Which theme park company will do the best job over the next four years?
Just in case you were not satisfied with your selection of hotly contested elections to decide this week... we bring you Decision 2016: Theme Park Insider Style.
The question before you is this: Which major theme park company do you trust most to develop the best attractions over the next four years? That doesn't mean who's doing the best job right now. Or who's done the best in the past. Or even which company is your favorite. We are asking you to look at where each of these companies is today and their expected trajectory over the next four years to decide which one you believe will end up having done the most to improve the industry over that time.
To help you decide, we've crafted five "candidate statements" that we imagined the companies would write to elicit your vote. We picked the five largest theme park operators in North America from the 2015 TEA/AECOM Theme Index for this race. Initial ballot order is based upon overall annual attendance at their parks worldwide.
Disney Parks & Resorts: The industry leader is building its biggest themed lands to date and is on track to complete those Star Wars lands at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios within the next four years. Disney's also bringing its most technologically advanced new land — Pandora: The World of Avatar — to Disney's Animal Kingdom next year. Following the success refurbishment of Disney California Adventure and a popular refresh of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World - not to mention winning your Theme Park Insider Award for the world's Best New Attraction this year with Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure at the new Shanghai Disneyland - Disney has the capacity and expertise to lead the industry for four more years.
Universal Parks & Resorts: The fastest-growing major theme park company set the standard for themed entertainment with its wildly popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands. While the "industry leader" slow-walked new development, Universal rebuilt its original park, Universal Studios Hollywood, adding Despicable Me and The Simpsons-themed mini-lands before bringing Harry Potter to Hollywood this year. In Florida, Universal rebuilt Hulk, brought back King Kong, opened a fifth hotel, added Transformers and started work on a sixth hotel, a new water park, and two new attractions for USF. And, of yeah, let's not forget Diagon Alley, which is simply the greatest theme park land ever built. In the next four years, expect The Secret Life of Pets and Nintendo coming to Universal, along with plans for a third major park in Orlando. Like the cast of Hamilton, Universal's scrappy and hungry... and getting it done.
Six Flags: You might think just of roller coasters when you think of Six Flags, but don't forget which company brought together 3D gaming with a trackless motion base ride to win your Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction last year. Or which company finally brought virtual reality to the park on a large scale — with no upcharges! — by adding VR to nine coasters this year. The fact is that it is Six Flags that is pushing hardest the boundaries of technology in theme park attractions these days. Not Disney. Not Universal. Six Flags has put years of financial uncertainty behind it to enjoy the best financial performance in its history. New parks are under development in China and Dubai and those fat royalty checks will help pay for continued development here at home. The next four years look brighter than ever for Six Flags.
Cedar Fair: No other company has established as strong a track record for dependable thrills as Cedar Fair. At Cedar Point, Kings Island, Carowinds and its other theme parks, Cedar Fair provides some of the world's most exciting roller coasters, running with a "track" record of reliability that keeps wait times manageable and visitors happy. And at Knott's Berry Farm, Cedar Fair is showing its love for America's First Theme Park with refurbishments of the Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Train that have won raves from fans. From great food to record-setting thrills, Cedar Fair delivers the service that deserves your support for the next four years.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment: While other companies deal in fantasy and entertainment, SeaWorld does the hard and needed work of inspiring a new generation of fans to care for our precious environment. When animals are injured on our nation's coasts, it's SeaWorld there doing the rescues. And when families are looking for an affordable vacation alternative that provides fun, thrills, and lesson for an affordable price... it's SeaWorld and Busch Gardens there, again. With outstanding coasters in Orlando and new themed experiences coming to San Diego, SeaWorld is poised to create great new attractions that you can be proud of over the next four years.
So there you have the candidates' statements. In the words of Jeff Probst, "it's time to vote."
Last-minute campaigning is not just allowed in the comments, it's encouraged!
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Voted Disney due to Pandora and Star Wars on the way. Universal did a great job with HP, but all the screen based attractions just leave me feeling meh...
Cedar Fair is the Ralph Nader of this theme park election.
I voted Disney, because the industry leader offers the complete theme park experience, including a wide variety of rides, parades, shows, fireworks, the best meet and greets, etc. Universal has given us Wizarding World, but also an excess of screen-based attractions. And Universal seems unable to create great parades, and their record for shows is hit and miss (and I'm saying this as a fan of their parks!).
I voted Universal because the Iron Man Experience opening in HK Disneyland does not seem to be anything particularly innovative. I cannot see it competing for the title of best Marvel ride against the Spiderman ride at Universal. Disney has become stagnant.
There are only 2 real candidates (besides Efteling) and that are Disney and Universal.
I think Universal could build a 4th gate before Disney finishes a land.
SeaWorld. The others will have new rides but only SeaWorld will be truly make or break these next 5 yrs. Out of desperation comes innovation. SeaWorld will shift its focus and become an industry leader that designs amazing attractions for themselves and others.
What??? No mention of the highly anticipated Jimmy Fallon ride?!? Simply deplorable!
Universal brings the most exciting new adventures over the past several years. No reason to believe this will change any time soon.
Even though I have yet to visit a Universal park in person, I found it swallowing up my vote. The guilt is starting to get to me....I'm sorry Disney! We'll still be friends, I promise!!
I voted for Disney. I love, love, love Universal, but Avatar looks much more promising than either Fallon or Fast and Furious. In 4 years, if the third Orlando park has begun work, I'll switch my vote.
Hard to say. Disney is slow but I think they might nail this star wars land. On the other hand Universal does things well and doesn't drag its feet. So with that I agree with Sarah above. Sorry Disney.
Disney always manages to surpass Universal despite being much slower to build its attractions. Over time, it succeeds spectacularly. Universal's emphasis on screen rides gets old. There's not enough repeatability.
I voted for Universal due to their proven track record with new attractions, but I loved, loved, LOVED your candidate statement for SeaWorld. The first two sentences sum up everything I've always loved about those parks.
Thank you Melanie for reading the "candidate statements." I enjoyed writing those and hoped people would get a kick out them.
OT above is judging the new Disney lands without even trying them. By the way, where did he get the idea that Star Wars Land will have a boat ride??
"Jimmy Fallon on Tap" really does need to be a new beer at Universal, doesn't it?
My vote is for Universal based on their past track record the last 4 years and where they're going. If anyone has not seen the new waterpark video do watch it. Robert is correct at Diagon Alley as the number land ever built. I got to see the New Fantasyland last year for the first time and was disappointed. Snow White should've been longer and more dark ride, not faster but just more to it. Little Mermaid is just the ride there needs to be some kind of food stand/restaurant theres so much theming dedicated to a ride that is so and so. Disney isn't creating splash mountain/haunted mansion style rides anymore. Universal is doing that with Kong and Potter, Minions ride, Simpsons Land, i mean just the train ride going from london to hogsmeade is amazing detail. The food is knockout. Disney is slow to move relying on their IPs for success. Universal has been creating rides, scenery and food above disney for the last 4 years.
Listen, I know theme parks. Believe me. I've been to the best theme parks. My theme parks are gonna be yoooge.
Up until this year Universal has been thrashing Disney, but Kong was such a huge let down (more screens!!!) that it makes it really hard to get excited about Universals next two attractions. Avatar land is going to be incredible, I have no doubt that this land will be astonishing and really out Disney in a totally separate league.
My opinions may change once I actually visit the Florida parks, but for now I see the chains this way:
I seriously doubt I will now ever visit Florida again so my vote and money will stay in California and of the ones listed I'll go with Universal Studios Hollywood even though Disneyland stuff looks more interesting. And if I want more and explore parks (outside of California) I'll will defiantly be spending my money oversees from now on.
The next 4 years? Disney. I don't see how anyone could compare Volcano Bay, Jimmy Fallon, and Fast & Furious to Avatar and Star Wars.
The muppets in front of the hall of presidents...+1.
I picked Disney.
LOL @ O T
Disney's new attractions seem to take several years to come to execution. I'm tired of waiting for Disneyland to produce a new ride. The Star Wars overlays on existing attractions felt like an insult to us parkgoers. And SW Land is not a good fit for DL. Universal just seems to be cranking out new attractions every year, and sometimes multiple attractions per year. They do need to stop giving us the screen base attractions, until they've perfected it (they're nowhere near the perfection of Star Tours DL or POTC in Shanghai).
With the upgrades Matt Ouimet has done at Knotts over the last set few years I will have to go with Cedar Fair. Knotts is the only park in the US that is building up upon their legacy rather than tearing it down. Knotts today feels like Disneyland did in the 80s. Knotts today offers the best family experience in the USA.
Knott's has a lot of potential but still needs a great deal of infusion of cash- with a DCA type expansion and district overhaul. I'm not sure Cedar Fair has that kind of money or if they do is willing to spend it. But Knott's is their highest revenue producing park so maybe they could.
At first, it was a toss up for me between Disney and Universal. The past few years have been great for both, but have had a few hiccups. For every Carsland or Harry Potter, there is a lackluster Mine Cars or over reliance on screens Fast and Furious. But with the announcement of an uninspiring Jimmy Fallon Ride, and Star Warsland, the easy choice for me looking forward is Disney.
I really liked the candidate statements for both Cedar Fair and Six Flags but voted for Cedar Fair b/c Six Flags has too many clones, as A.J. mentioned. Offhand I can't think of any Cedar Fair attractions that are duplicative.
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