What makes an entertainment franchise great?

October 5, 2012, 3:47 PM · Once in a while, the Harry Potter vs. Star Wars debate flares up on Theme Park Insider, as it did this week in our Fix This Park feature on Universal Studios Hollywood. To me, the most interesting thing about this argument is the essential question it raises: What makes one entertainment franchise better than another?

Daniel Radcliffe and the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, opens the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure in June 2010, with Rupert Grint, left, and Warwick Davis.

Allow me to suggest a simple answer: The better franchise is the one that entertains and engages the larger number of people over the longer period of time. The best franchises don't just hit with people for a year or two - they endure across generations, as new readers and viewers each year discover the characters and stories in that franchise.

In short, check with me in 30 years, and I'll tell you which turned out to be the better franchise.

That said, let's take a look at the top five all-time entertainment franchises, in U.S. box office receipts and books sold, to see who our "best franchise" candidates might be:

For movies:

  1. Harry Potter
  2. Star Wars
  3. Batman
  4. Avengers
  5. James Bond

And for books:

  1. Harry Potter
  2. Goosebumps
  3. Peter Rabbit
  4. Lord of the Rings
  5. Chronicles of Narnia

Harry Potter tops both lists, with 450 million books sold and more than $2.4 billion in domestic gross. Figure a conservative $8 a ticket, and that's 300 million tickets sold.

That's three quarters of a billion paid customers. Pretty impressive. But I know an entertainment franchise that's drawn even more paid eyeballs over the past decade and a half that Harry Potter's been filling his Gringotts vault:

The Walt Disney theme parks.

With 121 million visitors last year, according to TEA/AECOM, the Disney theme parks drew nearly three times its nearest competitor (Merlin) and more than its next four competitors combined (Merlin, Universal, Parques Reunidos, and Six Flags). And with an average of more than 100 million visitors a year over the past decade, it's conceivable that more people have visited a Disney theme park than own a Harry Potter book or have seen a Harry Potter movie. (You'd need to know repeat customers for both to know for sure.) Throw in all the visitors to Disney Parks before Potter burst onto the scene, and the score isn't even close.

Which brings me to my point: The popularity of an entertainment franchise isn't nearly as important to a theme park as what the park does with that franchise. Fat lot of good the Batman franchise has done for Six Flags, which failed to place any of its parks among the top 15 North American theme parks for annual attendance last year. Does anyone remember Goosebumps at the SeaWorld family of parks? Or James Bond in Paramount Parks?

If you click through to the complete list of top movie franchises, you'll find occupying the eighth spot Pirates of the Caribbean, a franchise launched by a Disney theme park attraction. So when it comes to theme parks and entertainment franchises, Disney's parks drive franchises - not the other way around.

So does Harry Potter matter? Of course it does. Harry Potter went to Universal, not to Disney. That influx of Potter fans has allowed Universal to introduce itself to millions of new customers, and the income Universal's earned from them is allowing the company to expand its parks around the world. But if Universal Creative hadn't hit one over the fences with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that franchise would have done as much for Universal as the Dark Knight Coaster did for the Six Flags park - zilch.

Ultimately, as we're trying to guess the long-term impact on theme parks, it doesn't matter how successful a franchise has been in other media. It matters only how well that franchise is developed within the parks, and how much people want to keep coming back to experience those attractions, again and again, over the years.

Harry Potter's a great franchise for Universal not because it's sold a ton of books and movie tickets. It's a great franchise because it has inspired and enabled Universal Creative to do some awesome work. If some other franchise does the same for Disney, or SeaWorld, or Six Flags, or Universal again, well, then that's a great entertainment franchise, too.

Replies (24)

October 5, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Goosebumps?
October 5, 2012 at 4:04 PM · Kind of like the old adage, "it's the singer, not the song," it is the attraction, not the...uh...Avatar! Or, in other words, a great attraction will transcend its source material.

Totally agree, Mr. Niles.

October 5, 2012 at 4:16 PM · What if the Star Wars films were adjusted for inflation? If that was the case, all of the films minus Episode II would have grossed more money than any HP film. But I strongly agree with you on this article Robert.
October 5, 2012 at 4:18 PM · What about Star Trek. From what I heard with people like Jim Hill Universal made lots of money back when both Universal parks had the Star Trek licensce before Paramount pull it out for thier own theme park devision which later they give up on. I still think Star Trek attraction belongs to a theme park not Vegas. Not the right demo area for a family/geek franchise.
October 5, 2012 at 5:55 PM · I even think mediocre franchises can make great theme park attractions.

Just connecting it with the Universal thread that semi inspired this conversation, something like the Fast & the Furious, not technically a "great" franchise, would probably make a nice high octane attraction.

Cars (which I actually like) always appeared to be considered Pixars weakest entry was turned into one of Disney's best theme lands.

I think looking past the "blockbusters", there's some nice second tier franchises that, while maybe not providing the high art, are at least entertaining.

October 5, 2012 at 8:50 PM · I hate to be "that guy," but 300 million is three tenths of a billion, not three quarters. Three quarters would be 750 million.
October 6, 2012 at 3:07 AM · You're really going to hate being "that guy" now, Jack. 300 million + 450 million = 750 million which just happens to be 3/4s of a billion. ;)

Excellent analysis, Robert!

October 6, 2012 at 7:15 AM · One note to make is that Lord of the Rings unlike Star Wars & Harry Potter still has three more films to come from what some consider its better source material in The Hobbit.

So interesting to see where it stacks up three years from now...

Granted I can't imagine the expense to build Middle Earth properly in a theme park experience.

October 6, 2012 at 7:22 AM · Interesting, no Perry Rhodan like long term series in the US, or did they exclude those from the list.
October 6, 2012 at 7:30 AM · I love games, I have a PS3 and love Uncharted and Journey. But the movie licensed games are horrible. James Bond, Harry Potter, Star Wars, most of them (with a few exceptions) are crap. So a successful franchise will move crappy games but they will played a few times and very fast gather dust.
For theme parks it sets the expectations high. If it's a franchise you love you want to be totally immerged. With Harry Potter Universal did it perfect, I love the franchise and I love what Universal did with it. On the other hand, I don't like comics or movies based on comics. I find it laughable to see adults in tight costumes saving the world from a other guy with a silly costume. That said I love the Spiderman Ride at Universal.
On the other side of the spectrum, Star Wars. I love it. As a kid my dad took me to the first movie (number IV) and I was in love! Disney had a lot to live up to and they didn't. One attraction that became old very quick and one store that forced the Disney franchise into the Star Wars one. The same with Indy, loved the movies but the stunt show is boring. I'm sure the ride is awesome but at the Disney Studios you get a lot of disappointments as a fan of the movies and it doesn't put me in the mood to buy stuff and there is not enough to be emerged in that world.
A movie franchise can be great for a theme park but it can easily be a disappointment.
October 6, 2012 at 3:41 PM · Speaking of the LotR properties, I think that Disney could make an end run and snag the rights to it and put it into Animal Kingdom, holding off on Avatar until they know if the further films will even be made. Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit would be an excellent replacement for the Beastly Kingdom, and there's ample room in the source material for all manner of attractions. I could just see Sauron's Tower over there looking down over the whole thing...
October 6, 2012 at 5:32 PM · I believe you can not determine which is the "best franchise" only by looking at the box office revenue or book sales,

First, as somebody already pointed out you have to adjust those numbers to inflation so you can determine the franchise that had greater attendance; box office mojo makes these calculations; and taking it into account any of the lotr movies are better ranked than than you know who
second, i believe you should only count the last movie of a franchise so you can actually see how many people did that franchise "converted" otherwise you are counting several people more than one, (6,7, or 8 with harry, i have no idea how many movies he had); here lotr wins again
Third, it has to make sense, because by those standards our next music inspired coaster may be a bierber one and that may also turn off many people, like harry did for me and universal ( i dont think they miss me do ;) )

The same with books;

I can only pray that with the upcoming hobbits movie one of the parks will realize how good the hole lotr-hobbit world (middle earth) is for a theme park, but if they have to get the rights from the tolkien family that may be difficult since they hate every representation of the story

October 7, 2012 at 3:34 AM · Thanks for that post Robert!

I totally agreed, and to be honest I found most of that discussion to be a little silly... Since at "present time" a comparison between Star Wars and Harry Potter wasn't really a real comparison. In terms of themeparks I mean... OK I understand if anyone wants to bring merchandise sales into the conversation. But if we're talking just park attendance, what does it really matter at the end the 6 Star Wars movies and all the other stuff, VS Harry Potter's 8 movies and books... The way I saw it, (I think the way Robert explains it) is really what this particular franchise attraction or experience does for that particular park, or chain of parks.

I LOVE Star Wars, and I've enjoyed the HP movies although I can't said I'm an avid fan. But I've watched all of the movies and I know what's going on. Now why I founded it silly? Well HP it's a land, it's not a ride, or a meet and greet, it's a full land. Although haters would said it could be a lot bigger... I agreed it could be, and it will... But correct me if I'm wrong, Star Wars it basically Star Tours, The Star Wars week or weekend, (I'm not sure) and just the characters around... It's not a land it's not a huge part or real estate of the whole of Disney. Not at the amount HP is of Universal at this time.

I'm NOT sorry about this, the only reason Star Wars gets mention on a "Universal (expansion) post", it's because Disney fans get mad. They get mad at the fact that HP it's a huge hit and has been the MVP for Universal this past couple of years... Driving attendance up to Universal in a way that can be directly attributed to HP... That's indisputable!! I'm a Theme Park fan, not just a Disney fan, so I don't have to say things like, HP's success won't last, or is not as marketable as Star Wars... Bu,hu!! Maybe it won't. I don't know! Who really knows that? But speaking about facts, Disney continues to be the king, even though I can't really said I'm have been interested in anything they had come up with in the last 5 years... With the exception of Cars Land but I don't think I will be going to Cali any time soon, especially when Orlando it's just so more cheap from where I live in comparison. But still, I give props when they're merited.

HP continues to be a HUGE hit for Universal so it's logical they're expanding. I love it!! I'm not sure anything Disney has coming is getting me excited, yes I'm not interested (at all!!) in the "Princess expansion". But I'm not hating on Disney, I understand them catering to that audience. I just wish Disney they would do something to get me excited about a going. I'm not like some of the Disney closeted fans around that call themselves Theme Park fans, I still enjoy hanging around Disney for the experience but not lately the rides. Still I would love for Disney to come with a Star Wars land!!! Or make the Avatar land and made it GREAT !! Cause we all know, AK needs the help... That's the thing, I don't put Disney down when they come with something great. So I don't see why people if they were "REAL" Theme Park fans need to put Universal, or Seaworld or others parks down when they're coming with great NEW stuff. I think the only reason would be, if they felt "threatened" about they're Disney loyalties!! lol (Again, not sorry!!!) So Disney fans should get mad at Disney for not making Beastly Kingdome, or a Star Wars land, not at Universal for hitting a Home Run with HP!! If we are true Theme Park fans which ever franchise or park comes with the new GREAT stuff, it should be considered a victory to our Theme Park going experience!!

- Francisco

October 7, 2012 at 9:50 AM · Francisco; That sums it up pretty well.
October 7, 2012 at 1:23 PM · Francisco, Disney fans on this site are generally Universal fans, too. It is not an either/or thing, so I am not sure where you get your information. Regardless, I know I am huge fan of both companies. And I am grateful that the Forbidden Journey was such a hit, because without it, IOA might have closed its doors by now. And that would have made me very sad (Spider-Man is still the best attraction ever built, imho).

Further, with the Forbidden Journey, Universal started a renaissance in themed entertainment that has had a ripple effect across the nation. Only carnival-style amusement parks run by Cedar Fair and Six Flags refuse to get on board (they are the dinosaurs of the industry). Every other company has put new emphasis on story and immersion. I love it, and I can't wait to see more of it.

Not sure what any of those thoughts has to do with the subject of the thread, but I felt I should at least provide some comments in defense of the bleeding heart Disney fans at whom you seemed to be taking unnecessary jabs. This debate is very much Star Wars vs Harry Potter, not Disney vs Universal, for once.

So the question is, which kid-centric franchise do you like better? Me, I'll take Star Wars just because I was there in 1977 when Star Wars changed the world and it was INSANE. Harry Potter mania does not hold a candle to what happened back then...not even close.

October 7, 2012 at 1:45 PM · One problem is that a great novel (or series of novels) doesn't automatically translate into a great movie. Just look at the rather tepid response to Disney's efforts with the Narnia books. Look at earlier efforts to turn LOTR into movies (or animated features).

Each medium has its own challenges. When you have someone with a great vision, they turn out something which works in that medium. The Potter movie series worked because they central players (including JKR)kept the story at the center and didn't hesitate to change directors (based on the strengths of each director) to suit the central vision of what they wanted. Universal's HP works, in large part, because it kept to the central vision of the story and translated it into an immersive environment with a really good ride idea. (No one seems to mention that Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge are, at best, OK rides. A few props scattered around doesn't make a ride).

Flip side is that so-so movies can turn into great rides. Look at The Mummy at Universal - great ride. Highly immersive, good ride system. The movies were OK, but not great.

TSM is a great ride. But other than the "toy" theme, what connection does it have to the Toy Story plots? Ditto MIB - other than blasting aliens, what does it have to do with the actual story? Not much.

If it were simply a strong franchise, someone would have a James Bond land somewhere. Why don't they? Think about what it could support - a car chase? Titanic? Anyone want to go down with the ship?

Disney has lots of movies in the can which they draw upon. Unfortunately, they seem to lack creativity these days. Add to it suits who seem to be obsessed with building hotels and restaurants and you have a serious lack of original ideas.

Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Space Mountain, Big Thunder all came from the imagination of someone. They didn't try to force a movie to work in a ride. Maybe the Imagineers need to be inspired to come up with ideas *not* tied to movies.

October 7, 2012 at 4:45 PM · First: Rob Pastor, thanks man appreciate that!! I was waiting the first comment to be on the hater "how dare you" side. (lol) It wasn't! Thanks!

Second: David Ackerman, YES absolutely truth, that's the point, it's not a franchise VS franchise on a vacuum comparison. It's an adaptation of a name, franchise, or theme, and how that's translated to the theme park going experience. That's "part" of what makes a HR, on a Theme Park. It's not a name, character, or a movie. Agreed...

Third: James Rao, OK, now I just wanted to say I didn't name names, but if the "Mouse ears fit"... (lol) Now to my point and again (I'm not sorry about the comment of the Disney closeted fans that get mad) to use your words:

"Universal Fan Boys get very sensitive when you say anything negative about the Warner Bros franchise that saved Islands of Adventure." - James Rao

Wow!! If that isn't evidence enough:
"but I felt I should at least provide some comments in defense of the bleeding heart Disney fans at whom you seemed to be taking unnecessary jabs." - James Rao

Again, you are clearly not of them right? (wink,wink) But yet, you found, it was necessary to provide some type of "defense" for the "poor old thousand (if not millions) of Disney "only" fans around the world... Ha,ha!! James, I think Disney fans will still be alright, and will continue to flock the Disney doors even if Disney hasn't come with "a renaissance in themed entertainment" lately. They really haven't... I really don't see where it's such "a renaissance in themed entertainment world lately going on. Again, Cars Land, great!! ME, LIKES!! (lol) Renaissance? Since "HP" at other park other than Universal? I really don't see it, unless you are counting MK expansion, which I don't. If you are, I'll conceived part of that point. But, since I don't see it that way... I don't see them catering at all to other folk which mostly don't like Princesses anymore. (Again, I understand there's a market for that, I'm not hating on them capitalizing on that market) That's just not me, and is not many people either. The one thing is that I didn't take an unnecessary jab... I took a "NECESSARY Uppercut". If is stings a little well maybe... I'm just saying.

That's part of the of the point don't get mad at Universal (Disney fans) for HP and throw a little dirt over them with things like: it won't last, or it's not as good as Star Wars, or Universal doesn't make things the way Disney does them. That's the point Universal seems to be coming up, Disney seems to be a little stale at the moment in the "renaissance" department. So I would said to that: Universal doesn't make things how Disney does them, mainly because Disney lately is not doing them at all... Again I'm really not hating on Disney, although Disney only (or mostly) fans would think other wised. Disney fans LOVE Disney, that's not based on a analysis of Disney offerings VS what others are coming up with. If they do a fair analysis, it many times still feels like they're demeaning the competition a little. With comments like the ones mentioned before...

Again I'm NOT saying that ALL Disney fans are like this, many aren't and they don't do this things, but MANY do. It's only fair to hear spirited comments from the other side too. No? But then they get mad. Why? It's LOVE man, L-O-V-E. I give you and example, on the other post "somebody" said if you're not happy with what Disney (I think it was Epcot) is doing, don't go... Which to me seems like a rational statement, but the reply was: Not GO? Are you crazy!! See, it's LOVE, and when you're in love you ignored the little signs, like if they not paying that much attention to you anymore, or they don't love you in the same way you do love them. Need a little example: have you seen AK, or Epcot, with anything new at a big scale lately?(lol) People should get "a little" hate in towards Disney, especially, E-S-P-E-C-I-A-L-L-Y, Disney fans since they are the ones getting more of the neglect... (since they won't go anywhere else but Disney.) But they can't!!! They can't, Disney continues the status quo, and it is totally STILL the king. But if people continue to flock the gates they won't feel it any other way. So what if they have disappointment over the fact that Beastly Kingdome didn't get made, or the Yeti doesn't get fixed. If they continue to flock to AK, Who cares? See the direct relation?

A comparison about HP and Star Wars although interesting (and passionate) is some what a moot point, since Star Wars it's mostly Star Tours and yet HP it's a full land, again full, (although not extremely big) but still expanding. Does it really matter how good or lasting are those movies or books are, to put in use at the Theme Park going folk level? It's it related? Absolutely!! But to "Robert's point is about what those franchises do for "the gate at the park, and sales" for that particular park or franchise. It really doesn't matter if Anakin could kick Harry's behind.(lol) The comparison should be something like: how many more fans, does the "HP attractions" (not movies) bring to the parks, compared to what Star Wars or the competitions similar franchise or theme, does to that particular parks based attractions, rides, or land, at the gate or for the general Theme Park going experience.

Since the experience we get as Theme Park fans is about what we get from it when we go to the theme parks. Who cares if Anakin, it's a better hero than Harry? It's how do you relate to those characters "IN PERSON", when you go to the park... It's like having a book in a foreign language being great, but then when it's translated to your language it's garbage. Does it really matters it was great in the Original language? No! I mean it does, if you can read it in that original language. But it doesn't if you can't. It's a translation of a story, name, franchise, to our enjoyment, it's not such a story, movie, or book plot in a vacuum. So a HP VS Star Wars comparison it's all good as long as you're comparing movies VS movies or books or TV series. If you are comparing parks translations of such stories to theme parks attractions, meaning: Star Tours VS The Wizarding World of HP, then "YES" you're comparing Disney against Universal. Really another comparison it's just an imaginative one, since those are the attractions that exist in reality. Not in potential like a Star Wars Land. That's not Universal's fault, they made The Wizarding World, it's Disney's fault. They're the ones that don't care you guys think Star Wars would be a better hit than HP. That's not Universal's business, it's Disney's... I don't enjoy that!! For me as a "Theme Park fan", is more HP... NICE!! If Disney would make a Star Wars Land. Or something comparable. GREAT!!! More things to be enjoyed!!! I wouldn't hate on Disney for doing that!!! I'm critiquing Disney for "NOT" doing, not as it seems Disney fans critique Universal for doing...

But a comparison like that really says a theme park attraction will last or be a hit for sure? No. See, the "James Bond example", great franchise, huge following, not great theme park success. How about Spider Man at IOA, Spiderman, huge hit, with a huge cult following but would it really matter if the attraction was garbage? Not to the Theme Park fans. I really don't think so... It's like Dr. Doom, he's is a good character, still I don't see people voting for that attraction, as the best anything or going to the park to ride mostly that. Splash mountain is good attraction, I don't think most if any people go there for the characters, or the story... It's just an enjoyable ride. Again Disney fans shouldn't be mad at Universal, or need to compare Star Wars with HP in a "Theme Park talk" if HP will last or not. That's Universal's business, and fans that will go to enjoy HP, "not theirs", fans that won't go to Universal no matter what and if they do it would be hating. They shouldn't take that frustration against Universal, or HP. They should be mad at Disney that they don't give them a "Star Wars Land", Beastly Kingdome, or something comparable to HP,(other than the new Princesses Land) to make a apple against apples comparison. Cause as it stands, in a real Theme Park attractions setting, it's not...

October 7, 2012 at 4:47 PM · Forgot to put name!! Duh!
Really long comment about don't hate on Universal... Was me:


October 7, 2012 at 7:35 PM · Francisco, talk about blinders! Universal's IOA has only one new ride addition since June of 2006 (Forbidden Journey). One. You're touting the virtues of a park that has been largely stagnant for six years and you say love has made me blind? Seriously?

Look, you may not believe it, but I do love Universal Orlando. If you really want to quote me you should do a search for some of my pre-Wizarding World posts where I valiantly extolled the virtues of Universal Orlando, especially for those visitors willing to splurge for an onsite vacation. I have been a staunch defender of Universal since 2007 when I first visited and rode Spider-Man, the best attraction ever constructed. But there is no need for me to defend Universal now, because you aren't attacking them. So, I defended my other love, Disney (yes, I love Disney - and I have never been in the closet about that love - ask anyone who posts regularly on this site for the last five years). Is there something wrong with having a love for both companies? (Incidentally, I also love two Herschend Parks, Silver Dollar City and Dollywood - it is a vicious love triangle, but I am man enough to handle all three competitors).

And yes, the fact of the matter is that Universal has many fan-boys now, who do get easily riled (case in point) at anyone who is even slightly judgmental of their new favorite theme park company. However, I won't let that bandwagon fanbase impact my opinion of Universal Orlando: apart from the Wizarding World, the parks are sparsely themed, poorly maintained, provide spotty customer service, mostly lousy food, and underwhelming line management. I still love their parks, but Universal is best at individual attraction design, not at whole park experiences (which is where Disney excels).

As for a renaissance in themed entertainment, just take a look at the increased level of detail in new and upcoming attractions like Radiator Springs Racers, "Tron" Track, Storybook Circus, Verbolten, Turtle Trek, Despicable Me, Antarctica, and yes, of course I will include the New Fantasyland expansion. How can I not? It looks breathtaking. There is no way to deny that the success of the Wizarding World has led to increased emphasis on story and immersion at many of the world's major theme parks. To do so is to deny the facts.

Now, when you tell me I can't argue about Star Wars vs Harry Potter independent of Disney vs Universal in a discussion thread talking specifically about entertainment franchises... that seems a bit odd. I completely missed your point there.

As for the rest of your post... come on... that was just too long. I'm trying to watch football here, brother.

October 7, 2012 at 8:16 PM · James, It is extremely long cause I don't want to be seemed as if I'm against Disney, I'm not. So "short and sweet", so is easily followable. Disney is a better experience the whole day, food, theme in general. In short? Yes. Although I would debate the whole day experience since I love attractions, and that features into my whole theme park experience. More importantly it features into my I'm going to Orlando for that experience. Something that clearly HP thrives at. So although I want to go to Disney to "hang out" cause It's beautiful, I don't necessarily want to ride many rides (at this time) in any of the parks anymore.

About IOA, well they did the Wizarding World, although you said is only the forbidden Journey, the theming takes time... Right? I mean that's the reason Disney takes forever in doing most type of stuff. Isn't it? Universal Orlando had plenty of things done the last years, and now it seems some love is going to Hollywood. To, AK, Epcot? And if you're not one of those closeted Disney fans, then I guess you shouldn't feel I was talking about you. Since it would seemed, I wasn't... The same way I don't feel threatened in any way by your comment about the fan-boys.

Let me put it this way, I will go to see The new Harry Potter Land, Empire of the Penguin and especially Transformers. Avatar if made, and if I could Cars Land too. I totally would! I'm not excited about the MK expansion at all, and couldn't care less if it looks beautiful. I would see it, if I was already at MK. But I won't go to Orlando for just that!!I just can't get excited about Ariel anymore... Maybe that's just me, but I don't think it's just me.

We disagree I'm not surprised, since saying that I disagree with "your view" in many of the other posts: is like saying the Pacific Ocean, it's a small pond...

October 7, 2012 at 8:31 PM · Again forgot to put name... But back on point:
How that franchise translates into a Theme Park experience, it's way more important that from were it's originally from. So in theme park talk it's Star Tours VS Wizarding World. Or any other thing Disney has brought to the table lately. I'm just disappointed in the direction they took the expansion. Until Disney does Avatar , a Star Wars Land, Beastly Kingdome, a Lord of the Rings, or a bigger Pixar Place. I don't think it's fair to compare. Because the comparison really is Disney's potential of development "in theory/fantasy" (of say Star Wars,) VS the "reality" of and Expanding HP Universe...


October 7, 2012 at 8:46 PM · I am not sure which of my posts you disagree with as I have touted both Universal and Disney in everything I have written. If you would rather I just write Universal Rulz Disney Droolz, you've got the wrong guy. I like all good theme parks.

What do you mean you don't like Ariel? Dude, she's hot!

And yes, it is just you.

October 7, 2012 at 11:05 PM · I think the question being discussed has been lost in the war of universal vs disney argument; i will tell my personal experience; i was a universal fan, i dont live in the US and its not a short trip, every year i spend my vacations in orlando, and after the first 2 years i decided not to go to disney and instead only to IOA and Universal studios, there was something magical about entering jurassic park, or going inside the delorean. So they had great themed areas with JP, Marvel land, etc; but the attendance was low, until they decided to build potter land; since then everything they have done has been in order to remain popular and in the process lost the original charm. what do i mean:

1- changing BTTF for the simpsons, dont get me wrong, i love the simpsons as much as anyone, theres a reason they are in their 22th season. But by removing bttf the feeling of living in the movies you love was taken from us, and making the hole movie themed useless
2- expanding harry potter, even with me having all the hate in the world for harry potter i understood at the time that more attendance means more cash and that would allow to spread it to other attractions. Boy was i wrong, they decided to remove jaws (another movie experience) for more potter, im so hoping it backfires and in 10 years they would have to re theme that hole area.
3- The Lost world in IOA will just be another casualty of potterland

Those are just a few examples of universal going into a different direction from the one i used to love

Since then, i saw disney do things in a better way:

1- This is in comment of the star wars vs potter: While universal saw that potter would increase attendance, disney recognizes that people dont go to their parks just for star wars, so spending a money in star wars land wont really increase their attendance by that much
2- so what they did was to update it, not to remove it like universal did with bttf, jaws, and will propably do with terminator and others
3- They expanded, fantasy land looks great, they add more than they substract, that is not so with universal
4- they know who each park are marketed to, universal decided that movie lovers where not their main costumers anymore, only potter fans are now, and evey move they make is an indication of that.

Sorry for the wall of text, any franchise can be a good theme park land, like jurassic park, but not all good theme park lands bring the same number of people or general attention. In my case i prefer to give my money to disney because i see them doing better things (fantasyland) than to contribute one more cent for universal to expand potter land into potter world.

October 8, 2012 at 4:46 PM · Realisation of the Book/Film franchise into an immersive theme park environment constitutes the major determinant of the resulting success. The basic point of adapting a franchise is that it usurps guests familiarity and emotional investment in an intellectual property to augment the first person experience. As such the popularity of a franchise prior to theme park admission will color, but not dictate, the experience.

I happen to like Cars and just tolerate Cars 2.
I am ambivalent towards Transformers in its Michael Bay incarnation.

The sheer scale of Cars Land, rock work, neon and detail was awe inspiring. Similarly, I must say Buena Vista street, also in DCA, transported me. In contrast the milleu of Transfirmers at USH is bland. The attraction is technologically staggering and a sensory whirl, more so than Spirdrrman at IOA. Given its new tech and seamless execution I would probably say Transformers is a better ride, but the immersion, story and setting of Cars Land makes it seem far better. As, in the end, any analysis is by definition subjective - Cars wins out.

I very much enjoy Harry Potter and Star Wars. I would pick Potter simply for the excellent movie casting.
Star Tours was groundbreaking at the time it opened. Star Tours II is a fantastic ride and the 50+ combinations keep it fresh.
The WWoHP has the immersion, staging and story that lifts an excellent ride (a touch better than Star Tours) to something approaching Cars Land. It falters with Dragom Challemge and The Flight of the Hippogrif thanks to their prosaic previous incarnations.

If you feel the need to qualify your preference for Disney or Universal you really aren't likely to be sufficiently analytical to comment. Cars is second only to Star Wars in merchandise revenue, vastly exceeding Box Office gross... neither that, nor books, nor film reception can absolutely estimate the cultural and emotional power of a franchise to bolster the in-park experience.

I love great theme park design, innovation and reinvention. If nothing else franchises' "safe bet" opens the corporate purse strings to give enough money for creativity to breathe.

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