Disney's Star Wars vs. Universal's Harry Potter, in One Photo
If you'd like to see the differences between Disney and Universal's treatment of the most popular film franchises in their theme parks, illustrated in one photo, here you go:
Can you imagine a Universal Studios T-shirt depicting Voldemort on the Caro-Seuss-el? Or Minions in wizard robes? It's impossible to imagine J.K. Rowling allowing such trivialization of the Wizarding World and its inhabitants.
But George Lucas long has shown a great acceptance of irreverence toward his Star Wars characters. After all, you can't greenlight the Star Wars Holiday Special if you're taking your characters too seriously. Let's not forget other examples of Lucas and his team poking fun, or at least allowing others to poke fun, at the Star Wars universe: the Stand Up to Cancer spoof, Death Star PR, Spaceballs, and possibly the most irreverent officially-blessed Star Wars take-off ever, Disney's Hyperspace Hoopla. There's some great stuff about Lucas' tolerance, and even enthusiasm, for spoofs in the new book How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, and author Chris Taylor talked in an interview with The New Yorker about how a desire to be more serious in the prequels weighed down the "effervescent giddiness" of the original films.
In contrast, perhaps the closest that J.K. Rowling, with her drier British wit, has come to satirizing her creation was a guest appearance on "The Simpsons" that made fun of her fans more than her works. Sure, there's abundant humor in the Harry Potter world, but even when a gag takes you out of that world (hello, "spell-o-tape," a joke that about 1 in 100 Americans gets), it's never reduces the Wizarding World to tropes like putting Darth Vader in a Space Mountain rocket.
The irony, of course, is that traditionally it's been Universal that's been known for abundant irreverence and sarcasm in its theme park attractions while Disney has properties with much more earnest respect. If there were any doubt that we're living in a moment when franchises dominate the theme park industry, let's consider these examples of Star Wars and Harry Potter — franchises so powerful that they made Disney irreverent and Universal take something seriously.
I think this isn't so much "Disney vs Universal" as it is "Lucas vs Rowling". I don't believe for a second that Universal would think twice about selling a Despicable Me/Harry Potter crossover shirt if Rowling allowed it.
I agree Brian. If Universal had licensing permission from Rowling, I think they'd milk this as much as they could.
I don't get it where Universal cheapscates their ip, could you please give me an explanation?
I actually like those shirts. No way I'd ever buy them, but they're good for a laugh. No one buys a t-shirt in a theme park to be taken seriously, so why not get one that's funny, even if it is irreverent? I would actually encourage Disney and Universal to keep making them.
I give Universal credit for allowing the fans to enjoy the ip without hawking it at them with overpriced cupcakes, useless popcorn holders, and character dining.
The difference is the audience, not the creators or the parks. Harry Potter is for children and as such is a sincere (if not serious) attempt to not only tell a story but to teach lessons about tolerance, bravery, and ethics. Not something to be made fun of, when you think about it. Star Ward was and is ultimately for adults, who get iconoclastic humor. Also note that Star Wars humor is directed at authoritarian figures of evil, like storm troopers and Darth Vader, which is a narrative device a bit too subtle for the under 13 crowd. Harry Potter is for children, and the bad guys are a reflection of nazism and racism. And nobody is ready to make light of that any time soon, at least not officially. You will find plenty of Voldemort mockery amongst older fans, but you won't find it at the park. And honestly - it's not necessary. It's a completely delightful experience taken at face value.
I agree with the first commnet by Brian. I don't think Universal would hesitate a second, to capitalize on the popularity of the Harry Potter brand in other ways, such as silly T-Shirts, posters, etc.
I was just talking about how Disney has made a childish laughing stock of Star Wars... Darth Vader doing the "Running Man" dance on stage with Stormtroopers? And as for speculation as to how Universal would handle the same situation...really? Disney and Lucas have sunk to a new low.
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