Why Shanghai Disneyland Should Make All Disney Fans Happy

July 15, 2015, 2:09 PM · Let me start by saying, I am a fervent Disney fanatic. Like many of you, I party when Disney gets it right and scream and curse when they get it wrong. And, like many of you, I’ve been more than a little frustrated with the glacial pace at which changes are happening to most domestic Disney Parks and Disney’s apparent lack of drive to reinvest in those parks.

Sure we’ve got Disney Springs coming (yes, it is a plussed outdoor mall and shameless cash grab you can’t ride) but it’s a major investment. Yeah, Avatarland is coming (was it just a knee jerk reaction to Universal’s Wizarding World?) Maybe, but I’m not going to look an E-Ticket gift-horse in the mouth. And we are on the cusp of a fanboy (or girl) wig-out when we finally hear what is happening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and a fantasied $3 billion dollar reinvention budget).

But I want more. That’s the thing about being a Disney fan. I want a new E-Ticket ride at Walt Disney World every year.

Unrealistic….maybe, but a (fan)boy can dream.

The truth is…the four WDW parks are competing with seven (now eight, with Shanghai) other parks for investment. And while there is plenty of money to throw around -- as much as we will deny this -- Disney is being very thoughtful and strategic about when and where.

Map of Shanghai Disneyland

With Tuesday’s announcement of the attraction line-up at the new Shanghai Disneyland Resort, I was excited like I haven’t been in a long time. Here is a giant new Disney park with a really expansive line up of attractions for a park to open with on day one. So I thought back to all my griping and whining over the course of the last few years, and while I already knew this (I had somehow locked the thought up in my own personal Disney Vault)... duh…Disney has basically deployed every resource it has in Parks and Resorts to Shanghai to get this thing done not just right…but perfect.

Gardens of Imagination
The Enchanted Storybook Castle and Gardens of Imagination at Shanghai Disneyland. All concept art courtesy Disney

Everything from the concept art to Iger’s carefully crafted language reeks of classic Disney awesomeness: detailed, magical, and uncompromisingly perfectionistic. For the first time in a long time, it feels like Disney Parks and Resorts has its groove back and I’m grinning ear to ear.

Treasure Cove
Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disneyland, home of the new Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle of the Sunken Treasure ride

Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle of the Sunken Treasure
Concept art for inside Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle of the Sunken Treasure

So as Disney races to the finish line and opening day at Shanghai Disneyland, I’m feeling not only optimistic about what is coming for domestic parks, but downright giddy. If Shanghai looks that good, I can’t wait to see what they’re about to unveil on home turf. So for the immediate future at least, I’m going to give Disney a break, and hopefully sit back and enjoy (the Star Wars) ride.


Replies (51)

July 15, 2015 at 2:38 PM · Some of you guys just can't quit making excuses for Disney's leadership of the past 12 years.
How long can you pretend to be excited about trashcans and sidewalks and signage being moved around? Very sad.
You can all thank Universal's leadership of the past 10 years for getting WDW off their collective rumps, if they do get up.
23 years since a new E Ticket ride at MK!
When was the last E Ticket attraction built at WDW? Wake up guys.
All the Universal Parks are building and innovating and theming EVERY year and they don't take 3 years to build a kiddie coaster and you guys keep making excuses for WDW.
July 15, 2015 at 3:06 PM · WOW could not agree more.
July 15, 2015 at 3:19 PM · You can always count on Disney vs. Universal fandom to bring out a "wake up sheeple" from the crowd.

This looks incredible.

July 15, 2015 at 3:33 PM · At this point for the magic kingdom to get a new e ticket something would have to be taken out, and aside from laugh floor and stitches escape there isn't that much to move. Disney hasn't been moving at universal's pace, but at the same time when they do come out with new material it's not just a 3D simulator. Animal kingdom is getting the additions it needs and Hollywood studios is rumored to get a major overhaul. That's great. Just give Epcot some updates (cough figment and Ellen cough cough) and I'd be hard pressed to find a negative thing to say about wdw
July 15, 2015 at 4:01 PM · It seems very odd that Disney is suddenly revealing any details about its new Shanghai Disneyland while it’s still under construction, one year away from opening, and even before they know when they’re going to complete construction.

I don’t remember Disney revealing its plans to the public ahead of time like this before the official unveiling to the press just a day or two before the official grand opening to the public.

Could this all be a red herring to distract the public away from its pedophile story at Disneyland the day before? Source: DisneyHub(dot)blogspot(dot)com.

July 15, 2015 at 4:20 PM · I have to say, Universal has lit a fire under Disney... you can all thank them by checking out Hogsmeade / Diagon Alley.
July 15, 2015 at 5:02 PM · Nope ... There is no connection between attraction development schedules on Disney's Central Forida property and Universal's. In fact if there is any real head-to-head competition between the two Orlando operations it would be in hotel sales -- and any objective analysis would have to conclude Disney is getting after it. Disney has invested millions of dollars upgrading and renovating its resort facilities. Universal is also attacking in resort sales market with the extraordinarily popular Cabana Bay resort, the new Saphire Falls and a likely hotel on I-Drive.


July 15, 2015 at 5:09 PM · I really don't care that there hasn't been a "E-ticket" ride at the Magic Kingdom for the past 23 years. In fact, I don't care if they go another 10 years without one. Out of all the parks in Orlando, the Magic Kingdom is the one I can spend a whole day in and never once feel like there should have been more to do. The other parks at WDW need some major TLC and I'd rather see them get all the attraction investments they deserve.

TH has been arguing for years that Shanghai and Orlando have been operating under different resources and budgets and I think he's right. With a company as big as Disney, they can afford to operate different projects at once while maintaining different cash pools without the need the dip into other projects.

July 15, 2015 at 5:20 PM · (Tips hat toward James)
July 15, 2015 at 6:57 PM · Yes, Avatar was in the works before Disney passed on Potter and Universal snagged it up. There is no shame in being a Disney apologist, the first step is admitting it, however.
July 15, 2015 at 7:21 PM · The Twitterverse was funny the last day about Shanghai Disneyland wondering how they can build a park without Starbucks, Pandora charms, Sunglass Hut or Frozen Summer Fun. How will those SDL visitors ever have a good time?
July 15, 2015 at 10:07 PM · No, Avatar wasnt in the works before the Potter decision. Wizarding World was announced in 2007 and opened in 2010. The Avatar film was released in late 2009 and became the biggest box office hit ever in the spring of 2010. The land was announced later that year after Potter opened.

Shanghai Disneyland looks great! Oh and by the way I consider the new mine train at Magic Kingdom an E-ticket. Why? Well I enjoyed it immensely and because its a prototypical attraction everyone can enjoy, just like Walt wanted many moons ago. Very well done too.

So last E-Tickets at WDW parks:
Magic Kingdom: Seven DMT- 2014
Epcot: Soarin- 2005, Mission Space- 2003
DHS: (Is star tours 2.0 an e-ticket?) Rock n Roller Coaster 1999
Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest- 2006

July 15, 2015 at 11:34 PM · For me the frustration is in the massive lopsidedness of investment and creativity that China is getting when compared to Disney Worldn
, and to a lesser extent Paris. For example New Fantasyland could have been amazing. But instead they cut and pasted DCAs mermaid ride where it doesn't belong and at the last minute rushed in the mine train (how closing a Snow white dark ride and opening a new Snow white kiddie coaster makes any sense is beyond me).

Then Animal Kingdoms best ride operates in B mode for nearly a decade now while Avatar takes nearly a decade to construct.

Then DHS has half of it's park closed while we all wait for a "rumored" expansion.

And of course Epcot, beautiful Epcot. She gets a cheap Tron overlay to Test Trak instead of getting Shanghai's awesome new light cycle coaster, and a cheap Frozen overlay when tokyo is getting a full land and I'd imagine a completely original attraction.

But of course China gets 7 all original e tickets within a decade haha. It's definitely a great time to be Chinese!

July 16, 2015 at 3:47 AM · You hit the nail on the head, Bryan, far as I am concerned. Nice article. And honestly, what themed entertainment fan (or Coaster Boy, for that matter) isn't excited about the state of our amusement/theme park industry these days????
July 16, 2015 at 5:37 AM · Again, Disney has invested millions of dollars upgrading and renovating its WDW resorts to attract guests that will stay on property. If guests stay at WDW resorts they will visit WDW parks -- sustaining its attendance numbers and market share as effectively as adding new attractions.

WDW's business strategy and park development schedule is not affected by Universal's decisions to add attractions.


July 16, 2015 at 4:12 AM · Great article, Bryan. I too am very excited about all the things going on at Disney around the world. My hope is that Shanghai can be as good as Tokyo Disney Sea. Will definitely be visiting when it opens.
July 16, 2015 at 5:52 AM · So Disney teams up with a state owned Chinese company - great move. I mean, doesn´t Disney stand for everything the chinese government also stands for? Maybe next time they could open a park in Tibet, from what I hear, the Tibetan people are desperately waiting for one...
July 16, 2015 at 8:14 AM · Shanghai Disneyland is a non-factor to most American theme park enthusiasts just like Hong Kong Disneyland and the Tokyo Disney Resort and the Paris Disney Resort simply because most Americans will never see them. So giving Disney kudos for building awesome parks overseas primarily with other corporations' money is an exercise in clapping with one hand. It's a useless gesture that only encourages the beancounters at Disney to continue their slow roll of the development and improvement of the American Disney parks.

And what do American theme park enthusiasts get out of all of this overseas development? Do we even merit a clone? Can anybody name a worthwhile ride or attraction that was originated in one of the overseas parks and brought back to the States? I can't.

I'm all for Disney making money, but the simple fact that not one of the ugly stepsister parks built in California or Florida or even Paris (resorts where corporate Disney calls the shots) pulls in more than 60% of the attendance of the namesake parks is a damning indictment of the fiscal cynicism of Disney. They've gone el cheapo on a large part of their target audience, and they make no apologies about it.

So, why do people continually justify and encourage this type of avaricious corporate behavior when it is in their best interest to disdain it? I just don't get it.

July 16, 2015 at 8:31 AM · Thanks, Tim, for expressing my thoughts exactly. Although, I do look forward to the magical day when solid attractions do come to U.S. parks.
July 16, 2015 at 8:37 AM · "Can anybody name a worthwhile ride or attraction that was originated in one of the overseas parks and brought back to the States?"

This does go both ways. Many US rides never made it overseas. Sometimes they end up different or better.

"They've gone el cheapo on a large part of their target audience, and they make no apologies about it."

To burst your bubble, Hong Kong and Paris have gone cheepo and are worse off than the US parks. Hong Kong was made too small. Disneyland in Paris was built in the wrong city and country and a too small studios park and too many hotels and not enough rides.

While I deplore how slow Disney World is adding attractions, the future is bright and we should look forward to it. It'll just take another ten years to realize it. And in Anaheim, we already have confirmation Disney will spend $1 billion or they will lose their ticket tax break. I imagine the rides will be wholly original with emphasis on Star Wars and Marvel.

July 16, 2015 at 10:56 AM · "WDW's business strategy and park development schedule is not affected by Universal's decisions to add attractions."

Didn't you say TEA's attendance report is inaccurate and that Universal's attendance is actually at parity with WDW's secondary parks?

While we can say your statement is probably true, the success of both Disney and Universal is raising the stakes and ushering a theme park prosperity cycle. Disney can't not invest. To not increase park capacity will leave money on the table. With this booming business, Wall Street demands greater spending that will lead to greater revenue and income.

In essence, Disney is competing with Universal/Comcast not only at the gates, but at the stock exchanges as well. The pressure is from all the stakeholders. It's almost like the theme park fans aren't even in the picture. Iger can safely ignore the fans. They are immaterial and a tiny voice.

Universal has made it's movies a force at the box office and successfully linked box office performance with theme park attractions and attendance. This is synergy that previously only Disney enjoyed. So Disney has met its match.

July 16, 2015 at 11:21 AM · Anon writes: "While we can say your statement is probably true, the success of both Disney and Universal is raising the stakes and ushering a theme park prosperity cycle. Disney can't not invest. To not increase park capacity will leave money on the table. With this booming business, Wall Street demands greater spending that will lead to greater revenue and income."

I Respond: Why would Disney's expanded spending on Disney Springs not impress Wall Street -- especially with tenant commitments from dozens of high-profile franchises? Why wouldn't Disney's expanded spending on resort expansion and renovation not impress Wall Street? Further, why wouldn't Disney Studios' sixth year of $3 billion-plus box office receipts not impress Wall Street? As for attractions at WDW, the expansion of Toy Story, the expansion of Soarin' the new Frozen attraction, the Avatar simulation attraction and the Avatar water attraction. Those additions will not impress Wall Street?

July 16, 2015 at 11:26 AM · It's hard to understand how someone can make the assessment that Disney has gone (ahem) "el cheapo."

First from a post offered up by Anon a few eeks back:

"Say goodbye to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios you have come to love over the years, and get ready to welcome with open arms the biggest theme park expansion Disney has ever set out to do. Details of Disney’s Hollywood Adventure are set to be rolled out at this year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim come August, but we’ve got the exclusive on some of the secrets The Mouse was trying to keep under wraps until then."

"Per our reliable source Uncle Walt, Disney’s board has approved $3 billion for a massive overhaul of the Studios park, complete with rebranding to better reflect the shift away from how movies are made to more how they live and breathe inside of us. Along with that money, we’ll be seeing the park dominated by STAR WARS, Pixar and Indiana Jones as a great deal of the park’s older attractions are put out to pasture and about six new ones are ushered in."

Then there's this ongoing work:

Wilderness Lodge – Guest Room Renovations.

Wilderness Lodge – Luxury Cottages.

Wilderness Lodge – Lakeside food and beverage restaurant.

Disney Springs retail expansion and food and beverage expansion (both the current work underway and the more than a dozen additions announced recently).

Disney Springs NBA experience

Disney Springs parking garages (with smart park features advising drivers where they can find available spaces).

Disney Springs - Civil construction (new bridges, the I-4 off ramp and additional roads, etc.).

Disney Springs - Pedestrian promenade (bridges).

Disney Springs - Pedestrian bridges (2) over new roads.

Polynesian Resort - Renovation of public spaces and guest rooms.

Polynesian Resort - Renovation of children's recreation center.

Polynesian Resort - Luxury bungalows.

Polynesian Resort - New pool area.

Polynesian Resort - Trader Sam's lounge.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Boardwalk Hotel - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Caribbean Beach Resort - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Caribbean Beach Resort - Pirate Suite guestroom renovations.

Disney Yacht Club - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Beach Club - Resort renovation.

Disney Beach Club - Beach Club Villas.

Disney Coronado Springs - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Night Time Entertainment.

Disney Animal Kingdom - African village expansion.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar simulator attraction.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar water attraction.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Themed area development (floating mountains, etc.)

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar food and beverage.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Pizzafari food and beverage.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar retail.

EPCOT - Soarin' expansion.

EPCOT - Frozen attraction.

EPCOT - Frozen character greeting.

Back of House - Laundry facility (along with other back-of-house construction).

Magic Kingdom - Hub hardscape Renovation.

Magic Kingdom - Ongoing paint and facade finishes Main Street USA.

Magic Kingdom - Jungle Cruise restaurant.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Black Box.

Disney Hollywood Studios - American Idol Theater renovation for 'Frozen' stage show.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Midway Mania expansion.

July 16, 2015 at 11:57 AM · "Why would Disney's expanded spending on Disney Springs not impress Wall Street"

This sounds like more of an agreement than a rebuttal. It is nice that Disney is spending all that money that earns plenty of money for Wall Street. This is what Disney does when it spends its money that Wall Street appreciates and theme park fans don't often see. You didn't see that I wrote... "It's almost like the theme park fans aren't even in the picture. Iger can safely ignore the fans. They are immaterial and a tiny voice."

"First from a post offered up by Anon a few eeks back"

Did I offer it up? I certainly did not write it. I don't disagree with it.

What does your response has anything to do with my comments on Hong Kong and Paris parks that was cheepo. Worse is they went cheep and it isn't even Disney's money at stake. It was mostly foreign or government money that financed these projects.

July 16, 2015 at 1:17 PM · The "cheapo" response was in regard to Mr. Hillman's post.
July 16, 2015 at 1:36 PM · Since I made the comment about Disney going "El Cheapo," I guess I'd better clarify it for you, TH, even though you already have a good idea where I'm coming from.

Before I start, I'd like to thank you for the "car sticker" list of improvements that Disney is making to Walt Disney World. I guess I always took it for granted that if you built a theme park or two you also build the infrastructure to go with them as well as throwing in a few hotels and restaurants, but in the case of Disney World it looks like the infrastructure and the revenue enhancers are the primary focus these days as only 9 out of the 40 projects you mentioned actually had anything to do with actual attractions.

Now, as to the "El Cheapo" part, that's a criticism of the relative state of the "ugly stepsister" parks when you compare them to the Magic Kingdom/Disneyland parks. Here's a list of the parks at Disney World, the year that they were built, and the number of attractions in each park:
1971 37 attractions Magic Kingdom
1982 17 attractions Epcot (w/o Frozen)
1989 14 attractions Disney's Hollywood Studios
1998 18 attractions Disney's Animal Kingdom (w/o Avatar attractions)

Pretty scary when you realize that right now the Magic Kingdom has twice as many attractions as any other park in the resort. Of course people have caught on to this as none of the secondary parks gets more than 60% of the attendance of the flagship park. Too bad single day admission prices don't reflect that fact. (Thank goodness for multi-day tickets!) So on the basis of Disney's Magic Kingdom/Disneyland standards, Disney has seriously underinvested in the rest of the resort.

Want to argue that it is hard to compete with Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom? That's fine. Let's compare the Universal parks in Florida with the "ugly stepsisters":
1990 25 attractions Universal Studios Florida
1999 24 attractions Islands of Adventure (w/o Kong)
Ouch! That's even worse! USF and IOA totally dominate Epcot, DHS, and DAK when it comes to attractions, and they are building quality attractions and lands on par with and even exceeding Disney levels. Heck, if you slapped a Disney nametag on these parks their attendance would probably double.

So has been Disney been "El Cheapo" by their own standards or by Universal's standards or by Oriental Land Company's standards? Absolutely! Has that relative cheapness been good for the bottom line? Without a doubt! That's why I maintain that the very smart people at Disney will do "just enough" to keep the well of goodwill from running dry and not a whole lot more because they don't have to. I don't like it, but you can't argue that it isn't good business because for Disney "just enough" works extremely well.

July 16, 2015 at 1:36 PM · James would rather spend a day at the MK than IOA.... Thanks, I needed a good laugh today...

Sure standing in line for 2 hours for a boat ride on POTC - Sure sounds like fun to me....

Disney has a lot of die hard fans, but Universal is gaining quickly..

July 16, 2015 at 3:23 PM · "Sure standing in line for 2 hours for a boat ride on POTC sure sounds fun to me."

First, ever heard of FP+? Second, at least it shows that Disney knows how to make family rides. The only family ride IOA has done right is Cat In The Hat. The only other family rides they have are a Tea Cups clone, a carnival spinner and one crappy train ride. Pretty embarrassing considering how hard Universal is trying to portray themselves as the world's most "cutting-edge" themed resort (which makes me laugh pretty hard) with truly state-of-the-art attractions.

You Universal fans really can't let us Disney fans have a single moment of celebration, can you? I'm willing to bet 20-30 years from now, Universal will have built such critical acclaim that they will slow down production just like Disney has. It's like that popular kid in high school. Sure, he's all hot and cool now, but fast forward a couple decades later...

July 16, 2015 at 3:32 PM · Oh good, it's been a while since I could make someone laugh. I thought I was just losing my comedian's touch. ;-)

If I had a full day to spend at either MK or IOA, then yes, I would choose the former. IOA, as great of a park it is and as much fun as I've had there, is severely lacking in entertainment. There are no parades to see when the midday crowds arrive. As lovely as the park is at night, the fact that there is no night show is a huge detractor. And outside of Seuss, there are no rides to sit on and take a breather.

If you think I'm a Disney die hard who's banging on Universal, you've got the wrong idea. If you've been paying attention to my recent posts, you'd have seen that I've been Road Housing Disney Peter Griffin-style for what they've been doing to Hollywood Studios. Further, I consider the Universal Studios one of only 3 full day parks in Orlando. It could, like IOA, just use some more relaxing rides the whole family can enjoy.

But you are right, I've been a Disney die hard since 2006 and a Universal die hard since 2009 (back before it was cool to be one).

July 16, 2015 at 4:45 PM · Assessing whether or not a construction project represents an "improvement" is an exercise in subjectivity. What is not in dispute is that the Disney company is investing billions of dollars in its Orlando property with the intention of enhancing the experience of its guests.

Again the list provided above makes that last assertion pretty much indisputable. An extraordinarily large amount of money has already been committed to these projects.

And from my perspective, if in the near future (lets say at D23 in August) Disney announces plans to expand (lets say by enlarging the Star Wars footprint in Florida, developing the concepts being nurtured by former Universal Creative vet Scott Trowbridge), the additional investment will also be north of a billion.

"Just enough?" Please.


July 16, 2015 at 5:18 PM · I used to spend a majority of our vacation at Disney, but now we seem to be going to Universal and bypassing Disney. Why. My daughter is now 16 and the lack of thrill rides at MK, second, staying on a Universal property, while more expensive, gives us front of the line access allowing us to ride great rides multiple times.
July 16, 2015 at 8:14 PM · Instead of this massive investment disney should have just opened the second gate in Hong Kong. All of these concepts would have worked just as well there. Why build a second resort in China when the first is barely starting to be profitable? Then if this resort struggles just like Paris and Hong Kong have guess what billions more will have to be spent to bring it up. Then all the Disneyphiles will be saying just wait a few more years for them to fix Shanghai well how many times do you have to hear that before you wake up?
July 16, 2015 at 8:37 PM · I'm not sure how much I can say here that hasn't been said, but it seems like WDW has become neglected in recent years and a lot of people's defense of that has been based on what the resort is working on and what they're going to do, not what they've done. And even some of that already seems like shots in the dark. Sure, Avatar fans may be excited about a land based on the movie, even if some people aren't. But in 2017, how can Disney be so sure that people will still care that much, especially if the delayed sequels bomb? As for Epcot, Disney fans have been mourning its "death" for years and the biggest addition it's getting isn't even a new ride, so it won't help the capacity issues there as much, not to mention the debate that's going on about the state of the World Showcase. As for DHS,we still don't know when this "reboot" will happen, but we're already disappointed by it since it will likely contain a clone of a Toy Story land that's already been criticized for being cheap overseas. Fainlly, there's Magic Kingdom, with a great attraction count, but a recent Fantasyland expansion that got mixed reviews at best. It's all just sad. I last went to Disney World way back in 2007, but I have yet to see a compelling reason to return. On my family's last trip to Orlando, we spent all of our time at Universal. Sure the resort has it's problems, but its track record in recent years attraction-wise is a heck of a lot better than Disney's. When asked about the two, I always tell people, "Disney has more to do, but Universal's best is better than Disney's best." I can see that's becoming more true all the time.
July 16, 2015 at 8:39 PM · Re: Hollis.

So your 16-year-old daughter prefers Universal, hmm? Just thought I'd let you know that I'm a 17-year-old boy and Magic Kingdom is my favorite park. Even as I have come to appreciate Universal's more mature setting, I've found that you can never truly outgrow Disney.

July 16, 2015 at 9:41 PM · Lord, why does this always devolve into a Disney vs. Universal match? SD looks fantastic. I'm betting that the clone of the castle/boat ride is the Avatar mountain/boat ride, and that's fantastic.

I'd put good money on whatever they're going to announce for DHS will be a re-themed clone of either the Pirates ride or the insane looking mountain ride (and probably the trackless tech,) and that's fantastic.

I'm Impressed that they went so whole hog with this, and truly created a park that captures the spirits of China and Disney, versus a clone of the MK. I love the grand circle. Fantastic.

Finally, I love that the MK is nearing twenty million visitors a year, and that the entire business model of WDW as upper class modern Catskills has proven to be dazzlingly successful, almost astonishingly so, considering the lack of E-ticket investment...and that MM+ is basically a Minority Report cash cow generationally for Disney, and yet Disney is running scared from Universal in the eyes of fan wanks. I love UO. I think they deserve every accolade they get. But WDW "on the ropes?" Hardly. One suspects that it's more rage that WDW continues to succeed despite making investments in places where the fan wank "community" doesn't like nor appreciates...and still people flock to the resort in ever higher numbers (and soon, with a fully operational Death St--MyMagic+, they'll make more per guest via tracking and cohort creation and micro targeting.)

Let it go, y'all. It's just a damned theme park.

July 17, 2015 at 1:09 AM ·
July 17, 2015 at 6:56 AM · Hey anonymous from cali - Thanks for making my point. Yes Universal has some family rides for all...

Now, I like MK but IOA is much better.... IOA has something for everyone. MK only has very tame family rides. Sometimes I want to go upside down and thrilled once in a while... Maybe actually get wet on a water ride...Not slightly splashed... MK is a huge turn off - too damn busy..
Sure use the Fast pass for a Boat ride....hahahahaha - Why not try a real boat ride like Jurassic park river adventure. Now that is worth the wait.

James - I know you like all parks and I appreciate your writings. Just having some fun with you...

July 17, 2015 at 6:44 AM · "Let it go, y'all. It's just a damned theme park."

Why are you even on this site, then?

July 17, 2015 at 9:33 AM · It will always turn into a Disney / Universal debate.... look at what Universal had done in a few short years. You could sit here and tell me Disney was planning massive expansions in Orlando before Universal set the bar to a ridiculously high level until you are blue in the face.

We all know this is not Disney being proactive. This is their board of directors noticing their devoted followers finally make their way to UOR to see what the Potter expansion is all about.

Long time Disney die hards who would never have "gone to the dark side" so to speak, are realizing their beloved company is content to leave things exactly they way they are as long as they are making money.

I am sure a lot of them hoped Potter would fail. By that I mean meager jumps in attendance and it would take ten years to recoup the cost. UOR would not look like it does today because of one bad decision by Disney. That is a fact.

The irony of having something you could easily afford slip right through your hands, while possibly putting a dagger in your competition's chest (because of ego and creative control issues), puts a huge grin on my face every time I think about it. I can picture the Imagineers meeting right after they saw the helicopter view of the line for Hogsmeade stretch all the way through the CityWalk to the Universal gate.

July 17, 2015 at 10:00 AM · @NB - Totally agree!

@TH – We actually agree. I appreciate the infrastructure improvements and believe like you that they will enhance the guest experience. Where we differ is in the mixture of the capital investments according to infrastructure vs. attractions. For far too many years Disney has underinvested in the attractions and overspent on the revenue enhancers in the Florida parks. As you have said, this is a subjective assessment, but for many of us it has become glaringly apparent that Disney is selectively reducing the value of a visit to their resorts in an effort to garner the most income from their patrons. While this is good business, it does not necessarily demonstrate goodwill, and Disney relies heavily on goodwill in marketing their products. When the babyboomers move into the sunset, this may pose a problem for the generations that didn’t grow up on a diet of Uncle Walt and the Wonderful World of Disney.

@ – On this site, we are theme park wonks NOT theme park wanks. Please check your Urban Dictionary before using that term again.

As far as why does it always turn into a Disney vs. Universal issue on so many threads? That’s easy to explain. It’s not the Universal fans going after Disney for doing “just enough” and ripping the Disney fans for being apologists for Disney. It’s the disenchanted Disney fans who are on the tirades. Do you really think any of us Disney critics started out as Universal fans? Not hardly! We’re some of the biggest Disney fans out there, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t consider the value of what we’re getting from Disney, and when that value declines, we’re quick to point it out because we care about the company and the product.

Disney keeps setting themselves up for the potshots because the parks they’ve built over the last three decades have been mostly substandard by Disney’s own criteria. It didn’t matter much to the thinking Disney enthusiasts as long as we could say that it’s really hard to make a park as phenomenal as the Magic Kingdom, but then Universal built Islands of Adventure and later upgraded both Florida parks with Harry Potter attractions, and it changed the perception of what to expect for a non-Magic Kingdom/Disneyland park for a lot of us. To really make things worse, Disney built arguably the best theme park in the world other than a MK/DL style park with someone else’s money when they put built Tokyo DisneySea.

The Disney parks in Central Florida should be the crown jewels of the Disney empire but they are starting to look more like Cinderella and the ugly stepsisters, and it is going to take far more than a few Avatar rides in DAK and Star Wars attractions in DHS and Frozen overlays and Meet and Greets in Epcot before the Disney corporation stops looking like a cheapskate or the franchise king of the theme park industry.

TH Creative is fond of quoting the date 2021 for when Disney will finish putting the shine on the Florida parks. I think he’s right, but it shouldn’t stop there. How about another number? Why not the number 6 billion? Because that’s how much investment it is going to take to bring the ugly stepsisters up to Universal standards or DisneySea standards.

July 17, 2015 at 10:10 AM · I think an interesting point to make as well is that we are making comparisons to current Universal and current Disney. By the time Disney has fully completed plans that are still rumored at this point to improve the Orlando parks, where will Universal parks be? That's an eternity away for them in terms of the speed in which they add high-value, attendance-spiking attractions. Disney might already be behind by the time they get around to rumored improvements.
July 17, 2015 at 10:12 AM · Well said, Tim....
July 17, 2015 at 11:06 AM · "On this site, we are theme park wonks NOT theme park wanks. Please check your Urban Dictionary before using that term again."

No, I got it right. It's masterbatory to express that rage, and it's quick, easy, and requires limited effort to get off.

And the response just proved my point. Yes, we all see the disinvestment at Disney parks, and recently, especially in WDW. But, as said before, the powers that be HAVE been investing, just not in the areas that you would perhaps like. And people still keep on a-coming, and coming back, and coming back again. Whether that's just historical paradigm or the art of the deal or a preference for Disney IP or just a love of the creaky old dark ride...or perhaps the decades making build up of the WDW multi day vacation crowd...who is to say? What one CAN say is that however Disney has chosen to invest in Orlando has clearly, plainly and profitably paid off. Because more people are going to their "tired" theme parks than ever.

And it's that fact, that refusal of the public to reject WDW for not hitting the standard they once defined...that there's no punishment but in fact a reward for the company...that powers this masterbatory rage. (And yes, duh. You'd have to be a complete tool to not recognize that UO is killing it in their execution.)

But, as a theme park wonk and fan, the rage and vitriol against Disney gets just as tiresome as the blind Jonestown defense OF Disney.

New Fantasyland was ripped to shreds...and while the thrill ride lover in me would have liked one of those E tickets, the theme park wonk in me sees a land that appeals to kids that features some pretty damned great, expensive, and expansive themeing going on there! So, freakin' offer those props. While Avatar isn't my cup of tea as a franchise, it sure as heck looks as if Disney is dropping a bucket of time, cash and thought into creating a "Disney" quality experience. Is it really that hard to just recognize that?

The point being is that the anti-Disney masterbatory rage serves nothing, and worse, it de legitimizes whatever valid points one might have to make as a theme park wonk. Instead of coming across as measured, everyone rolls their eyes at yet another sticky volley of hate, just as they do when someone rants about how awesome the Frozen Fun Outlet Mall and Plushy Shopping Experience is at DHS.

So, yeah. Shanghai Disneyland? Looks awesome. As theme park wonks, we should all celebrate it, as well as obvious, dramatic improvements in budgets, scope and quality that have happened over at Disney, in general (and we should absolutely give props to Universal for being the catalyst for this, as well.)

But, again,,stop with the wank rage. There are so many REAL things to be angry about in the world to bring that useless rage into the realm of theme parks where we all escape to feel joy, yes?

(Prepares to duck.)

July 17, 2015 at 11:48 AM · No,, you got it wrong.

Sign in. Get a handle. Stop using ill-phrased and poorly applied, psycho-sexual analogies, and learn to understand obvious distinctions between valid criticisms and fan-boy hate.

Until then, your opinions, even the carefully considered positions, are for lack of a better word, de-legitimate.

July 17, 2015 at 12:13 PM · Another way to get taken seriously on this site,, is to use a spell-checker. Your psycho-sexual logic looks even more ridiculous when you can't even manage to spell one of your favorite words correctly. Here, I'll help U figUre it oUt.
July 17, 2015 at 1:04 PM · Tim, I really appreciate how respectful and rational that comment was. And in many ways, you're kinda right. So I will try my best to be just as respectful as I offer a point of view from the other side of the token.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with new attractions. Always nice to switch things up a bit every now and then. But I dare ask: does a lack of new attractions truly make for a bad park? Now, if in addition to not building new attractions, you don't keep your already existing attractions up to date, that's practically begging for failure. That's what Disney does. Constantly updating old attractions so that they will be enjoyed by future generations. WDW has been having a slow trickle of new attractions. But when you go to WDW, does the lack of attractions completely ruin your day? No, it doesn't. Some people might get sick of riding the same thing over and over, but I personally don't mind that much as long as those rides are still awesome. And I think the fact that they're devoting more resources to infrastructure is a good investment. Say what you will about FP+, but at least it shows that (to some extent) Disney does care about their visitors. Now, of course, Disney needs to be building new rides now more than ever if they wanna keep their attendance above Universal, and whether or not Frozen and Avatar match Harry Potter, it's definitely a step in the right direction.

One common (but understandable) misconception is that Disney fans don't realize Disney is trying really hard to clean out their pockets. I've met Disney fans more hardcore than me (which is saying something) and they aren't afraid to admit that fact. But when you think about it Universal isn't much better. I think it's no coincidence that both of their American locations are practically right next door to Disney's, and I highly doubt I'm the only one.

But the biggest reason why I think Disney is better is that Universal doesn't have something for everyone. Yes, their thrill rides are pretty outstanding, but their family rides for the most part are pretty terrible. Disney on the hand has outstanding family rides. But what about their thrill rides? I've grown up in Tampa, home to Busch Gardens Tampa, which is home to a pretty outstanding collection of roller coasters. Shiekrah, Montu, Kumba, Cheetah Hunt, all very extreme rides that I never grow tired of. And I don't understand how anyone could call Space or Thunder Mountain "fairly tame." ;) Maybe they are when compared to Hulk or Dragon, but they still deliver on the thrill level. To paint a better picture, let's use my grandpa as an example. The man is 87 and has had some heavy-duty surgery in recent years, so any thrill ride would...not benefit him very well. When my family took him to MK and Epcot, he really enjoyed himself, most fun he had in years. He had to stay behind when we went on say, Test Track or Splash Mountain. But everything he did go on he enjoyed. When my aunt and cousins took him to IOA, he wasn't as amused because he couldn't go on anything.

Overall, I'd say that if you want bigger thrills at a cheaper price, than Universal is your best option. But if you want something more, go to Disney.

July 17, 2015 at 1:13 PM · @ Mr. Hillman: 'It's not the Universal fans going after Disney"?!


This thread topic was dedicated to a preview of a new Disney park. Go back and read the very first posted response.

July 17, 2015 at 2:32 PM · "This thread topic was dedicated to a preview of a new Disney park."

I respond: Was....

July 17, 2015 at 2:42 PM · Right ... "was" ... Until the first courageously anonymous Universal enthusiast offered up the first post.
July 21, 2015 at 9:46 AM · A couple of comments...

@anonymous poster at Thanks for a thoughtful post that makes a lot of sense. My apologies for being snotty to your previous posts.

@TH Creative: You might want to go back and re-read the first paragraph of the post that started this thread. Even the author can't give kudos to Disney for building an awesome park (in a place where 99% of American theme park enthusiasts will never go and with money that largely isn't coming out of Disney's coffers) without expressing some frustration with their American theme park investment and improvement strategy.

July 21, 2015 at 6:22 PM · Disney is and will always be the best because they have the most visitors... just like McDonalds is the best because they serve more hamburgers than anyone else.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive