Does Disney have an answer for Harry Potter?

With Islands of Adventure preparing to build a whole new land dedicated to that wizard chap from across the pond, the question has come up what will Disney do in response? What will the affect be on the balance of power between the three major theme park players here in Orlando.

One of the things that Disney World does so well these days is to keep people ‘on property’. With Magical Express from the airport, a decent bus service (although that needs improvement), and 3.75 full day parks (DAK is almost there) they have guests for five nights without having to worry about whether they want to go elsewhere. Throw in the typical ‘day of rest’ (water park, golf, etc) and Disney has the average guest for most of a week.

So, you either have to be staying for more than six nights or be committed ahead of time to visiting Universal Studios Florida (USF) or Islands of Adventure (IOA) to even include them in your travel plans. Disney’s firmer grip is a main reason attendance at Universal’s parks has been weaker than expected the last few years (although spending per guest is up).

One question is will Harry Potter cause more Disney destined guests to move into the IOA column. It probably will change the vacation patterns of some, most likely those who don’t stay on Disney property anyway. I think Harry Potter is more likely to draw new guests to Orlando that otherwise wouldn’t have made the trip. Those 100 million plus kids who’ve read the series and now desperately want a chance to live the story. They’re going to want to visit IOA first, maybe spend two days there. On a five night vacation that only leaves 2-3 days for Disney.

But the funny thing is, that will be new business (for both resorts). Both resorts will really have to put on the shine to turn these guests into repeat visitors. That is why Disney needs something with a big fan following that is tangential to the Harry Potter craze. That is probably why Disney is courting George Lucas, trying to repair the bridges that were burnt in the Eisner administration. Star Wars/Indiana Jones is the perfect counter to Harry Potter.

Expanding the Star Wars/Indiana Jones offerings into a whole ‘Lucasland’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would propel that park into direct competition with the Magic Kingdom for the must visit par for most families. The question is whether Disney will be able to get this ‘answer’ to Harry Potter launched in time. Disney, however, has said that they’re not preparing an ‘answer’ for HP that they’re confident the regular offerings will stand up to the competition. But remember the whole reason Disney-MGM Studios came into being was Eisner wanted to have a ‘studio’ park in Florida before Universal opened theirs. Disney has a history of having ‘answers’ ready when challenged. I don’t think this time will be an exception.

5 thoughts on “Does Disney have an answer for Harry Potter?”

  1. I have to say that, as a huge Disney Fan, I am not unhappy with the fact the Universal Studios has captured the Magical World of Harry Potter. The Potter phenomenon is unprecedented and appeals to people of all ages, races and genders. This new theme park will give Disney some much needed competition. For too long, I’ve felt that Disney has taken us, those fans who return again and again to WDW, for granted. At every turn they increasingly try to squeeze every bit of coinage out of our pockets while forsaking the premise that the parks were founded upon. I for one, will be one of the first in line to visit Hogwarts and cannot wait for the opening. I’m not sure whether the power of Mickey Mouse will be able to overcome the magic that is Harry Potter. It should be interesting to see.
    Beaufort & Pittsburgh

  2. There might be something to this idea! Has anyone been by the Star Wars/Indy Area of MGM? There is a portion close off for development of a future attraction. I don’t know what going in there, but if they open up that side of the park to a whole area MGM will be a force to be reckoned with.

  3. I read somewhere (I think, here) that Disney was talking about creating a Narnia-land at one of their parks. I know that Narnia does not currently have as huge a fan-base as Potter…but the fan base will grow…and you have many people who view the Narnia books as a better alternative (from a literary and religious standpoint). I, for the record love both series. I still think a Narnia-land and more Star Wars and Indy attractions would be great!!

  4. I wonder just how long Potter-mania will really last. I am reading the last book now, and, while engaging (although, mostly because I read the previous 6, and have an emotional investment in the characters), they really are not well-written books (although, better written than Aragon).

    I am actually kind of glad the series is done after this book…

  5. i love the harry potter books i have read them all. i think it will be a fantastic idea to have a potterland at disney i am 19 years of age my sister is 15 and my 2 brothers are 5 and 13 and we all love the films and books. this part of the park will appeal to all ages as i have showen by just my family members i am waiting to find out weather they are actually goin to add this part before i book my next holiday over there. i will be waiting …

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