It looks like Universal likes to open complete new lands - Diagon Alley - while Disney likes to open new lands in phases - New Fantasyland and Avatarland -.
It's still too early to tell if Avatar will be phased or not. Having said that, I do hope that it all opens at once, like I've said before. Robert is right 9 times out of 10, so this better be that one.
If recent history has taught us anything, it's that opening a complete land makes for a far bigger extravaganza and splash amongst the IFC as well as mainstream media. Harry Potter really has set the trend for this and I feel it should really be the blueprint all high end theme parks follow going forward.
Disney has experience with both sides of the coin in the last few years, as they opened New Fantasy land in phases and Carsland in one great grand opening. Carsland was celebrated, and new Fantasy Land, though received high marks for theming, took a good beating by fans for taking so long to finally come to completion. With Avatar, Disney finds themselves in a position where guests are completely cut off from the construction area, unlike what took place with Fantasy Land. The way Universal has unveiled both Potter lands has made for great anticipation and buzz, and has whipped fans into a frenzy as opening day approaches. If Diagon Alley was set to open with just Gringots and a few shops, it would be a huge success, but the fact that ALL of the land will open, with its marquee attraction, as well as secondary dual park transport/ride and all shops, eatery's and themeing completely finished and ready to be enjoyed makes it another home run for Universal. It's just good show, and if you are afforded the ability to do it this way, then you should. To open in phases just screams out money grab for a company that continues to boast record attendance and profits year after year.
Many people see Avatar as an answer to Potter in a sense, and in a lot of ways it is. It's Disney's first fully realized land based off of an acquired blockbuster film IP, with sequels on the way, that isn't based off of anything already built elsewhere as far as the IP is concerned, and a chance to really dazzle the world with what imagineering can come up with. Of course many consider Star Wars THE true answer to Potter, but for now Avatar is front and center. To open it up in phases instead of having a true grand opening at the bridge that connects to that new land is just absurd.
Yes Diagon Alley is opening together...but do recall
Springfield just recently opened incrementally with Fast Food Blvd being open before Duff Brewery and Kang & Kodos and then later Bumble Bee Man's Truck and Lard Boy
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