Robert's interview with MiceAge's Al Lutz
I've got an interview with MiceAge creator and long-time Disney watcher Al Lutz up on Online Journalism Review
. (That's the other site I edit, for the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, where I sometimes teach.)
Lutz talks about breaking the news on DCA, as well as other stories over the years.
It didn't make the cut for the OJR interview, but Lutz shared his take on why Disney didn't make the deal to get Harry Potter at Walt Disney World, leaving the deal for Universal Orlando to make. Lutz said that the deal, as proposed to Disney, was a 15 year license, with H.P. author J.K. Rowling given the exclusive right to opt out after those 15 years. If she did, that would have left Disney in position where it had to either tear down or entirely retheme its Potter development.
Presumably, Universal's in the same boat now. But I still think the deal makes sense for Universal.
As the market leader, Disney probably would not have been able to bring in enough additional visitors to make a Potter development to both pay for itself and provide the same sort of return on investment that Disney could get spending the money elsewhere. Heck, Disney World's parks are often maxed out on visitors as it is.
But Universal lags Disney significantly in attendance. Simply, Potter would have far more "bang for the buck" in those parks than they would in Disney's. So it is more likely that Universal would be able to get the necessary return on investment with Potter in just 15 years.
Anyway, there's more good stuff over on OJR, so I hope you take a look.
So is that a serious response to Disney "Declining" the Harry Potter deal, or are they saving face because Universal have it?
Well I think Disney is a bit shy when it comes to deals like that. Anybody remember Ace Ventura? Goosebumps? I think Disney would like to forget about that as well!
To clarify a bit, I think the numbers would work out the same for Disney and Universal if Disney could quanify the opportunity cost of keeping Potter away from its rivals. Unfortunately, accountants don't do that. So, absent that substantial benefit in the analysis, the remaining benefits of Potter at Disney (attendance, spending, etc.) do not overweigh the risks of losing the deal after 15 years, with the resulting loss of income, negative will, costs of rehabs/tear-downs, etc.
I really think that the implication that Ms. Rowling herself had a significant role in the negotiations related to theme parks is very overstated. She signed off on zillions of dollars worth of plastic-ware that was made in China. Real crap. Why get picky over theme parks? Hell, Potter already has had a theme park presence in an Australia -- where there was a walk-thru recreation of Diagnon Alley.
With the recent "Outing" of Dumbledore, maybe Disney is breathing a huge sigh of relief.
There is also a huge difference between signing off on merchandising that will be on and off shelves in a couple of months (movie specific soda/ snack wrappers and such)- and even toy and collectible lines that will come and go with each season... and signing off on exclusivity of what (apart from the books and movies themselves) will be the absolute defining monument and living embodiment of the HP series for at LEAST a decade and a half. Huge difference.
I think disney made the right decision in not getting invloved in Harry Potter. They have there own products that they can use for theme park attractions or work with Lucas if outside help is needed. USF needs this much more, I would rather see disney get involved in some type of deal to add a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit attractions at the park rather than any thing to do with potter!!!
In regards to Gareth H's comment, you obviously have never heard about WDW's "Gay Day" at the Magic Kingdom! I wouldn't think the Disney machine would worry twice about a character's choice.
I wonder if the success of Narnia for Disney had any influence on the decision.
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