1 sign at the main entrance that said Dueling Dragons was closed. Some of the bathrooms were in disaray, but there was a million kids on field trips there. Everything seemed pretty clean. One soda was spilled in the Spiderman line, but thats the most garbage in line I saw. The rides were all up and running and the lines are averaging an hour now, boy did I miss the express pass! Next time I go I will def buy one! I just don't see how the driving machines will be ready in June. It didn't seem like anything was going on construction wise. So the long and the short of it is, all theme parks have good days and bad days and I happened to go on a good day.

From Gareth H
Posted May 18, 2006 at 12:44 PM
Toilets are regulary checked there but so much mess can me made in the space of a few minutes, especially by kids and as it was field trip season they may have contributed to it.

There is a sign at the car park booth entrance about the ride closures, but most people don't notice it because of all the different queues..

Seuss Trolley is just on repairs and touch ups now. The electrics are finished, just a case of finishing the painting inside then soft openings to make sure all is ok.

Hour long queues are pretty good, I too miss the express pass...

Glad you had a good time!

From Jaivion Williams
Posted December 12, 2006 at 8:13 PM
The thing is they wasted there money building their park in Orlando.They thought that they can beat out Disney.They can't even compare.Disney has 47 square miles of land.Twice the size of Mannhattan,While Universal,and Island of Adventure isn't even the size of Seaworld.They are studing the things disney does like a new fireworks display,A parade,and advertising more deals.Disney Rules!!!!!

From Anthony Murphy
Posted December 12, 2006 at 10:01 PM
Wow! Another millitant Disney fan!!!!

Now I am looking more tame!

Anyway, I havent seen you around the site so welcome. Also its good seeing another person from IL!

Anyway, Universal is on a decline because they haven't built anything big lately. But in their defense, all parks in FL have been on a bit of a downslide except Seaworld. Yes, even our beloved Disney!

From Jaivion Williams
Posted December 13, 2006 at 10:59 AM
Right and if you go on www.universal orlando.com you can see how they lied under compare to disney.I'll never betrayed disney,and I won't do it now.Universal Sucks!!!!,Disney Rules!!!!!!!

From steve lee
Posted December 13, 2006 at 11:03 AM
What? Are you talking about the part where they're comparing the prices? Because, well, that's accurate information. It may be somewhat misleading, as only a terribly nutty person would get a 1-day parkhopper to Disney, but the numbers are correct.

I can't believe we resurrected this ancient thread just to have more "disney is better! Because I said so" discussions.

From David Kirby
Posted December 13, 2006 at 6:03 PM
The "Compare to Disney" section on the Universal site is a bit unusual and misleading. They try to make it seem like (which I can't blame them for doing) that there are no bonuses for staying in a Disney resort. They try to make themselves look better by saying you get free express pass for staying on Universal property and you don't at Disney, even though at Disney, Fastpass is actually free to all guests. Expedition Everest is strangely absent from the list of Disney's coasters, even though it's been open for about 8 months now, but Universal went as far as to list Pteranodon Flyers as one of the coasters in their parks. I also find it a little bizarre that Monsters Inc is listed as one of "Yesterday's Classic Fairytales" but The Mummy is part of "Today's Hottest Entertainment", even though The Mummy came out 2 years after Monsters Inc. And "Fear Factor" is part of "Today's Hottest Entertainment"???? Is that Universal's idea of a joke? The show was cancelled.

From steve lee
Posted December 13, 2006 at 9:25 PM
Ah, I didn't tool around their site long enough to find that. Pterandaon Flyers is indeed considered a coaster, by the way (heck, some sickos consider the Seuss Trolly thing to be a coaster because it's powered. I think they're insane for that one).

Expedition Everest being left off is quite suspect, however.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted December 13, 2006 at 11:38 PM
Thats kinda sickening that they would go that low to stick it to Disney. Their comparison is SO off base that I am pretty sure that we could make a better comparison. Not saying that Universal is bad or anything, but I think that this is quite low for them to do. You do get perks at Disney, pets are welcome in some resorts, and Everest is a roller coaster!!!

Thanks for bringing that up! Its really a shame that Universal has to bash Disney to get them to show up.

Also if we are talking about yesterday favorites, then what about Beatlejuice, Earthquake, Jaws, ET, Woody Woodpecker? Funny how those are left out as well!

Now I know why Universal is losing! Their advertising stinks!

From Jaivion Williams
Posted December 14, 2006 at 7:04 AM
Exactly,they said that Disney doesn't have any transportation,there the ones that don't.Also I have seen that they said they are co partners with wet'n'wild False

From Anthony Murphy
Posted December 14, 2006 at 8:19 AM
No actually thats true, they bought Wet n Wild a few years ago.

From steve lee
Posted December 14, 2006 at 10:07 AM
You can take a water taxi from any of Universal's resorts to a landing in the center of Citiwalk. That's a heckuva lot more effective than most of the Disney Transportation System (unless you're going to MK and are staying at a resort on the loop). Let's focus on the ballface lies and not the stuff that's actually accurate.

From Erik Yates
Posted December 14, 2006 at 3:05 PM
Which all of this leads me to believe, disney fans see everything as they want...as long as disney wins.

From Jaivion Williams
Posted December 14, 2006 at 3:17 PM
Youve got it.It was like their buses fun around every ten mins,and the monorails came around every 2 mins.That was good.

From David Kirby
Posted December 14, 2006 at 7:46 PM
It's a bit annoying too how when you click on tickets, one of the first things you see in big red letters is a remark about tickets being cheaper than Disney. I'm not disputing this fact, but it's just annoying to see random Disney comments thrown about the Universal website.

From Jordan P
Posted December 15, 2006 at 7:28 PM
This thread is highly amusing for two reasons:

1.) The thread starter's complaints basically amount to Mummy, an E-ticket, having a wait, a few broken things in If I Ran the Zoo (which has since been fixed, along with everything else in Seuss Landing) and an unusual amount of attractions being closed. I've never seen that many attractions closed at once, and it certainly isn't a normal occurence. They are far from "falling apart." Nor is the park "unrecognizable." As for the little Hulk story, I don't believe it for a second.

2.) If you're going to bring threads back from the dead (which should be against the rules on any board), you should have something worth saying, ya know? You don't even know what the hell you're talking about, Jaivion. Being a Disney lover is no excuse for being an ignoramous. I'm never going to get that time I spent reading those terrible, misinformed posts back.

From Jaivion Williams
Posted December 15, 2006 at 7:42 PM
Youre right David ,instead of them giving more info on tickets,they want to keep talking about disney tickets.Do they even have tickets for park-to-park?

From Darrell Shimel
Posted December 19, 2006 at 12:22 PM
I'm a "west-coaster". I've been to WDW twice.... Once way back when MK was the only park, then again in 2000. I've never been to USO.

However, as a west-coast guy, I'm very aware of Disneyland's turn around.

Back in the 90s the place was run by Pressler... a Guy that came up through Disney Stores that saw the parks as a giant shopping/dining experience. Everything was about cutting back on ride operation costs, maintenance costs, etc, while all money went into trying to sell more merchandise and meals.

This is the same guy that brought us the abortion DCA, a park with "imaginative" rides like coaster-themed-coaster and raft-ride-themed-raft-ride. A park with 3 okay rides, an array of mundane themes (airport, wharf, ugly PEBs, shopping mall land, generic theme park land, FARM!!!!!), and 742 shops and restaurants.

Under his leadership, the park was known for closed attractions, chipping and faded paint, and falling attendance.

He was rewarded for driving Disneyland into the ground by being promoted to head of all parks and resorts. His sucessor at Disneyland was his aprentice Harris. She let Disneyland get so bad that for the first time in history, a guest was killed due to NO fault of their own... Not once, TWICE!!! Two people were killed in two incidents by poor training and poor maintenance...

Then, Pressler and Harris left, the latter being replaced by Ouimet, a guy that had come up through cruise lines, where GUEST SATISFACTION, not cash register sales is valued.

WHAT A TURN AROUND!!!! Millions of dollars poured into maintenance. All the chipped and faded paint was fixed. The tiki room which had been on the verge of collapse was rebuilt. Just about every major ride in the park got major repairs and upgrades. Gone was the focus on merchandise events, replaced with old-fashioned magic.

And what happened? Attendance and per-guest spending went through the roof!!!! AP prices went up 50%, but sales continued to rise. Hotels are booked solid. Restaurants have lines out the doors. Shops have crazy long lines for the over-priced merchandise.

Unfortunately, this same type of revitalization program has not come to WDW. They got a cheapened down Pirates rehab. They got a cheap Nemo overlay to living seas. A DCA clone show, same CA movie. A DSP clone show. Okay, one great coaster for a parke in DESPERATE need of rides.

Disney World, and appearently USO, need the same kind of top-to-bottom TLC that Disneyland got. That doesn't necessarly mean new rides. It means a total refresh/repair. A total extreme makeover: customer satisfaction edition. New paint, lots of repairs, lots of small "upgrades". A return to making the customer feel like you're really going the extra mile for them.

Unfortuantely, Ouimet is gone from Disneyland resort, replaced by some nameless/faceless... who is in charge now? Just some corporate suit that will forget that attendance is not fixed. He'll sit down with the sharp-pencil boys and figure out that the only way to up profit is to cut spending.... forgetting that attendnace is just as important as per-guest-spending, and that revenue growth, not cost cutting is the primary driver of profitability.

From Douglas Motter
Posted December 21, 2006 at 3:33 PM
Darrell, Well said, powerful, gramatically correct. A+

From Erik Yates
Posted December 22, 2006 at 4:16 AM
What Darrel speaks of is a problem not only at WDW and Universal, but at parks like Six Flags and (I hope I'm wrong) Cedar Fair. They are worried about dollars and bottom lines instead of guest experiences and when visionaries come in and say "well, the guest would like this better" they are promptly run off. Hopefully all the parks get the idea that more than the bottom line matters, or no amount of Pixie Dust, Pixar or Thrill rides will save any of these parks.

From Douglas Motter
Posted December 22, 2006 at 2:41 PM
Erik, your point is excellent as well. We all know that Six Flags has a different problem - bad management decisions and poor strategic planning leading to crisis. In the case of Cedar Fair, I think their management is clearly focused on customer satisfaction - from cleanliness to capital expenditures in the parks. We might disagree regarding the mix of theme-ing versus thrill rides, but the company understands the importance of customer satisfaction. Paramount Parks appeared to suffer from the same large corporation/short-term profit mentality that has at times plagued Disney and Universal. Hopefully Cedar Fair will not lose their focus and values now that they are double the size with significant debt expense to cover! Since they are not a subsidiary of a large multifaceted corporation, they should not. Busch might be the exception - the theme parks are a miniscule subsidiary of a large corporation yet customer service is high quality and consistent.

From Erik Yates
Posted December 22, 2006 at 8:31 PM
In closing, it really doesnt matter if its Universal, disney, Busch or Cedar Fair. If the suits dont start spending money where its needed instead of trying to find new ways to cut budgets, they'll continue to have parks that are unappealing to visitors.
Each park has a bad day. When you cram a lot of people in at once, that is bound to happen. I have seen days where not only has every disney trash can been full and over flowing, but knocked over and people contiuing to add to it. It happens. I just think people are quicker to point out at Universal because it is seen as direct competition to WDW.
Regardless.....upkeep and maintenance are the one thing that people expect to see done right. Its one thing that all parks need to work on, and get right. Otherwise theme parks....including disney, will be a thing of the past.

From Matt Paulin
Posted December 24, 2007 at 10:09 PM
Hi all.
Sorry to dig up an old thread, but this came up when I googled something about universal. I am a technician currently working at Universal Orlando.

After reading through this thread, I felt I have to respond. Now I am not defending UO just because I work there, but I feel there are some facts about the parks that should be presented.

1st, there is a big difference between Disney and Universal. Disney world is and always has been owned by Disney. Not true of Universal. NBC/Universal is the company that runs the theme parks, but NBC/Universal has had 11 different owners since the park opened. It is currently owned by General Electric (and all of our lights finally work, lol). The Universal Theme parks were never designed to make money. In fact they were designed to lose money. The reason being is that the real money maker in NBC/Universal is Movies and Television. The parks are designed to be a tax write-off. Because the parks lose money, this helps the tax situation throughout ALL of GE Corporation. Until GE took us over, the other companies ran us like we were a tax write off. They spent the park's budget on advertising and marketing instead of upkeep and improvements.

Since GE took us over, things have drastically changed. The higer-ups at GE are financial masterminds and really have a good grasp on "the big picture". The first thing they did was unify safety standards throughout the park (we didn't used to even meet OSHA standards...the other companies that owned us probably bribed them to leave us alone.) The next thing they did was cleaned the place up. They hired 500 extra "Park Services" personel (janitors/cleaners). They now spend all night long combing the park, spraying every square inch of the grounds with pressure washers.

And the final phase of the plan was maintenence and improvements. Our "Operational Readiness" Standards have risen by 72% over what it previously was. It's rare that a ride or attraction is closed, now (Unless it's a planned week-long rehab of the ride, which happens only once a year and only on the most problematic rides such as Ripsaw Falls). The "Monkey McBean" attraction that you mentioned is now fully operational (though the name was changed to "Sky High Trolley). They have begun updating some of our out-of-date attractions. "Back to the Future" is becoming "The Simpsons". "Earthquake" is becomming "Disaster". Most of Lost Continent and some undeveloped land is becomming "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter". They even added more shows. such as "Blue Man Group". More Restaurants in City Walk such as "Bubba Gump's Shrimp".

There is another massive roller coaster planned that is secret. Even we don't have details yet, but we have been told it's coming in 2009. It will likely have some big name or licence which would explain the secrecy.

In Closing, The Universal Orlando Parks have become a place worth visiting again. You will find them clean, well-maintained, and fresh.

From Gareth H
Posted December 25, 2007 at 8:44 AM
Hear hear!

From Anthony Murphy
Posted December 28, 2007 at 7:14 AM
Nah, I think its still losing it and going after Disney in their ads is not working.

I too enjoy IOA, but I think that a ton of stuff are broken, thats not acceptable, especially going against Disney and Busch. I also think the post would not have been made if we didn't have all the broken down areas.

Just my thoughts. Intersting Discussion.

From marcus beuro
Posted December 28, 2007 at 8:52 AM
I think universal is loosing because disney is a park for children and they cater to that and universal is a more adult park. I also think that disney tends to charge you more for everything thus they have more money, some parks such as bush gardens give you more for your dollar like free beer.

I prefer universal because of the fact that it is an adult park.

From Mark Walker
Posted December 28, 2007 at 8:56 AM
Welcome to the boards Matt. If you do get any details on the secret coaster be sure to let us know. I'll be looking forward to it!

From Erik Yates
Posted December 29, 2007 at 7:12 AM
I dont think Universal will ever "win" against disney. Disney has been there too long, and is owned by just one company, and is just too darn huge.
Everyone has a big but, and here's mine:
BUT, Universal is stepping it up. They are doing things like closing rides based on attractions that havent had a movie in 15 years. Disney has the same, so why arent they closing? Simple...the movies they have things based off of are timeless...all the animated ones anyway. The timeless Universal attractions are going to be those with timeless characters such as Spiderman, Dudley, etc.
Back to Universal stepping up. Universal has shown that they can bring in the big names such as Harry Potter and the Simpsons. (Simpsons not big? A blockbuster movie and TV show thats on its 16th season says otherwise). They are also paying attention to what people are saying and doing things like keeping attractions they were going to axe, like JAWS, and revamping current ones such as Earthquake. I hadnt heard anything about T2 closing, but I can see why it would...its old and outdated. Its just not good anymore....smart thinking.
Many people complain about a new coaster, but the fact is that coasters sell. If you can make it a family coaster like disney has tried to do, even better.
The family market is huge, and will continue to be so. Universal seems to see that, but it also sticks to its original audience and caters to them as well.
With the addition of Harry Potter, disney suddenly perked up. It was immediately after that they announced the rehab of Haunted Mansion, that they are pushing through with more attractions in their parks than they have ever done at once, and that the list of rehabs are growing by the day. Disney is smarter than Universal by building up the rehabs and letting the rumors grow, and doing them one by one instead of all at once. But lets face it, if it werent for Harry Potter would we really see a huge increase in the amount of rehabbed attractions? Doubt it. Disney sees Universal as a threat, and thats a good thing. Because they do, they're going to try harder, and because they try harder Universal will try harder. But most importantly disney tries harder. I was getting tired the attractions looking the way they did, and not getting love...and people were okay with that, simply because it was disney. I hate the new attractions they have, personally....enough Pixar already....but if the rumors I hear are true...the rehabs are going to be worth the price of admission.
So, to disney fans, yes...they are the king of orlando....but who cares. They are on their toes now, and that bodes well for us all, disney fans and Universal fans.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted December 29, 2007 at 8:49 AM
Well, I hate seeing Disney do this (and they did it too), but closing their rides at USO (the classics), is really them shooting themselves in the foot. I know many who do not care of the Simpsons. In fact, I know some who love the TV show, but hated and was disappointed in the movie. However, I really can't think of anybody who hates back to the Future. Also, just because its a classic show doesn't mean its a good attraction. Disney is guilty of this (Monster Inc? Stitch?). Case in point: Dudley Do Right. Hate that ride, not sure why, but hate it. However, I love Popeye's Bilge Barges. Its just my opinion, but I think UO has gotten us into going "into the movies" more than HS which is more now about the production. T2, Jaws, Spiderman, etc put you into the action.

From Mark Walker
Posted January 2, 2008 at 11:17 AM
What's wrong with Dudley's? It's better than Splash Mountain! (Whoops...)

From marcus beuro
Posted January 2, 2008 at 5:00 PM
lol....it is way better

From Gareth H
Posted January 2, 2008 at 5:50 PM
DDR is fantastic, you know you're gonna get wet too!

From steve lee
Posted January 2, 2008 at 8:20 PM
DDR was a lot of fun, until the safety nannies put the most obscenely uncomfortable restraints on the planet earth into the logs.

It used to be a regular attraction for me; now I'm only riding it when there's people who haven't been on it before.

From Anthony J
Posted January 3, 2008 at 1:52 PM
Thanks for the update Matt Paulin. The improvements are really exciting to hear about.

From Gareth H
Posted January 3, 2008 at 7:42 PM
Just remembered, I went on DDR recently.
First time, I sat at the back. Stretched my legs about and got in no problems (I'm 6ft 6ins tall, with a 36 inch inside leg, wink wink ladies)
We ran around and went straight back on. THis time I couldn't get in due to the restraints, so I had to sit a seat forward.

From Gabriel Perez
Posted January 7, 2008 at 10:33 AM
Well i think their stepping up their game by making a harry potter island and the simpsons ride plsu the replaced eathqauke and now its when they are willing to spend money on their parks the future looks good for universal

From Jon Baran
Posted January 17, 2008 at 9:48 AM
Until Universal stops charging for Express Passes there is no reason to step food inside the gates. It's disgusting that they would charge for this. That is a Six Flags move, and something that a worlde wide tourist destination should not be taking part in.

From Gareth H
Posted January 17, 2008 at 11:43 AM
Seems to work for them!
I was very against it but now I think it was a good idea!

From MK Goode
Posted January 17, 2008 at 9:16 AM
I am not so sure of your analysis, but here are my two cents (please excuse length:)

Disney's greatest strength is combining engineering that is very good with excellent theming. It attracts families with smaller children (and all the money it rolls in per kid, per partnership with sponsors for rides, etc.) and it has the clout of the Disney vault behind it: all those older films have been handed down over the generations and the newer Pixar films give little ones and adults alike chills and thrills-they are cultural icons of the 20th and early 21st century. It appeals to the sentimental fairy tale archetype and this formula is one that has worked for about seventy years (or hundreds depending on your point of view.)

On the other hand, Universal competes with Disney best by drawing on its weaknesses,the first can be summed up in one word: teenagers. Teenagers (especially boys) have outgrown parts of Disney, are too young for Pleasure Island and some of Downtown Disney's offerings, and are not old enough to be parents or honeymooners, so really high octane rides are needed to get their attention and money. (Small children simply can't handle rides that would feature, say, a fullscale fire breathing model of an adult Norbert the dragon-they can barely handle the night shows and this in turn scares away their parents from a park chock full of thrills.) Universal knows this well and thus has many more gut busting rides that would otherwise kill grandma and mentally scar the baby of the family at Disney. It also has traded on the glamor of Hollywood like Disney does in its themes, but unfortunately hasn't taken in the lesson that it is best to mix older classics with newer themes: it should have done this from the beginning but stupidly Universal ignored some of its best classics (like Dracula and Frankenstein) or premiered others too early (like Ghostbusters, which today would be an amazing ride or Beetlejuice which would make a better ride than show if they used the other world as an entrance and the man himself as a guide.)

Another thing that Universal is running short on is food. Think about how much money Disney makes with all the options it has! Universal's image is not one that screams, "come here to experience!" and the food is no exception. Disney has in the past had restaurants that were award winners. More than half of Universal's restaurants are no more than spots from established chains and they don't fit a cohesive theme. (This works in California but not Florida b/c the parks are further apart in California and the shops at Universal City are designed as part of a retail area.)

On the other hand, there is Disney. Disney has a few flaws that are becoming more obvious, much like Darrell Shimel pointed out earlier. The biggest one is that it has gotten a little lazy: there are a lot of rides that have never been thrown out and dozens of others that should have been thrown out a long time ago. Disney corporate has forgotten that children respond to imagination and fantasy, not stocks, bonds, or bottom lines.
The second problem is that the core characters on which the whole damn empire is based are mostly what the elderly and aging love and hold dear-most children have never seen those old Mickey Mouse cartoons. If they continue to build their empire on half assed rides and short term profits and let everything else go down the drain, they will be doomed. Th parks will be shuttered within 30 years. If Universal is smart it will not build upon this corporate model and finish them off with better service, better rides, and more attention to detail.

From Rob P
Posted January 18, 2008 at 4:26 AM
Whoaaa !!

What is all this " Swallows and Amazons " stuff ??

I like both Universal and Disney.

Who would ever have thought that you might have to wait in line for a popular ride or experience a bit of downtime on a mechanical structure or have litter on the floor for 5 minutes before a cleaner leaps into action.

Get over it and enjoy the Parks.

From Don Neal
Posted January 18, 2008 at 6:26 AM
Why do Disney and Universal have to be constantly compared to one another when they are distinctly different, cater mostly to different groups of people, and compliment one another in the vacation and attraction industry? In truth they serve each other's bottom line through competition and drive revenue for one another through the competition that we as fans drive with or without them. In any industry or market, a strong #2 competitor is healthy for the #1. And everybody likes a strong #2, makes them feel like the #1 can't completely take over the entire market. I appreciate Disney and what they have done and respect their skills. I don't agree with their pricing and other things, but understand why so many love it. I am more of a fan of Universal myself for a number of reasons. But I don't see it as Universal or Disney has to win out over the other because they actually need one another. It's like any other competitive brands in other markets...Coke & Pepsi, PS3 & XBOX 360, McDonald's & Burger King, and so on.

To argue this topic further pointing to this and that and the other won't really clear any of it up. Today's economy, lack of creativity, and changes in management could render either company inept in the coming years just as much as they could remain healthy and moving full steam ahead.

So why not just enjoy the diversity that both parks offer and celebrate the choices we have for the young, the old, the married, the single, and those that come from abroad!

From P M
Posted September 12, 2008 at 2:13 PM
I know this is an old thread, but I just stumbled across the site. I was working at Universal just before the re-opening of Jaws in 1993. I hand delivered press releases for the expantion of Universal Studios Escape (that was the intended name at the time). Universal had purchased a large area of land to do major expansions throughtout the years. The entire property extended from Turkey Lake road to I-4 (that entire fenced in empty lot extending almost to Sand Lake Road). There were plans for several hotels, golf courses and additional Theme Park options including IOA, so the probelm of land at that point was not an issue. When I returned to open IOA in 1997 (still in construction), the land was still in Universal's (or the governing body who owned USO at the time) possession. To this day (and to my knowledge), that land has not been developed or sold.

From steve lee
Posted September 12, 2008 at 2:43 PM
There was a chunk of land that Universal did sell off a few years back. I don't know the general area well enough to know if that's the section you're referring to, but I definitely recall there being a strong "so much for a third park" sentiment when it happened.

From Rob P
Posted September 13, 2008 at 2:19 AM
Apologies Brian. I hadn't seen your thread before today and had submitted one of my own recently that touched on the subject of cleanliness in the Parks. But you were the first to raise the subject within your review.
Seems like you'd had a similar experience to me and in the same year too ( 2006 ).

Some of the responses I got were ones telling me that things have improved since then but , in a perverse way, I'm kind of glad that I echoed your sentiments and that I wasn't imagining things or being picky.

Things had got into disrepair. Rides did have too much downtime. Information regarding closures was not transparent and the cleanliness of the Parks had worsened since 1995.

From Andy B
Posted September 15, 2008 at 3:59 PM
I'm sorry mate but you must have had a spot of bad luck. I spent a whole week in Universal in August ('08) I couldn't be happier. The park was very clean and orderly. I never waited more than 20 minutes in line for anything and I have absolutley zero complaints about the parks (notwhithstanding Mythos). I don't have any complaints about the park. I do not doubt that what you say is true, but I do think it is a rare experience.

From Gareth H
Posted September 16, 2008 at 2:45 PM
That piece of land is still owned by Universal.
At the moment they are using it as a parking lot for the construction workers on potterland. There is a yellow bus taking them to and from the construction site.

During the Bay Hill testimonial they use it as Will Call.

Apparently, the site will be used for a new Hotel, to coincide with Potterland, although built and operated by Loews, it won't be branded Loews. Reason, Loews only put their name to 4 and 5 star hotels, and this won't be!

I have heard rumours, and imagine it to be true, that when the Wet'N'Wild lease is up, they will move it to this land as well, and Voila, a big ole resort with everything onsite.
OK, its no where near as big as Disney, but it'll be pretty good...

I pass this place 4 times a day, so will update if I see anything new!!!

From Kim P
Posted January 23, 2011 at 9:40 AM
I came across this thread while searching for information. I found it especially interesting after seeing the Orlando Sentinel's headline in yesterday's paper. Universal Orlando attendance was up 46% in
2010. Their best year ever. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been incredibly successful. Seems the naysayers have been put in their place. Many other changes have also taken place since this thread. Disney in response is once again making big plans. I look forward to watch and enjoy this renewal in the parks.

From James Rao
Posted January 23, 2011 at 12:15 PM
I too like that the heat is once again on Disney to produce, however let's not get too carried away. A 46% attendance increase for a quarter seems huge, but it is not nearly as impressive when you remember just how low Universal's attendance had dipped in 2009. So, looking at the numbers a little closer, attendance at Universal Orlando for all of 2010 totaled about 11.2 million people, up 20 percent from 9.3 million the year before. Averaged between the two Universal parks, your looking at about 5.6 million visitors per park. Disney's least popular Orlando park, DAK, pulls about 9.6 million a year. So in terms of attendance, Universal is still way out of their league when compared to Disney.

But in terms of headlines, Universal is doing a great job. And one thing Disney does not like is being "considered" second fiddle in any media circles. It will be interesting to see what happens next. We already know Disney is responding, but what will Universal do for an encore? Hopefully they won't rest on their laurels for the next five years like they have done in the past....

From Anthony Murphy
Posted January 23, 2011 at 4:53 PM
Why has this thread been brought back from the dead?

From James Koehl
Posted January 23, 2011 at 5:22 PM
Some threads are like locusts- they go dormant for years, then suddenly re-emerge to spread havoc among the unsuspecting victims. It would be interesting to hear what Brian B's opinion is now, if he even still comes in here.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted January 23, 2011 at 5:40 PM
Anthony said: "Why has this thread been brought back from the dead?"

It's a question of timing, but why are you rhyming?

Some may want to read it, others may delete it.

I would stop now, but I don't know how.

From James Rao
Posted January 23, 2011 at 8:04 PM
The question of attendance brought out this old post's relevance. And that was no coincidence, though it left some in complete dissonance.

But please, no flatulence.

From damond harris
Posted January 23, 2011 at 7:58 PM
based on my last visit around christmas time, universal was definwtly nothing like what you described. it was a pretty clean and welcoming place. all the rides were working for the most part (harry potter did stop TWICE while we were on it but it was kind of cool) and the lines werent that bad at all compared to disney lines.

USF was alright compared to IoA. a lot of the rides seemed pretty outdated (jimmy neutron) or just an updated version of disney rides (men in black). it took about 4 and a half hours to get through the whole park.

IoA was definetly better. in my opinion, its the best park ive ever been to. i am very big on theme park rides and IoA is the best when it comes to rides. popeye's, spiderman, etc. all were very fun, but of course harry potter was the icing on the cake. there wasnt really anything wrong with the park besides the paint peeling in some areas but in reality, who really cares that much? i mean ive seen disney's paint peeling many times before.

disney is basically ahead because, they have experience, a lot more land, and theyve been around longer and is concidered a classic (which to me it is.). disney parks are pretty much fun for the most part, but they target little kids to much in my opinion. they already have the younger crowds, they need to focus more on the teenagers and young adults (such as myself). if i hadnt grown up going to disney, i probably wouldnt think much of it, just like many of my friends do, but its like a second home to many so i'll always come back. after going to IoA although, the rides at disney (magic kingdom specificaly) are getting a little old and need to be upgraded. men in black out does buzz, DDM out does splash, popeye's out does rapids at animal kingdom, the list goes on. to me, just because those rides are classics, doesnt mean they cant be made better or should never be touched. they cant just keep expanding their parks to put in more rides, they are going to have to upgrade what they have.

to sum up my little rant, i believe if universal plays their cards right (and i mean play some GREAT cards) they can become bigger than disney. they need to make more rides as great, if not better, than harry potter and they need a new park. USF and IoA were crowded many times this year and reach max capacity many times last year. they need more land to accomidate more guest. i mean to me thats what their next big step should be. it would cause a huge uproar in the world and if it turns out as great as harry potter, they will be taking a huuuge step forward.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted January 24, 2011 at 5:36 AM
James said: "The question of attendance brought out this old post's relevance. And that was no coincidence, though it left some in complete dissonance.
But please, no flatulence"

But...but...Those words don't really rhyme :(

OK, "coincidence" and "dissonance" come close...

From James Rao
Posted January 24, 2011 at 5:45 AM
Yeah, but, you have to admire the creativity and poetry of the piece... at the very least.

From steve lee
Posted January 24, 2011 at 7:31 PM
Thread over. James wins.

From James Rao
Posted January 25, 2011 at 4:41 AM
Yay! Where's my coveted No-Prize?

From Kim P
Posted January 25, 2011 at 10:02 AM
Why was this thread brought back? As I said above, I was searching for other information on Universal. And, again as already said, it was a question of timing. There are already rumors of what Universal plans next. Universal has also taken surveys to find out in which way the public would like to see them advance. Now, we watch and wait.

From Robert Niles
Posted January 25, 2011 at 12:47 PM
I think it's nice when old threads with outdated information get an update with fresh information. Beats deleting old threads.

From Tony Duda
Posted January 25, 2011 at 2:31 PM
I like this type of thread because it shows how drastically things can change in a few years.

Also I get to be comment number 88.

From James Koehl
Posted January 25, 2011 at 3:51 PM
I still wonder if Brian B., who started all this in 2006, still comes in here and what his opinion is about USF/IOA now.

From steve lee
Posted January 25, 2011 at 6:23 PM
Has anyone actually read through the whole thread? This is the fourth time it's been resurrected.

Double tap, people.

From James Rao
Posted January 25, 2011 at 7:01 PM
Two things:

1) Zombieland was an excellent movie.
2) James, how do you pronounce your last name (btw, mine is with a long "a" and long "o"...like Ray-oh)?

From James Koehl
Posted January 25, 2011 at 7:08 PM
James, the "oeh" is pronounced like a hard "a". It's "Kayl". I've spent my entire life answering to anything that starts with the letter "K". I've always wondered about yours- we had a Dr. Rao in my hometown, but they used a soft "a". They were from The Phillipines originally.

From James Rao
Posted January 25, 2011 at 8:44 PM
Thanks for the assist, James. I appreciate it.

Rao is a fairly common Indian name, pronounced like "Rowww" (rhymes with "how"). But, I am Italian (third generation born in America!), so I guess that explains the difference in pronunciation.

Hmmm... I guess this is what they call a thread hi-jack!

Well, I might as well go all out then...

I have an announcement to make: I am 75% sure that we are changing our 2011 vacation plans (Universal Orlando) to instead visit Disneyland park for the first time since 1981 (I was 12). If we time it right, we can catch Little Mermaid (at DCA) and Star Tours 2.0, and still get some pretty good deals since Cars Land won't be open yet (I am sure prices will go up in 2012 - just like Universal gouged visitors when HP opened). But more than anything else, I'd really like to ride the original Pirates again to see if it is as good as I remember it...and to help my kids understand why I want my ashes dumped in the waters of DL's PotC when I die.

And we may visit USH as well, just so poor little Universal doesn't feel left out.

Good idea, yay or nay?

From Anthony Murphy
Posted January 25, 2011 at 8:59 PM
Yay! Have a good time! Its something to see at least. Of course, you can always go to Universal Studios as well!

From Kathryn Leigh
Posted January 27, 2011 at 9:11 AM
Aw, it's weird reading through this entire thread and seeing how different things were...it IS quite obvious if you have returned to US and IOA repeatedly over the past 6 years or so that there was a bit of a low point in cleanliness, wait times, etc. (Let's not get defensive guys- there was a 3 year period where I didn't have ONE opportunity to ride DDR. It was down every time I went. I mean, I could have just been going on terrible days, but I'm not exaggerating!) I went probably 45 times during 2009, and almost as many times in 2010 and the difference in attendance was RIDICULOUS. In 2009, there were days that you could ride the Mummy a few times in a row without getting off because there wasn't anyone in line. Since the opening of WWoHP, I haven't seen a single no-wait ride...which is a good thing!

As for the comparison of Disney to Universal...it's been made pretty clear that the audiences to which both parks cater are drastically different. I feel like that could even be true within the companies- Disneyland draws an ENTIRELY different audience than WDW. And to be honest, I live in Orlando, but I was living in Southern California for a while and my visit to Disneyland about 6 months ago was nothing special...maybe it's the lack of magic in driving through a crappy town, parking next to a McDonald's, and crossing a busy road to get there compared to a ferry ride and seeing nothing but Disney for miles.

PS- Trash cans get full. It happens :)

From Anthony Murphy
Posted January 27, 2011 at 1:24 PM
I think that response is a good one! Disney and Universal are products of their areas. WDW vs USO is much different than DL vs USH.

In fact, Disney Cast members can get discounted tickets to USH at their cast store (along with Six Flags and Knotts). Try that in FL HA!

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