Why Beauty and the Beast Opened and Super Nintendo World Didn't

September 29, 2020, 1:15 PM · Japan is home to two of our most-anticipated new attractions for 2020: the Tokyo Disneyland expansion — led by the new Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast dark ride, and Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan.

The pandemic delayed the opening of both attractions, as it did many new rides and shows around the world. However, Tokyo Disneyland opened its expansion this week, while Super Nintendo World remains closed until next spring.

So why did Tokyo Disneyland go ahead with its new attractions for 2020, while Universal Studios Japan delayed? The answer, ultimately, has to do with who owns each park.

It's not a Disney vs. Universal issue here — because Disney does not actually own the Tokyo Disney Resort. Oriental Land Co. owns and operated the Tokyo Disney Resort under license from The Walt Disney Company. While the terms of that license give Disney enormous influence and control over what happens at Tokyo Disney, ultimately, it is OLC's money at stake here.

With the Tokyo Disney Resort now reopen for business and tourists throughout Japan cleared to visit, OLC wasn't about to keep sitting on its money-making new attractions indefinitely, waiting for the Japanese government to allow a planeload of Disney executives, Imagineers, and invited media to fly in from Los Angeles. OLC managed the grand opening on its own, without invited guests from the U.S., but with thousands of eager Japanese fans who snapped up all available ride reservations spots and bought up plenty of newly-released speciality food and merchandise.

Meanwhile, in Osaka — home to Universal Studios Japan — Super Nintendo World remains closed, awaiting what has most recently been announced to be a spring 2021 debut.

Universal Studios Japan opened as the property of USJ Co., Ltd., a separate company formed to own and operate the theme park and surrounding development. However, Universal owner NBCUniversal bought a controlling stake in USJ Co., Ltd. in 2015, taking over the company entirely in 2017. That put Universal Studios Japan under the complete control of Universal Parks & Resorts.

With Universal in charge in Osaka, you'd better believe that Super Nintendo World will wait until those planeloads of executives and media can fly in from Los Angeles, Orlando, and Comcast HQ in Philadelphia for a grand opening.

While by all accounts Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast offers an amazing experience and will rank among the world's top dark rides, it's not a top global promotional priority for the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products segment. No Disney-owned resorts are scheduled to get an installation of the ride. While Walt Disney Imagineering would love for more fans around the world to see its latest effort in raising the bar for theme park attractions, their bosses at Disney are generally more interested in promoting attractions at parks that Disney actually owns.

Super Nintendo World, however, is very much a top promotional priority not just for Universal Parks & Resorts, but for all of NBCUniversal and its owner, Comcast. This is Universal Creative's bid to one-up Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Rise of the Resistance and reclaim the industry accolades that Universal enjoyed after the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal wants to support that with the biggest possible opening for Super Nintendo World.

With plans to bring the land and its attractions to Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando, and Universal Studios Singapore, NBCUniversal is not just opening Super Nintendo World for the Japanese market, as Tokyo Disneyland did for its expansion. Super Nintendo World's opening is the launch of a global brand and product, and Universal wants to give it the global press event that such an investment demands.

So that is why Super Nintendo World remains waiting while Beauty and the Beast welcomes its first guests.

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Replies (1)

September 29, 2020 at 1:37 PM

I disagree. I think the reasons are pretty obvious, and it has more to do with the type and expectations for the different lands/attractions than any other factor. Beauty and the Beast is a pretty straight-forward dark ride in a land that's not very different than other theme park lands around the world. Super Nintendo World is expected to be a new, groundbreaking interactive land with an interactive dark ride at its core. I don't blame Universal for delaying their opening, because the land could not be operated the way they were expecting under current health conditions. Virtually everything that would make Super Nintendo Land unique across the theme park landscape would be neutered and reduce its interactivity. Beauty and the Beast just needed some plexi-glass and floor markings, and it was good to go.

This comparison has absolutely NOTHING to do with ownership, status/popularity of the involved IPs, or with the reduced crowds. It has everything to do with how each individual land/attraction was designed to operate and the level of effort needed to retrofit the spaces to accommodate guests during a pandemic.

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