Universal Orlando is One BIG IP Away from Blowing Open Orlando!

Edited: April 25, 2017, 6:34 PM

Universal Orlando has just about maxed out its current resort area once Volcano Bay and Aventura are completed and expansion has already been announced for the Wet n Wild area. After that, with the exception of a few new additions to USO and IOA like a Jimmy Fallon and Fast and Furious attraction, future expansion points directly to the 475 acres Universal owns near the convention center.
Now I think we all can agree that the new Universal resort area will need to be self sustaining with new resorts, a convention center and a City Walk type entertainment complex. Most likely, the road between the two resort areas will be widened to include a dedicated bus line much like WDW is working on with Lake Buena Vista Drive near Disney Springs. But thinking about what IPs the new theme park will feature (Nintendo, DreamWorks, possibly Universal Monsters, maybe a Jurassic World land featuring the new incarnation of the property, and most likely a couple of other random IPs not yet announced), the new resort area needs one more BIG IP to anchor the park and draw guest to the new resort area.
My question is what would that one BIG IP be, not including Lord of the Rings, which seems like it will never appear in a theme park?

Replies (113)

April 9, 2017, 10:31 AM

Totally agree, there's no more space and they still haven't accounted anything about the Nintendo project. Now if they can leagally deal with the clause the put in place before they originally sold that piece of property years and years ago that stated no one could build anything over a certain height (so another entertainment company couldn't buy the land and build a park). It will be interesting to see how they deal with that since you can't just legally remove it just because you put it there and it's not convenient any longer.

Edited: April 9, 2017, 12:42 PM

Nintendo is going to be HUGE for Universal and will be the IP that swings momentum back to Universal after Star Wars land opens. (And that prompts Disney to start designing a second Star Wars land, if not going ahead and making that billion-dollar-plus offer-they-can't-refuse deal to Universal for the Marvel rights.) I think we'll see some Nintendo and more Potter in the Universal Blvd. property, along with a strong presence for DreamWorks.

But I don't see any other current IP that rises to this level, absent Middle Earth and maybe DC, which would come into play if Universal gets that billion-dollar-plus payday windfall from Disney. (I believe that those rights expire from Six Flags sometime in the next decade, which makes the timing right for this.)

April 9, 2017, 1:38 PM

I'm sorry, buy "blowing open Orlando?" What does that mean, exactly?

Edited: April 9, 2017, 2:53 PM

WDW is the undisputed King of Orlando, though Universal Orlando has made strides in improving its themed entertainment and has forever changed the landscape of theme parks with its two Harry Potter lands. Disney has certainly taken notice and will soon open Pandora, Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land, featuring immersive lands with immersive foods as a direct response to Universal's successes with Harry Potter. I believe Universal's next big step in going head-to-head with WDW is its future third theme park. But to do that, Universal needs as many big IPs as possible to make a serious run at Disney. With that in mind, I think Universal is still one big IP away from doing this. Nintendo and DreamWorks are great IPs to use for UOR's third theme park, but I don't think that they are not enough. Universal Orlando needs one more BIG IP for its third theme park that will ultimately elevate UOR as an undeniable competitor to WDW, thus blowing open the theme park market in Orlando.

April 9, 2017, 5:13 PM

What constitutes a "serious run at Disney?" And why are you only focusing on attractions -- which represent one part of the Disney model?

I was at Disney Springs on Saturday. We parked in one of the last dozen or so spots on level five of the Lime Garage. The place was packed. How would Universal's "serious run" impact that crowd?

Disney is about to dramatically expand the number of DVC rooms at WDW -- accomodations for a built-in audience. How would Universal's "serious run" reduce the revenue and park attendance associated with these expansions?

Are you familiar with the third venue currently under construction at WDW's ESPN Wide World of Sports? This is essentially an arena that will continue to host the lucrative cheerleading competitions and can also be used for basketball, hockey and even concert performances How will Universal's "serious run" undermine Disney's standing in this area?

Mr. Schneiderwrites: "Nintendo and DreamWorks are great IPs to use for UOR's third theme park."

I Respond: You mean fourth theme park as Universal Creative has already dubbed Volcano Bay as the UO resort's third gate. But when do you anticipate these IP's to drop? And what makes you think that Star Wars, Toy Story, and PTWOA are the only project's in the works for Disney's Florida property? What about Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille coming to EPCOT? What about the buzz surrounding the Tron coaster replacing the speedway at the Magic Kingdom? If these rumors are true how does that impact your assertion that "I think Universal is still one big IP away from" making that "serious run"?

April 9, 2017, 9:21 PM

To get back to the original question, there's no doubt in my mind that the answer should be Nintendo. I think Nintendo IP could make up half of a new park with dedicated lands to Mario's "Mushroom Kingdom", Pokemon (which may take additional licensing agreements), and Donkey Kong. Maybe Zelda can have it's own land or maybe mash up a video game land with others. I feel like Donkey Kong is the dark horse here- I never see any rumors about it but with its Jungle theme, mine train rides, and mainstream recognition (idk if every generation knows about StarFox and Zelda, but I think most would remember Donkey Kong = video game ape), the DK IP is perfectly tailored to theme parks.
Dreamworks is the 2nd answer, with a number of useful IP's but particularly Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda stand out to me as great IP for the park that could possibly anchor entire African or Asian theme lands.

Edited: April 9, 2017, 10:44 PM

Here are the game-changing, mass market IPs in entertainment in the United States right now (in no particular order): Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter are the big three, with DC, Middle Earth and - I think - Nintendo close behind. No other franchise moves the needle the way these six do. (Pixar and DreamWorks are studio brands, not franchises, IMHO.)

If Uni needs to add another major IP into its mix, then it needs somehow to do the Middle Earth deal or get the DC rights. (I believe that Six Flags has DC for another 10 years.) That's all that's available... short of developing a new, mass market blockbuster IP. Which everyone in the business is trying to do, but J.K. Rowling was the most recent successful entrant into that club. It's a tough, tough, once-in-a-generation accomplishment.

Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Toy Story are all strong franchises, but none of them are on the level of the Big 6, and I think all of them have peaked at this point. The only franchise on that level I see still ascendent is (oh man, is this going to cause a flame war)... Minions. But I don't think they reach the Big 6 level, but instead end up just under it, as Universal's answer to Disney's Princesses and Big 5 characters.

So I don't see a path forward that allows Universal to catch Disney on attendance and total income simply from obtaining another IP. There just isn't one available with that kind of draw.

April 10, 2017, 2:20 PM

And (again) the suggestion that Universal Orlando can make a "serious run" at Disney with a collection of attractions based on popular IPs only carries weight worthy of consideration if Disney does not develop additional Walt Disney World attractions beyond Star Wars, Avatar and Toy Story.

I mean the original post on this thread claims that Avatar is a response to the Potter attractions. If someone actually believes this pedestrian dort of thinking, doesn't that mean history tells us that Disney will empirically react as Universal develops new attractions?

Also if Apple buys Disney all bets are off.

April 10, 2017, 2:51 PM

What's a "dort," TH?

April 10, 2017, 2:57 PM

Well I actually meant to write "sort." Which would mean the definition of "dort" is "something you call TH Creative on a TPI thread. For example: "TH, you're such a dort."

DING! Trademark Fairy ... Dort™ ... All rights reserved.

April 10, 2017, 2:58 PM

I love Universal and currently have much more fun there than at Disney mainly due to the line management. The last time we went to Orlando we did not even go to WDW. What will it take to swing the momentum to Universal? Nothing. It will never happen. Most people that I know that are not theme park junkies are not even aware of Universal. They only know about Disney. Despite the long lines and delays, nothing seems to stop the sea of people flooding into WDW. I have a comparison photo of IOA thirty minutes before opening and MK and hour before opening one day apart. IOA is a small crowd. MK is thousands of people waiting to enter. Further, Universal is geared towards the ages of 10-50 or so (my observations by the way). Disney is geared to 1-101 years old. I think these things are fun to debate, but I suspect Universal is perfectly content with where it is and where they are going. Also, IP? I am not sure people truly understand how big Star Wars will be if Disney gives it the same effort Universal gave Harry Potter. I love Harry Potter, and I have read all the books several times. Forbidden Journey is the only attraction to make me consider maybe the Haunted Mansion might not be the best (it still is, though). But Star Wars transcends fandom. You wait. Universal will expand, but they will never reach Disney. Actually, I think they both benefit from each other. My perfect Orlando vacation would be five days Disney, three days Universal with one day off between them at one of the resorts to relax.

Edited: April 10, 2017, 3:31 PM

But, Keith does have a point, and it may be in how we plan our vacations to Orlando.

And TH Creative inadvertently brought up the issue that Universal really has to overcome - "the Disney model." Every single theme park out there gets compared to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom and then the resort gets analyzed versus "the Disney model."

Right now, most people think of visiting Universal Orlando as a sidelight to a Disney World vacation. There's a small number of us that would rather go to Universal Orlando first, but we are a very small minority. Disney World, especially the Magic Kingdom, is the big draw, and as long as the multi-day tickets are favorable in price, Universal will have an exceedingly hard time even coming close to the second tier Disney parks (Epcot, DHS, and AK) in attendance as long as the Magic Kingdom is such a compelling attraction. Disney recognizes this and maximizes that advantage to the fullest.

But what happens if Universal Orlando becomes a destination resort in and of itself by adding a third theme park? (I don't care what the folks at Universal say, a water park is not a theme park when I have to wear a swimsuit all day and look like an entrant in the Baymax lookalike contest.) How big and how good does any expansion at the Universal Orlando Resort have to be to create the dynamic where a vacation to Orlando becomes an either/or choice of Disney or Universal for the majority of visitors?

I have the impression that Universal isn't trying to build anything along the lines of "the Disney model," and wants to be judged on their own merits, but fat chance of that happening when most of us if we were a contestant on the final round of Family Feud and had to answer the question "Name a Theme Park" would offer up Disneyland or Disney World.

Thus Universal will probably always be the Avis of the theme park industry.

April 10, 2017, 11:05 PM

While I will not deny that IP has become extremely important in the theme park industry, I have to respectfully disagree completely with this idea. Currently, the top five highest grossing film franchises are the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Rowling's Wizarding World, Star Wars, James Bond, and Tolkien's Middle-Earth. What would happen if I were to create a theme park with lands devoted to those five franchises? Fans of those franchises would come, but nobody else would be interested. If the park wasn't near a tourist center, it would be bankrupt within a couple years. So IP alone is not the answer.

What must Universal do, then? They must learn to take their IP and use it in a manner that holds universal appeal. While I've only visited the California park, I've found that many Universal attractions share one common flaw: They are so heavily dependent on the IP, that they can be a bit of a turn-off for those who aren't fans of that IP. I have several friends who are huge theme park enthusiasts, but they don't really care for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because they aren't into that franchise. Meanwhile, look at what Disney is doing with Avatar. How many people are going to be visiting Pandora because they absolutely loved Avatar? Not that many. Instead, most will be visiting because it is a highly detailed land that presents the source material, yet is crafted in a way that those with no familiarity with it can still enjoy everything present. Disney did the same thing with Cars Land, and Universal will need to do the same thing if they want to create a theme park that has any chance of competing on Disney's level.

April 11, 2017, 2:20 AM

Hummel NAILS IT!

Edited: April 11, 2017, 2:23 PM

Can I throw an IP out there that would have broad appeal and a large footprint?

The NFL.

Every team could have something there, bumper cars with helmets, rides or coasters that could literally be anything, theaters or VR that could put you in the stadium, HOF busts...Heck, the weather is so nice there you could do the Pro Bowl.

And it would kill dead forever the "what are you going to do now?" question Super Bowl winners get :)

Edited: April 11, 2017, 4:15 PM

If a theme park were created with lands devoted to the top five highest grossing film franchises of all time (Marvel Cinematic Universe, Rowling's Wizarding World, Star Wars, James Bond and Tolkien's Middle Earth) it would absolutely be a HUGE success. Millions and millions of fan boys and girls would breakdown the gates to get into that park. And to say that nobody else would show interest in attending this park is absolutely absurd. NOBODY? I believe many people that are not fans of these franchises still go out to the theater to see these movies. People do not have to be huge fans to enjoy a great spectacle. But even if nobody else did come to the park, there are still millions of loyal fans from each one of these franchises that would visit the park multiple times.
Weather Universal or Disney ever got a once in a lifetime chance to build an Epic IP Worlds park, they would most certainly do it without question and both Universal and Disney would do it well. Maybe the question is would Universal or Disney do it better?

April 11, 2017, 4:27 PM

Going on recent outlays, I would say Universal is killing Disney imo. The last few things Disney has done (seven dwarfs train, circus themed fantasyland expansion, Frozen overlay) to my mind have been kind of half baked and much slower than the HP stuff at Universal.

I guess Star Wars will be their big reaction, if not Pandora.

Edited: April 11, 2017, 6:49 PM

Thank goodness TH Creative is always around to give the mouse a good humping anytime Disney comes up :-D

The fact is, fans that come for detailed and immersive IP come to the park and the KEEP RETURNING. I might give a walkthrough to Avatar land if I'm there, but I'm not returning to see it. Star Wars will be there big attraction, but as Hummel points out they will make it generic and for the "everyman" rather than make it an immersive experience for true Star Wars geeks.

Disney will surely beat the Star Wars drum and make as much money as they can, but Disney and Star Wars don't truly belong together.

April 11, 2017, 7:30 PM

CornballExpress That's an interesting idea. Idk how much it would work in the park itself because you'd have to update every season or two with new players and couldn't really make a compelling story for the rides (maybe something like Rock&Roller Coaster where you have to get Manzel from the club to the practice field? or perhaps a concussion simulator?)
Have you seen the NBA Experience coming to Disney Springs? Don't know what exactly that will entail yet, but I'm betting it will be way more immersive than the former NBA City at Universal. If that project looks like a success, I wouldn't be surprised to see the "NFL Experience" coming to either Disney or Universal.

April 11, 2017, 8:52 PM

Sports is a tough IP because it's inherently divisive. If there's a New England Patriot or Oakland Raider in the attraction, for example, I'm out. (Sorry, fans of those teams!)

Also, the attraction would need to create an unpredictable moment that draws people into the "game" (as a concept) without feeling artificial or cheap - that's the nature of sport, after all. It's a tough design exercise, but, yeah, an IP such as the NFL has enough fans to make this worth the effort, if it can be done.

April 11, 2017, 9:19 PM

Now that Game of Thrones is bigger than Jesus, Universal can add that and drive Disney into the dirt. Right?

Actually, the more I think about Apple buying Disney, the more I like it. Disney "fans" always complain about how long it takes to build rides. Apple puts out something (barely) new each year. Sounds like a win-win to me.

April 11, 2017, 11:32 PM

In the past year, Universal Studios distributed movies that have little potential as theme park franchises. It's as if they aren't even trying to directly compete with Disney. If Universal wants a lock on the Halloween haunt market, it would win with its focus on releasing horror movies. Only "Sing" might appeal as a theme park attraction. Perhaps they need to merge its studios and theme park divisions under one management.

Edited: April 12, 2017, 5:09 AM

So as the thread plods on -- framed in the context of the Universal Orlando resort making a "serious run" at the Walt Disney World resort (whatever that means) -- the focus of discussion remains on attractions. No commentary related to expansions in retail or food and beverage (Disney Springs -- free parking!). Or diversity of entertainment. Or strong infrastructure investment in guest convenience. Or addition of new resort properties. Or rejuvenation of existing resort properties/attractions. Or expansion of DVC. Or broader festival park events (Epcot Food & Wine).

And the impact of UO adding IP that attracts the tween to 35 demographic represents investments in a more narrow market. Will UO make that "serious run" by continuing to choose not to compete against Disney's princess army? Has anyone else seen their new ads?

They are waving the white flag when it comes to families with small children.

Beauty and the Beast - $934,483,188
Frozen - $1,276,480,355
Moana - $624,900
Tangled - $591,794

What is that, $3 billion in box office from just four films? Toss in the Disney princess consumer products gross revenue and you can add another $3 billion -- anually.

Just askin': How does UO make that "serious run" at WDW by adding IP while giving up on competing for families? Fallon's tight pants ain't exactly a solution.

Also any prediction of success via UO adding new attractions based upon popular IP assumes that WDW will not add additional tween-35 IP based attractions beyond PTWOA and Star Wars.

Which Disney -- or perhaps it will be Apple/Disney --

April 12, 2017, 5:32 AM

Disney does small children and old people best.

And Universal does children over 13 and pre-60 adults best.

Why do you think they need to occupy the same exact market space?

April 12, 2017, 7:06 AM

"Best?" "Need to?"

April 12, 2017, 7:31 AM

"Best?"? "Need to?"?

April 12, 2017, 7:48 AM

Not sure what you mean by "best" or what sort of objective assessment or calculation that draws that conclusion.

Also not sure what you mean by "they need to occupy the same exact market space?"

Edited: April 12, 2017, 7:59 AM

I think he's trying to say the 2 resorts appeal more strongly to different demographics. While it's not completely true, I think there is some validity to that statement, and in general, UO tends to appeal more strongly to the teenager and young adult demo. Both resorts obviously want to appeal to everyone, but their core target audiences are slightly different.

April 12, 2017, 8:55 AM

I don't need to make an "objective" assessment. This is a forum on the internet, not the Supreme Court.

Best: Disney does kids well with less thrill rides and more meet and greets. Older folks like the old-timey stuff and have a closer relationship to the "old Disney" aka Mickey and friends. Universal does more thrill rides and has more properties that appeal to older kids and adults, like Harry Potter, Fallon, Jurassic Park. Of course they each make a bad attempt at capturing the other markets, like Rockin Rollercoaster and Woody Woodpecker Kidzone.

My question "Why do you think they need to occupy the same exact market space" is relatively clear. If Disney appeals to mostly kids and older folks, why shouldn't they continue doing that? If Universal captures the imagination of teens-60 or whatever, why should't they have commercials as you posted above that show their appeal to that segment of the market?

If I had two girls, 5 and 6, who were into princesses, guess where we'd go? If I had a boy and a girl 13 and 15 into thrills and HP, guess where we'd go? If I was kid free and 45 and liked thrill rides, guess where we'd go? It's clear that these parks capture not only different IP interests, but different demographics.

April 12, 2017, 8:57 AM

In a way I kind of agree that if universal was to get another big intellectual property then they would get a lot more people into the parks. But it wouldn't necessarily blow up orlando. I'm going to florida this summer and due to having to book things way in advance we have everything planned out. Were staying at disney world mainly for the dining plan and the hotels which mess that we are spending about 7 days at disney parks 4 at universal and 3 at sea world/ busch gardens. If volcano bay wasn't there then we would only go to universal 3 times, and to be honest even if they had a new middle earth themed area we probably wouldn't go anymore than the 4 days because there is only the three parks. Compare that to disney having 6 parks, it requires more days to get everything done. So i don't reckon it is the intellectual property's that have a big effect on what parks to prioritize, it is more the number of parks. Obviously this is subjective as some people may not like harry potter or lord of the rings but may love avatar/Star Wars so they would prioritise the disney parks rather than universal. So what universal needs is more parks which will obviously require more ip's.
On a side note, I would say it is also more a case of new good rides rather than ip's. Looking at what universal has opened and what they have planned. Transformers uses the same ride system as Spider-Man, and I presume that the fast and furious ride will use the same as king Kipling if they are just copies from the tram tour in hollywood. These type of attractions, even though based on popular ips won't draw as many people in as say the harry potter rides as they both technically use different ride systems that have never been used at the resort. Would escape from Gringotts be as good as it is now, if it just used the ride vehicles from spiderman/transformers?
A prime example of this is the seven dwarfs mine train ride at the magic kingdom. If It haven't have been a swinging cart ride then I wouldn't have even considered riding it even if it was only a half hour wait, but because it was a new ride system I wanted to see what it felt like.

April 12, 2017, 9:13 AM

@ Russell: Agreed. In fact, as I posted before, UO's marketing is focused on a "young adult demo" whereas Disney has a broader objective from families with small children, to young adults, to empty-nesters, to seniors.

These threads just pursue this ideas that these parks compete in the sense that Coke and Pepsi compete. It's just not the same.

And frankly, Comcast/NBC probably don't make it their corporate objkective to "catch" Disney. They look at their models and make goals based on what they believe they can achieve. If those objectives (in the Orlando market) are achieved or surpassed, they probably don't care too much whether or not the final numbers are greater than Disney's. Doesn't seem like it would be their primary motivation.

April 12, 2017, 9:21 AM

That's a really strange response Jack, and while some people might agree with you, for most theme park visitors your hypothesis doesn't hold true. Most theme park guests probably have no idea that Transformers and Spiderman utilize the same ride system. They only see that you get into a car and put on some 3-D glasses. This notion that "normal" guests ride rides based on their systems is complete hogwash. In fact, if Gringott's were marketed as the straight up roller coaster that it is, I would bet there would be a slight decline in ridership because of certain people's primal fear of "roller coasters".

People who follow the industry closely and read websites like this often are very different from the average theme park guest. Most of those people are completely oblivious to the type of ride they're getting on aside from the superficial aspects (train, boat, car, coaster, etc...) and what the park's marketing department tells them it is. If you told an average guest that Soarin' was just a movie theater, they'd laugh and explain it as a thrilling hang glider ride. Never underestimate the ignorance of the average theme park guest!

April 12, 2017, 9:30 AM

TH -- you miss an important element in the Universal commercial you posted. The parents are thrilled and relieved that the kids want to go to Universal and not Disney.

In fact, this is the whole punchline of the commercial: It's about time.

I don't think Comcast/NBC is so interested in "catching" Disney as it is just doing what it does best. And I think Disney should do what it does best.

April 12, 2017, 9:32 AM

Russel makes a good point -- we are theme park geeks.

April 12, 2017, 9:54 AM

DB Cooper: "TH -- you miss an important element in the Universal commercial you posted. The parents are thrilled and relieved that the kids want to go to Universal and not Disney."

I Respond: I didn't miss that. I posted the clip because it demonstrates that UO is not attempting to compete with Disney's family with small children demo -- a market share measured in millions of visitors and billions of dollars. My posts are asserting that when they ignore that demo, they aren't in a position to make a "serious run" at Disney -- the topic of the thread and the contention offered up ny Mr. Schneider.

I don't think Comcast/NBC is so interested in "catching" Disney as it is just doing what it does best. And I think Disney should do what it does best."

I Respond: I concur -- and posted the same point. Which is why I don't believe UO will make (nor is vested in making) a "serious run at Disney."

April 12, 2017, 9:55 AM

"Beauty and the Beast - $934,483,188
Frozen - $1,276,480,355
Moana - $624,900
Tangled - $591,794

What is that, $3 billion in box office from just four films?"

And I thought *my* math was bad. :)

April 12, 2017, 10:09 AM

TH Creative: "I Respond: I didn't miss that. "

Well, you seem to think that they are only capturing the teen demographic with that commercial. Obviously, it is also intended to capture parents of teens (I'd say they look 40's-50's ish).

I'd say that they do this rather successfully, and that all they are doing is appealing to their core demographic.

Universal likey won't surpass Disney World as the most visited theme park in the world, but that is largely because they don't have the space or capacity. Disney has far more land. This is actually a negative in a lot of ways -- the walkability of Universal gives it a true resort theme park feel.

What we can look at is the ratio of space/capacity to guests, and here the battle could get close. Is Universal one IP away from capturing that magic number? Probably one big IP and one more park on the new land, and they have it.

Edited: April 12, 2017, 11:07 AM

DB Cooper: "Universal likey won't surpass Disney World as the most visited theme park in the world."

I Respond: I assume you mean "resort" -- as Walt Disney World consists of six theme parks, dining, retail, recreational and full service resorts and Universal Orlando consists of three theme parks, dining, retail, recreational and full service resorts.

DB Cooper: Is Universal one IP away from capturing that magic number? Probably one big IP and one more park on the new land, and they have it.

I Respond: Assuming of course Disney doesn't open additional IP based attractions beyond Star Wars and PTWOA -- which we can safely assume will happen. Additionally, the power of DVC (which is also expanding) will deliver the "numbers" that will inherently prevent that "serious run" the author of this thread's origin is talking about.

Edited: April 12, 2017, 11:19 AM

Actually DBCooper, I would say the opposite is actually happening. With Avatar and the coming Star Wars land, Disney appears to be directly targeting the teen and young adult demographic that UO covets. How well these two HUGE projects connect with those groups could directly affect UO's path forward. Do they double down on their core audience with more Potter or another similar IP (like LOTR), or do they go for that younger audience with Nintendo? Obviously, a Nintendo land would have some crossover, but early thinking has it replacing KidZone, meaning it would have to fill the void for younger guests at least in some respect.

I think Avatar will be an interesting test case, and may guide UO's decision making moving forward. If Avatar is as huge and groundbreaking as it appears, UO will need to work hard to defend their core demo while still working to improve their appeal to youngsters and families. If Avatar doesn't make too much of a dent in UO's gate, they can work to replace KidZone in 2018 and have time to ramp up the answer to Star Wars in 2019/20. I know TH is wildly bullish on it, and Pandora certainly looks spectacular, but Disney has set a high bar that will take a superb amount of coordination to achieve.

While the 2 resorts are fiercely competitive, they definitely take cues from one another. As I've said before, Joe Rhode (DAK Imagineer and PTWOA lead designer) spent hours at the WWoHP to see how Universal Creative pulled off the feat. I think we'll continue to see the 2 play "Dueling Banjos" for the foreseeable future in Orlando, and theme park fans will reap the benefits!

April 12, 2017, 11:19 AM

Russell writes: "If Avatar doesn't make too much of a dent in UO's gate, they can work to replace KidZone in 2018 and have time to ramp up to answer Star Wars in 2019."

I Respond: Of course if they replace KidZone with an attraction appealing to young adults (like an Avatar or Potter or Star Wars) this would mean the family with small children have even less of an incentive to visit Universal Orlando -- solidifying Disney's grip on the millions of guests and billions of dollars associated with that demo. So much for the "serious run" scenario.

April 12, 2017, 11:28 AM

TH: I think that's where UO is in a good place with Nintendo. The IP has appeal across multiple demographics, and if used as rumored as a KidZone replacement, it would not only appeal to youngsters, but also their core demographic. However, if Avatar poaches some of UO's core demographic, perhaps Universal Creative has to up the ante on Nintendo to make it more teen-friendly (Nintendo is a love/hate IP with most teens with some seeing the property as too "kiddie" while others still loving it through their teens), or to fast-track another Potter attraction/land.

I never suggested nor agreed with the initial hypothesis that UO would make any "serious run" at Disney's crown as theme park king, even if they created a third park or purchased another blockbuster IP (like LOTR). However, I do think UO needs to be careful, because it does look like Disney is striking back at their core demo, and a group UO didn't really need to work hard to make return visits to the resort may become a harder nut to crack over the next decade.

April 12, 2017, 11:47 AM

I don't think Avatar is a real threat to Universal. Star Wars, until recently, was nerdy and niche. While I think it will have some serious appeal because of the new films and timing, will it continue to be cool or will it go back to niche status? I think the latter. But Russell is right, Disney is more targeting Universals demographic than the other way around.

Nintendo does have broad appeal: You have people ~40 that have the nostalgia, and kids buying up switches faster than they can make them today. Nintendo has that span of IP that could make for really interesting interactive gameplay as well (hello, Mario Kart!).

It's not all about numbers and attendance, though. Disney has so much to take care of -- a huge property, and a lot of it is in bad shape. I've seen some truly terrible hotel rooms there at their lower end properties (not that I have stayed in).

Universal is keeping it fresh, even the on the lower end like Cabana Bay you get updated rooms and a general value and great experience. Their stuff always feels a lot newer and more modern/maintained when I visit.

Edited: April 12, 2017, 12:28 PM

Of course UO feels newer, because it is newer. Cabana Bay has only been open for less than 3 years. Take out Art of Animation, which opened in 2012 and was really just a completion of the abandoned Pop Century expansion, and Disney hasn't added a truly "new" resort in over a decade (2003 was when Pop Century opened). Disney has expanded a number of their resorts over the past decade (mostly for DVC), but has spent a lot of money on updating older rooms. The oldest hotel at UO is Portofino Bay, which opened in 1999, so obviously, everything at UO is going to feel "newer" than WDW, because it is.

It is about numbers and attendance, because the operational costs of world-class theme parks and resorts are the same whether you're on the east or west end of I-4 in Orlando. So per guest spending, and annual attendance figures are how you can tell which parks are excelling and which are declining. I'm not sure what part of the WDW property is in "bad shape", but I've never seen it, at least not any worse than any other decently nice property.

April 12, 2017, 2:39 PM

Russel -- I'm not talking about the actual age, I'm talking about the condition. Universal has remodeled the interior and exterior of these properties, updated amenities, and kept them feeling brand new. Disney has not.

I don't base my choice of theme resort on numbers and attendance, I base it on what my experiences are like. If you want to do Disney because of the "numbers and attendance", then you do you :-D

Edited: April 12, 2017, 4:43 PM

DB Cooper writes: "Russel -- I'm not talking about the actual age, I'm talking about the condition. Universal has remodeled the interior and exterior of these properties, updated amenities, and kept them feeling brand new. Disney has not."

I Respond: It's now pretty clear that Mr. Cooper is posting absolute uninformed nonsense. In 2015 WDW renovated and upgraded every room at Disney's Caribbean Beach resort (2112 rooms). Currently Disney is upgrading every room at the Pop Century resort (2880 rooms) and Disney's Coranado Springs resort (1915 rooms). WDW's commitment to renovating rooms over the past five years has been nothing less than exceptional. The Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Boardwalk, Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club, Yacht Club and Beach Club Villas have all been renovated.

Renovations include new drywall, paint, carpet, counter tops, appliances (flat screens) and bathroom fixtures.

Yes Mr. Cooper, WDW has, in fact, completed renovations and upgrades on thousands of its hotel rooms and continues to do so.

Big swing and a miss, sir. Very big.

April 12, 2017, 6:30 PM

TH Creative said: Big swing and a miss, sir. Very big.:

Actually, you reinforce my point: Try as they might, Disney is too big to keep itself 100% polished. IF the hotels you reference were the only ones on campus, you might have a point. But as usually, you have none.

Big swing TH. Big miss.

April 12, 2017, 6:34 PM

You posted that Disney has "not" renovated hotel rooms. They have renovated thousands and continue to do so. Your claim that Disney has "not" renovated its hotel rooms is wrong.

Edited: April 12, 2017, 8:03 PM

Universal Orlando IS in obvious competition with WDW and Universal Creative needs to make a big statement with the opening of UO's third theme park. First, Universal should get the theme park rights to LOTR. The IPs Universal currently have are not quite enough to make the grand statement they should want from its third theme park and LOTR is a Harry Potter type IP. Second, Universal should definitely introduce the next big thing in the evolution of theme parks. I believe Universal Creative is up to the challenge as they have consistently been forward thinking over the last decade. May I suggest that Universal take an idea from Disney and blur the line between theme park and resort hotel, much like DisneySea did with Mediterranean Harbor and Hotel MiraCosta. Universal, though, could take this idea a step further by placing themed hotels INTO the various theme lands of the park. Think of the possibilities to live, eat and SLEEP in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or in the world of LOTR, or in the Dreamworks worlds of Kung Fu Panda, Isle of Berk or Madagscar, or have the insanely creepy chance to dine and bed in Castle Dracula.
Universal needs to go BIG if they are going "to make a serious run at Disney".

April 13, 2017, 3:06 AM

Mr. Schneider: "Universal needs to go BIG (with anothyer IP) if they are going "to make a serious run at Disney".

I Respond: And again, this strategy does not take into account that Disney will also pursue attractions, based upon popular IP BEYOND Star Wars and Avatar. That while Universal pursues attractions based on any of the properties Mr. Schneider lists in his last post, Disney can (and will) develop attractions based upon 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' or Pixars films, or 'Pirates of the Carribean' or 'Once Upon a Time' or its multi-billion dollar princess empire -- the latter of which is focused on a demo Universal has all but walked away from.

Of course Universal can go big, but when it does, Disney will match them step for step.

Edited: April 13, 2017, 6:39 AM

"Disney will match (Universal) step for step", or head to head, mano a mano, etc. So Universal and Disney ARE in competition, like Coke and Pepsi. You talk in circles, TH Creative, do you walk in circles too? Of course you do, around WDW's four theme parks, two water parks, twenty-seven resort hotels, four championship golf courses and WDW's shopping and entertainment district Disney Springs. Around and around in circles. Around and around and around and around...Being on Disney property is like being in a casino, you find yourself walking in circles and the difficultly is finding a way out. TH Creative, you're caught in a Disney vortex. Good luck finding your way out.

Edited: April 13, 2017, 6:11 AM

"Actually, you reinforce my point: Try as they might, Disney is too big to keep itself 100% polished."

What are you talking about? Have you even stayed at a Disney resort in the last 5 years? As TH pointed out, they're currently going through and renovating just about every guest room in their inventory - predominantly to update the bathroom fixtures and televisions/phones to modern standards. Because of this, many of Disney's rooms are actually "newer" than those at UO. UO has been focusing resources on building new guest rooms, not updating their existing inventory, while Disney has been doing both. While Disney hasn't actually added any new resorts, they have been adding rooms at a near-historic rate with their DVC additions (not a huge fan of the program, but it's certainly working well for them). This whole nonsense that Disney doesn't have the ability to maintain their existing inventory is hogwash, and I'd challenge you to actually produce some evidence or facts to support that claim.

"Being on WDW property is like being in a Las Vegas casino"

You think that's a coincidence? Of course it's like that, because the folks at Disney don't want you to leave. That's why they provide free Disney's Magical Express from the airport so guests don't feel the need to rent a car. That's why they want you to buy the DDP so you never have to worry about paying for food while you're on vacation or be tempted to go off site for a meal. That's why everything in the booking process is about selling a complete "package", so guests entire experience is at the WDW Resort. It's foolish to think that Disney would NOT want to extract every single penny they can from guests, and millions of people every year are happy to do that. If that's not your cup of tea, fine, but don't complain or criticize a strategy that works and has kept WDW on top for decades and UO in the distant rear view even as the younger resort has grown by leaps and bounds.

Disney wants you on site for a family's entire vacation so you're not tempted to drive up I-4 to a competitor. So now we're going to criticize Disney for being competitive on a thread talking about how UO is so close to overtaking them (not my opinion, just the hypothesis posited above). Talk about hypocritical...

It's great to see UO step up and offer a vigorous challenge to WDW, and in doing so it has obviously caused the brain trust at Disney to fend off the challenge. However, what UO has done has done little do dent WDW's domination of the market, not my opinion, fact. UO is much more than a single IP or third gate away from matching WDW. They are the Oakland A's to Disney's New York Yankees. The Yankees may not win titles every year, but they're always at the top of spending and revenue within MLB, while the A's are at the bottom, occasionally challenging for a title in years where everything falls perfectly. I think Potter has put UO in the same league with WDW, but we're definitely talking about 2 resorts on completely different planes of existence.

Edited: April 13, 2017, 8:42 AM

Russell, the point I was making went right over your head. Are you caught in a Disney vortex as well?
Universal Orlando is now in a similar position that Disney was in the late 80s just before WDW opened its third theme park, Disney-MGM Studios. In the late 80s, WDW had five resort hotels (same as UO now), opened Typhoon Lagoon (same as UO with the May opening of Volcano Bay) and added Pleasure Island to Lake Buena Vista's shopping area (very similar to what CityWalk has been for the last few years). It seems as though UO is following the "Disney model" to a tee when it comes to its current resort expansion. And why shouldn't they, WDW is a proven success. Really, the only thing that separates WDW (est. 1971) and UO (est. 1990) is about twenty years.

Edited: April 13, 2017, 8:47 AM

I can see your comparison, but Disney executed those plans with very little competition. UO is at the same point with the leader in the industry energized and ready to take on the challenge from the upstart. There's very little market share to capture, so the 2 will battle each other over the organic growth of the market (maybe 3-5% per year at most). That's a lot different than what it was in the 80's when Disney was pretty much the only game in town, and a market, that was growing at 10%+ per year was theirs alone.

UO is spending far more capitol to maintain its current market share, and to pull in whatever growth in the market it can find. Expanding their hotels is a great maneuver because it allows them to maximize per guest spending, but adding another IP or building a third (or 4th depending up how you look at it) gate is not doing to dramatically shift the balance. I'm not in any Disney vortex, and personally prefer to spend time at UO over most of the Disney parks. I'm merely looking at the reality of the situation, and while many of us are rooting for Universal, they're barely denting Disney's gargantuan grip on the market. I think many of us are rooting for Universal to continue to expand, because in doing so, it has forced Disney to take notice and constantly improve their offerings. This is a great scenario for the industry, because without Universal pushing the envelope, Disney probably would have continued to putter along maintaining the status quo. Instead we have Disney now taking a close look at the market, and working hard to maintain their market share while making additions to their parks that address some of their short-comings to attract demographics perhaps they neglected over the past 10-20 years. UO will not come close to WDW in terms of market share over our lifetime, but by pushing and expanding, theme park fans are being treated to a golden age of themed entertainment.

April 13, 2017, 2:52 PM

Disney treated Universal as a nonentity until Harry Potter. Disney opened non-competitive half day theme parks and kept them that way for 20 years. I'm glad Disney finally woke up.

Edited: April 18, 2017, 10:44 AM

And Disney looks as though they will make the first move with an immersive themed resort experience using Star Wars!


April 18, 2017, 12:48 PM

There are times that I regret the fact that RN deleted the direct, one-on-one messaging at TPI. Then I could dish what I know without having to splash it all across a public billboard.

THC out!

(Mic drop)

April 18, 2017, 2:15 PM

Universal Orlando should just give up right now.
"Game over, man, GAME OVER!"

April 20, 2017, 7:53 AM

I do not think there is any "blowing open Orlando" anymore. I think we have pretty much gotten to a point that it is a two company monopoly of the region: Disney and Universal.

At this point, both parks are established and quite frankly, do not have to change much to still be some of the most profitable parks in the world. They do not need to really do anything big. They are there, people know, people come, and these giant corporations are making huge cash gains.

The challenge now is how to stay fresh. This is a huge challenge in the business world because it usually requires a little risk which neither Universal or Disney are willing to take. It is easy to greenlight Harry Potter and Star Wars, but what about a less known franchise? Avatar doesn't count technically since it still made a ton of money, but Disney is taking a slight risk on it because the whole story isn't fleshed out. Not until one of these two take a huge risk would anything massive change.

Who we should be really concerned about is Sea World. They seem to be falling behind fast!

April 20, 2017, 9:28 AM

The goal for UO is to offer a legitimate week long vacation (a full 7 days) to its guests. WDW has been offering week long vacations for a while now and UO should follow their lead. Currently UO does well with 3 day vacations and with the addition of Volcano Bay they can push it to 4 days, but the real prize is to score a full 7 days from paying customers. UO is missing out, offering 7 day vacations is key for UO.

April 20, 2017, 10:55 AM

To get to 7 days Keith, UO is a lot more than 1 IP away. FWIW, Universal's partnership with Sea World, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens allows them to get a vacation up to 7 Days with the Orlando Flex Ticket. For Universal to single-handedly get guests to spend 7 days on property, they would have to build at least 2 more parks (at least 1 theme park and 1 more water park), all while keeping the existing parks fresh. Sorry, that's not happening this decade, and might be a stretch to happen in the next. Even if they can pull off that level of expansion, it's going to take far more than a single IP to get it to happen.

Edited: April 20, 2017, 11:29 AM

UO is one IP away from making it happen. They have Nintendo, Dreamworks, Jurassic World and Universal Monsters available, but they need one more BIG IP to round out their third theme park = 7 day UO vacation.

Edited: April 20, 2017, 12:53 PM

3 theme parks doesn't make a 7-day vacation. As it stands right now, you can spend 3 days in the current 2 parks, and maybe a full day in Volcano Bay. Universal frequently runs promotions that give 2 extra days beyond the 3 day (occasionally 2 day) standard admission tickets for free in an attempt to keep guests around longer, because they recognize that most people are spending just 2 or 3 days at UO. A 3rd park is not going to draw 3 more days worth of interest, and that doesn't even account for improvement that would have to be made to USF and IOA to keep those 2 at a 3-day visit level. If Universal pushes all their investment into a 3rd park, and IOA and USF become 1-day visits each (as has happened to DHS and DAK), then you now have to find other ways to keep guests on site for a full week. Universal doesn't have golf courses, animal attractions, water sports, dinner shows, and some of the other things Disney has beyond their 4 theme parks and 2 water parks.

The thought that 1 single investment in an IP can get guests to spend 7 days on Universal property is absurd, and even if they leverage their current IPs to the fullest in a 3rd theme park, they will still struggle to keep guests on site for a full week.

Heck, Disney struggles to hold onto guests for a week with all they have (Disney defaults guests to a 4 or 5-day vacation), so what makes you think Universal can do it with far less? I actually think the symbiotic relationship between the 2 chains works well. If guests are currently spending 4-5 days at WDW and 2-3 days at UO, trying to get guests to spend 4-5 days at UO and 2-3 days a WDW is what planners should be striving for, not trying to keep them onsite for the whole week.

Baby steps!!

Edited: April 22, 2017, 8:25 AM

In truth, I am still waiting for the current Universal Orlando regime to come up with ONE new IP that me and my family care about visiting at all.

Potter? Superior children's books, trash on film. Not our dance.

Despicable Me? Liked the first film okay, but those Minions... ugh.

Transformers? Torturous.

Simpsons? It was fun 25 years ago.

King Kong? It was fun 85 years ago.

Fallon? Who?

Fast and Furious? Don't get me started.

Volcano Bay? Waterparks are a dime a dozen...ZZZZZzzzzzzz.

Nintendo? Metroid, maybe. Zelda, definitely. Mario - God no.

Look, Universal has some great rides, and some wonderful resorts, but the last time they produced an IP that I personally found compelling was when they introduced Terminator 2 3D in 1996.

I am glad that post 2000 kids and wand waving Potterites love the place, but to be honest, UO is not one more IP away from blowing Orlando open, they are one more torn down classic ride away from losing me and mine forever.

Yeah, that's right, sonny, I just lowered the boom on your beloved Universal Orlando! That just happened. Now, turn that music down and get off my lawn before I call the cops!

Edited: April 21, 2017, 9:20 AM

What about Jurassic Park/Jurassic World? With Jurassic World 2 coming out and probably a 3rd along with past entries, seems to me like it would be a good IP to plug into an additional park. River Adventure at IOA is a good ride but the dinosaur animatronics are looking old and outdated. Could be replicated at the new park and replaced with something else at IOA.

Edited: April 22, 2017, 8:31 PM

Speaking of video games, why not do a Grand Theft Auto: City Beautiful type thing? Teach kids how to hotwire cars, design a cool tattoo, aim for the head, and negotiate the best price for a hot date.

Make it immersive like Potter land, and it'd be a surefire hit!

April 23, 2017, 5:28 AM

As a lover of both parks, probably with biases for each, Universal is a long, long way from a week vacation. I could do four days, but that is only because my family loves extreme thrill rides and Harry Potter. It really is 2-3. The size of the lot is a big limiting factor for the future as well. For families that are not into thrill rides, it is a two day affair. They could stretch it out, and it certainly is a better bargain per attraction, since you can experience more rides per day than Disney, which leads me to my next point. Avatar has confirmed my fears for Star Wars. You can only get one fast pass for one Avatar attraction per day. At least at the beginning, that means you will only be able to realistically experience each ride once per day if you plan accordingly, and that will likely be the same for Star Wars. Sure, that was the case when Harry Potter first opened, but Disney has got to do something about their system. I imagine you will need to nab the FP+ the second you can and then do the old Space Mountain marathon to the other attraction at rope drop. Many, many families will not be able to do this. I would imagine 90% or more, and that will lead to a lot of extremely unhappy guests who spent thousands of dollars for their children to experience these attractions that they will miss out on.

April 23, 2017, 8:43 AM

'Pandora: The World of Avatar will be to themed entertainment what 'Hamilton' is to Broadway.

April 23, 2017, 10:49 AM

Not sure I agree with that, but I think Star Wars will be more so.

April 24, 2017, 12:19 PM

TH, no one cares about Avatar. It was a mediocre movie that hit it big because of the novelty of 3D. Star Wars will be huge. No one gives a crap about Avatar. It could be mind blowing amazing, but no one is going to Disney to see Avatar land. Not in the way they do Harry Potter or how they will with Star Wars. Those two will be darn near a religious experience for people.

April 24, 2017, 1:01 PM

TH retort in 5...4...3...2...

April 24, 2017, 1:08 PM

I like Avatar. Thought it was great fun as a movie and I am planning a WDW trip just because of the expansion. I may not be "someone" but I am not "no one".

April 24, 2017, 1:13 PM

James: I think you know the intent of my response. Obviously there are people who will book because of the new expansion. But do you honestly believe those numbers are big?

I am sure Disney did a wonderful job on it and I am sure it will be enjoyed by everyone who goes but I just cannot fathom it having much of a long term impact.

Edited: April 24, 2017, 6:47 PM

If the attractions are good and the land is immersive they will come. And as fans, we should want the land to be a success so that Disney continues to add new and exciting experiences for all to enjoy.

April 24, 2017, 10:07 PM

"'Pandora: The World of Avatar will be to themed entertainment what 'Hamilton' is to Broadway."

To what extent? Blue people are going to rap about trees?

Edited: April 25, 2017, 6:05 AM

@lujab2004 - I, like James, am also planning a trip this year because of Avatar (actually delayed our typical every 2 year trip cycle to wait for it). I did enjoy the movie, but we're going to Pandora because of the spectacle and the possibilities. I think calling it what "Hamilton is to Broadway" is perhaps overselling it a bit, and possibly setting guests up for disappointment by raising the bar far too high, but I think from early shots and discussion of the new land it will be quite an achievement. The Flight of Passage ends up being Soarin' on steroids, then that alone will get thousands through the turnstiles each and every day for the next 5 years. If nothing else, it makes DAK a full day park now, and I'm really interested to see how Joe Rhode and his team have been able to weave an other-worldly landscape into the Florida swamp, especially since DAK is already considered the most beautiful park at WDW.

Do I think the average person is booking a trip this year to WDW solely for Avatar? Nope, but there may be some Avatar fans out there (and obviously theme park fans) that may consider a WDW trip or accelerate a future trip because of Avatar opening this year. I also think that if Disney pulls this off, the word of mouth will cause others to accelerate trips to WDW in the near future or not delay their next trip until 2019 waiting for Star Wars. If that does happen, then Avatar will be considered a success.

Making DAK a full day park and getting regular guests to plan an extra trip between now and the opening of Star Wars is enough of a long term affect to make Avatar worth the investment.

BTW, Fox just announced that the next Avatar film will not hit until 2020, so Pandora: The World of Avatar will have to stand on its own for 3 whole years. However, the delay in release (at least the 3rd since the sequel projects were initially announced almost 8 years ago) will give PtWOA a jolt of energy AFTER Star Wars opens so that the land does not fall far from consciousness in the wave of Star Wars fandom.

April 25, 2017, 6:32 AM

@Russell - Now THAT is a sensible analysis of the impact of this expansion. TH has been on here for weeks touting this Hamilton analogy that I just don't get.

Edited: April 25, 2017, 9:19 AM

It's a reference to how popular the new expansion will be.

Edited: April 25, 2017, 9:34 AM

Yet, despite the "popularity" of Hamilton, only a minuscule percentage of people have actually seen it, and there are still swaths of people in the country that wouldn't have the slightest idea what you're talking about by comparing PtWOA to Hamilton.

The only thing apt about the comparison is the ratio of how many people will want to see/enjoy the new land and the number of people actually accommodated by the reportedly small space. Hamilton, while just now starting off-Broadway tours, can only accommodate less than 10k theater goers per week at the Richard Rogers Theater, meaning only about 1 million people have actually seen it live on Broadway (assuming each seat is filled with a person seeing it for the first time). I'd argue that part of Hamilton's popularity is its scarcity, and like many blockbuster Broadway hits, will eventually regress to the mean when all the people wanting to see it finally do.

Edited: April 25, 2017, 10:11 AM

Two words for y'all:
I mean, think about it. Giant robots vs monsters, a new film on the way, a great first movie and big possibility of the second being critically acclaimed too...

April 25, 2017, 10:56 AM

I'm seeing a bit of a disconnect here James. I agree with your sentiments that if a land and its attractions are successfully done well, then the IP choice is negligible. However, I'm not sure why you then say you and your family are skipping Universal because you don't like the choice of theme. I could care less about the Avatar or Fast and the Furious movies, but if the rides are fun and a hit amongst the general public, isn't that all that matters?

Edited: April 25, 2017, 11:39 AM

It would be great if there were a franchise about Giant Robots Versus Monsters called Pacific Ring. It would give Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim franchise a run for its money along with WB's reinvigorated Godzilla/Kong franchises.

For those unaware, there is actually a 4-D attraction based on Pacific Rim (presented at SFDK and Circus Circus in Las Vegas). However, most would consider the franchise as a whole a bit on the cult side right now with just 1 official movie (a sequel is, as noted above, on the way in February 2018 - already pushed back twice, a troubling sign). However, for much as movie fans and, in particular, Del Toro fans (director of the wonderful and Oscar-nominated Pan's Labyrinth along with Blade II, Hellboy/Hellboy 2, and Mimic) love Pacific Rim, it was not terribly successful with a $411 million worldwide/$101 million domestic gross on a nearly $200 million budget. For comparison, Skull Island has already grossed $559 million worldwide/$164 domestically on a $185 million budget (still in some theaters), while the 2014 Godzilla reboot (helmed by Rogue One's Gareth Edwards) grossed $529 million worldwide/$200 million domestically on a leaner $160 million budget. Those 2 are on a collision course in Kong vs Godzilla slated for a summer 2020 release.

In the world of giant monsters, Pacific Rim's Kaiju have some serious catching up to do.

April 25, 2017, 11:00 AM

By the way, Pacific RIM only made $100 million in the US on a $190 million budget (and is a Warner Bros movie no less). It won't be the one that blows open Orlando any time soon.

April 25, 2017, 11:32 AM

@James Trexen - I suppose that comes down to whether an expensive, popular IP is really necessary to create a successful theme park attraction these days. I would agree with you that if a ride is "fun and a hit amongst the general public" the IP it's attached to doesn't really matter. However, I think you need IP to draw interest and people to visit. You can't just have word of mouth and ads on TV to come see the greatest theme park ride based on a story no one knows. That may have worked 50 years ago, but in today's world of short attention spans, derivative creative ideas, and the ever soaring cost of theme park vacations, you've got to attach a popular IP to your attractions to get guests through the gate. People are not going to spend thousands of dollars to travel to a theme park where they know nothing about the stories and themes being presented. Certainly most IPs are going to turn some guests off while exciting others, but having some generic IP on a development you're spending nearly a billion dollars to create, market, and operate is just not going to fly with financial backers and executives. I hope that an attraction like Symbolica will make original IP attractions more viable, but I think the way things are going, if you want to spend as much money as it takes to build lands like Cars, PtWOA, SW, and WWoHP, you've got to link the development to a bankable IP.

To hard core theme park fans, great attractions go beyond IP, but sadly, 99% of theme park visitors don't care how great an attraction is, just that it recreates something familiar to them.

April 25, 2017, 11:36 AM

Which finger does the Pacific Ring go on?

April 25, 2017, 11:59 AM

@ Russell - "sadly, 99% of theme park visitors don't care how great an attraction is, just that it recreates something familiar to them. "

I am not sure why this is "sad". A ride/attraction isn't simply a product of speeds and G-forces. There is nothing sad about people wanting to immerse themselves in a fantasy world that doesn't exist. Theme matters above all else to 99% of people.

April 25, 2017, 12:06 PM

I think it's sad that so many people only see the glossy exterior of an attraction, and don't consider the amount of effort to make it work and feel as real as possible. A ride like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is as intricate as they come, and I'm wowed every time I get on. However, I think if it didn't have the Harry Potter theme, most people wouldn't give it a second ride. I think Mission: Space is one of the most technologically amazing attractions that makes you really feel like you're going to Mars. It's got Hollywood talent, a relatively engaging story, and the ride capsule is about as realistic as it gets. Yet it doesn't have a popular IP that guests connect with, so an amazing piece of hardware sits and spins with little attention and lines that rarely eclipse 30 minutes on the busiest of days (not that I'm complaining about short lines).

I think the need for IP in theme parks is a function of our superficial society that I hope one day will be minimized or eliminated. That's why it's sad.

April 25, 2017, 12:28 PM

As a paying customer, I couldn't care less how much work went into it. I care about what it makes me FEEL.

In other words, when I walked into Diagon Alley with my 8 year old and literally saw his jaw dropped, that created a memory that I will never, ever forget. To say that it is superficial is crazy!

Edited: April 25, 2017, 2:21 PM

@James In one post I was talking about the IPs in the other the attractions. Two different points being made. If and when I decide to go back to Universal Orlando I will of course ride all the attractions I "dissed" because I am sure they are all fine rides despite being based on IPs I find less than compelling.

@lujab2004 If you want to see jaws drop for a different reason unrelated to IP or theme (presuming you all like thrill parks too), take the family to Cedar Point sometime. When they see all those behemoth coasters rising seemingly out of the lake, jaws will drop for sure.

@Russell Totally agree about Mission Space. Love that attraction. My favorite at Epcot. Here's to hoping that rumored Guardians coaster replaces Ellen or Wonders of Life and not Mission Space!

April 25, 2017, 3:28 PM

Mission Space has a reputation for giving patrons a big headache that lasts for hours, or nausea that ruins appetites. I'm sure it has nothing to do with IP, but people who can't handle it or won't take the chance. I didn't take a chance with it so maybe I'm deprived, but I can live without it.

Edited: April 25, 2017, 5:50 PM

Any ride can adversely impact someone. Plus, Mission Space has the non spinning version for those who don't want to risk it. So don't skip it, just go on the "Green Team"! (So you don't "go green"!)

April 26, 2017, 12:25 PM

@Russell Meyer You're right, even if it served for a great ride, it's not such a huge IP as of now, so it could not attract much audience. It depends, though, on how good the second movie is and how much money it ends up making.

April 26, 2017, 9:22 PM

Mission Space just needs an update. New screens, a different story perhaps utilizing an IP, and functioning buttons (or removal of the buttons?). The ride system is legit, however the story is a bit bland. The dated video monitors and dated cgi break you out of the experience.

April 27, 2017, 10:00 AM

Hey, with all these reboot/sequel/remake talk, what about an Matrix ride?
Or a Mad Max one?
Maybe Willy Wonka?

All pretty valid ideas, with solid IPs.

Edited: April 28, 2017, 3:07 AM

When you are willing consider all aspects of the business models (and not just attraction development) the distance Walt Disney World has put between its resort and Universal Orlando is enormous. From its dominance in the family demo, to the extraordinary success of Disney Springs, to the continued expansion of DVC, to the third venue at Wide World of Sports, to the fact that WDI will develop IP based concepts beyond PTWOA and Star Wars make it seem unlikely that Universal Orlando will make a "serious run" at Disney any time in the near future.

Edited: April 28, 2017, 5:17 AM

Completely agree, it's going out of the way now. First Nintendo project and now this Universal motions pictures.

Edited: April 28, 2017, 9:35 AM

Then there's this from WDWNT.com: "Attention fans of “Star Wars!” You might have a chance to stay at Walt Disney World in a way that immerses you in the galaxy of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and R2-D2! It looks like Disney may be considering building a Star Wars hotel at their world-famous Florida resort."

Walt Disney World will continue to expand the footprint of popular IPs regardless of what might happen on the other end of I-4.

April 28, 2017, 9:20 AM

Around and around and around and around and...

April 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

@TH: With attendance at USH up 60%, its looking like Wizarding World of Harry Potter is to themed entertainment what 'Hamilton' is to Broadway.


Edited: April 28, 2017, 1:58 PM

Quick question: Has anyone on this thread, other than me, actually been to PTWOA?

April 29, 2017, 9:27 AM

When in Hollywood, visit Universal Studios, and ask for Babs.

April 29, 2017, 12:54 PM

Again: Quick question: Has anyone on this thread, other than me, actually been to PTWOA?

April 29, 2017, 1:46 PM

And by the way, beginning at 4 PM every day the buzz regarding bioluminesence will suck thousands into the area. It will be like having the Osbourne Family Lights every night.

Edited: April 29, 2017, 8:26 PM

Or the Dragon breath fire at Diagon Alley?

April 29, 2017, 7:28 PM

TH Creative - Because you are so one-sided, strong headed and frankly insulting, your credibility is very low as is your respectability.

April 30, 2017, 5:36 AM

"Insulting?" No, I don't think that's fair.

"One-sided" -- Yeah, I like to throw snark at the Universal fandom -- but it's most often when they can't champion a UO attraction without also running down a WDW attraction.

Having said that, I am also the guy who has posted this a few years back: "Seriously, there is no denying that the team at Universal Creative has consistently outpaced WDI since the opening of Islands of Adventure. Universal Creative is the GOLD STANDARD for innovation in theme park design.'The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman,' 'Men in Black: Alien Attack,' 'Revenge of the Mummy' 'Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.' There is not a single WDW attraction that is anywhere near as innovative."

April 30, 2017, 6:40 AM

Ahhhh... Spider-Man... still the best non-roller coaster ride at any theme/amusement park. Will it ever be topped?

April 30, 2017, 9:40 AM

"Again: Quick question: Has anyone on this thread, other than me, actually been to PTWOA?"

No, however not everyone here disagrees with you. Universal is great but they simply aren't in a position as of yet to top the behemoth that is the Disney juggernaut. Maybe one day, maybe not. Universal however is now in the tier one level of theme parks, which Disney held by itself for so long. It's a good thing Universal is pushing the limits on what a theme park is capable of doing, as it in return pushes Disney to put out their best effort as well.

April 30, 2017, 2:06 PM

FYI early reviews of PTWOA are wall to wall positive ... It might take more than one IP for UO to bring the "serious" thunder.

April 30, 2017, 9:49 PM

No, just one.

May 2, 2017, 5:02 AM

There's just too many screens in pandora :)

May 2, 2017, 2:15 PM

I have to bring back something that was said before. That it's about the idea more than the IP. In an alternate reality where Disney never made Pandora, I'd be laughed at by saying that Avatar was a good IP for theme parks. It had only one movie, almost a decade ago, and its next movie is only coming in 2020.

Edited: May 4, 2017, 8:18 AM

TH Said: "Having said that, I am also the guy who has posted this a few years back: "Seriously, there is no denying that the team at Universal Creative has consistently outpaced WDI since the opening of Islands of Adventure. Universal Creative is the GOLD STANDARD for innovation in theme park design.'The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman,' 'Men in Black: Alien Attack,' 'Revenge of the Mummy' 'Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.' There is not a single WDW attraction that is anywhere near as innovative."

I reply: Thank goodness he had a moment of clarity a few years back! To think I had him marked as just another Disney Fanboy.

Seriously, Universal's current IP:

Harry Potter
Jurassic Park
Jurassic World
King Kong
Fast and the Furious
The Simpsons
Despicable Me
The Mummy
Dr. Suess
Men In Black
Nintendo (in development)

That's some hot and timeless IP that appeals to a broad array of people. Add in something like Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, or something like that, and you see that Universal has quite a list compared to Disney.

May 4, 2017, 8:31 AM

I don't know, DB. TH jokes about moonlighting for the Disney PR department, but as someone who's read his posts over several years, I'd say he's faily objective (except when he disagrees with me) when it comes to Disney and Universal. If I had to stick a label on him I'd say Orlando Fanboy would be more appropriate. Oh yeah there's another one - Disney Parking Garage Fanboy.

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