Battle between Disney and Universal Catches Eye of New York Times

There has always been a cross-town rivalry between Walt Disney’s theme parks and Universal Studios’ attractions. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in Anaheim, Universal Studios had already been offering studio tours at it’s Hollywood park for decades. When Universal Studios decided to build in Orlando, Michael Eisner fired back by opening Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) at Walt Disney World.

These days the stakes are even higher. Not only are the resorts expanding in Los Angeles and Orlando, they’re also expanding globally. Brook Barnes in the New York Times has a profile looking at this arms race for tourist dollars:

$265 million Harry Potter-themed addition to its resort here sent 2010 attendance soaring 30 percent over the year before, draining attention from Walt Disney World in the process. Universal is now racing to replicate the attraction at its parks in California and Japan while expanding the boy wizard’s presence in Orlando.

To maintain momentum, Universal — with more Comcast money — is introducing a swarm of offerings. A major 3-D ride themed to Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies opens this Friday at Universal Studios Hollywood, at an estimated cost of $100 million. New draws at Universal Orlando include a refurbished Spider-Man ride, a lavish parade, a high-tech fountain and pyrotechnics show and a ride based on “Despicable Me.”

Disney denies they’re involved in trying to match Universal Studios. But history has proven that Disney is often coy when in reality they’re working hard to be seen as a leader in theme park development. When a rival claims that title, like Universal has arguably done with Harry Potter and Transformers, then Disney will step up to the plate sooner or later with it’s own challenge.

Do you see this as a war between the two rival companies? How do you feel about how Comcast’s ownership has changed the Universal Studios brand parks?

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6 Responses to Battle between Disney and Universal Catches Eye of New York Times

  1. kara says:

    I don’ think there is any problem having two rival companies. Universal and Disney has to compare to each other to keep up with what the people want. Universal has been a destination for nerds like me because who wouldn’t kill for the chance to experience films like Harry Potter. I think Disney realized that the need for lifelike experiences of fan-favorites is a must. Take for example the new Fantasyland castles and dining experiences; not to mention AVATAR Land if they finally get around to creating it. The rivalry will never go away but it is because of this that we, as the audience, will be able to experience really cool future attractions. Though Disney has competition with things like Harry Potter world, there is one thing that Disney still has that puts it in a category all to itself it stays true to the main reason theme parks are created- family values. It’s a place where families of all ages can come and have fun together

  2. Mark says:

    This report is somewhat of a half-truth, because actual attendance figures are not taken into account. Yes, Universal gets an attendance boost when it opens a new outrageous attraction, but when you look at the specific attendance figures for both Disney and Universal, Disney still out-performs Universal’s parks by a significant margin.

    To further, and this is simply an educated hypothesis, if you dig deeper, you may find that a lot of Universal’s visitors visit only once, while Disney has a larger population of repeat visitors annually.

    I really don’t think Disney has anything to worry about anytime soon, especially since it has Radiator Springs and the revamped DCA coupled with the Fantasyland Expansion on the horizon.

  3. BJ Allen says:

    There is no war…..Disney is King. Everytime I go to Universal I ask why…..My family goes to Disney every year and NEVER get tired of it. By 2pm we have seen the entire Universal park and are ready to leave……ususally to go back to a Disney park for the evening.

  4. Marsha says:

    I have done Universal twice, and that was enough. I have not see the Wizarding World, but it doesn’t make me want to go WDW, OTOH, I can go back to over and over, I love the feeling of the parks, I can relax, I can see something new every time I go, Yes, it is a rivalry, but I think in the end, WDW will always win out. The Marvel acquisition seems to be a good fit, Pixar is great, and that leaves Universal with Harry Potter.

  5. Masterbell says:

    Being an employee of universal while spending all my money for a premium pass at disney, I know too well of the rivalry. And yes Universal may seem to have the lead, but Disney will always have that tradition of every family taking their kids to”Disney” while Universal uses modern fads to grab people. Fads die out, but tradition will always live on. Just saying, hope I wont get fired for saying that lol.

  6. BGShawn says:

    I am a Florida resident and a longtime lover of WDW. I made my first voyage to Universal this weekend and I have today was thoroughly disappointed. The park is amazing, however doesn’t flow like Disney and seems to me much more cramped, as Disney I never felt that way at any of the parks. Furthermore, to add to this we visited all the Disney Parks and I never had an issue riding a ride or visiting an attraction at the WDW parks. I am a big framed guy, well over six feet tall and husky as well and couldn’t ride one of the rides except Posidians Adventure. FUN FOR ME! The fact they have seats out front of each ride tells me that this is expected and planned. Shame on Universal, take my money knowing I will not enjoy the park the way everyone should! Sounds like Disney is winning the game all around to me!

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