Friday, May 8, 2015
What's Universal Got to Do With It? A Blogger's Opus to the Theme Park Wars
You know...I started to write this post a few months ago. I was very excited about it, but then I got stuck. I hate when that happens; when you're all gung ho about something only to have it fall away so quickly.
So, here were are again today and I am reminded of this same article and thoughts started flowing again. Let's hope they continue. :) This may not be the article that I had originally intended to write all those months ago, but I feel it's important and something that's been plaguing the back of my mind for a while. So please, bear with me (to the bear end) as I go through what will very likely be a stream of consciousness article today.
I have been thinking long and hard about the recent additions by both Disney and Universal and why I'm somewhat frustrated with some of the things that have been occurring over the past few years.
Of course, you all know that Disney is my happy place. It is where I'm at home. And I want so much for the parks and resorts because I want to see it flourish. I love them, plain and simple. However, I am not an apologist though. I see things for what they are.
While I have enjoyed much of what Disney has done at Walt Disney World over the past few years, I also feel like things have gotten less than outstanding and more baseline. It almost feels like a skating-by situation sometimes. Of course, part of the reason why I feel that things are the way they are is because of MyMagic+ and the fact that it went WAY over budget. I believe that it really affected the ability for new attractions and updates to occur at both Walt Disney World, as well as at Disneyland, which really is a shame.
Part of the reason behind the feeling of stagnancy is that it's been taking Disney entirely too long to get things accomplished. I get that there are construction rules and such and I get that they are trying to appeal to the board and that the domestic parks aren't the only parks they have on their plates for the money to be be dispersed (Hello Shanghai Disneyland), however, it shouldn't be taking as long as it is for current projects to occur and be completed.
There is no reason why it should take this long for a couple of parking garages to be built and don't get me started on Avatarland's very long wait. (Though some of that may be because of James Cameron, which I get.) It also shouldn't take until the end of 2016 to add additional capacity to both Soarin' and Toy Story Mania. Plus, then there's Frozen in Norway. It just seems like Disney keeps pushing construction off to make it last as long as they can. Which I'm sure is great for the investors, because it spreads the money into smaller chunks; for the theme park goer, it makes for a bit of a stale experience. Especially with four parks that are all vying for some sort of attention.
Now, I know I'm unusual. I get to go to the parks multiple times a year. However, that doesn't mean I'm looking for something majorly new every time I'm in the parks. (And I'll readily admit, it does seem as if there is something new to experience each time I'm there.) But that still doesn't make me understand why things like Pixarland and Star Wars land haven't been announced yet. Heck...even if Disney wanted to do something like what Universal did yesterday with the announcement of Nintendo where they get the info out that it's coming, but not share specifics yet, that's fine. It would do so much just to let us know about these projects and that they really are coming down the pipeline, instead of waiting.
What I'd really hate to see, but suspect will actually happen in regards to Disney's rumored additions, is that they will announce one or both additions for DHS (which will likely happen at the D23 convention this year) and then we'll have to wait until what will likely be 2019 or 2020 before anything opens. Because at the rate that Disney is currently going, that's about the correct time frame with these type of projects. I know that both will be big projects, but when you take a look at Universal and how fast they are able to get things up and running, it really makes you scratch your head. Just what exactly is Disney doing with that extra lead time?!
That's really a major problem. The excessive amount of time involved with all these new projects and the time it's taking for things to be completed from the announcement date.
Why is it a problem, at least for me? Well, due to the excessive time frame it's taking for things to open in lately, I'm almost over them because I've had so much lead time to get to them. For example, I want to be hyped about Disney Springs and I am, right now. What they've done with the areas are gorgeous. But will I still be as hyped as I am right now in a year and a half when the whole thing is completed? I honestly don't know. Dragging things out is killing the excitement.
Moving over to Universal, I am not a Universal fan girl. I enjoy their product and am enjoying that they are currently putting money into their parks via attractions and activities for guests to enjoy. I'll admit that they have enticed me and won because it had been years since I stepped foot off Disney property, but I did for the first time in close to 10 years back in 2011 and then once again here in 2015 and I can tell you...it won't be the last time either. While Harry Potter was indeed the catalyst, I have been very happy with what I have seen.
So, because I've been now opened up to Universal's theme parks, I've been paying attention to their news and rumors more too.
Universal is getting stuff done. Let me tell you! They aren't slowly building things. No, no. They are pushing things to the max, attempting to get them done as fast as possible. They opened Transformers in a year. They opened Diagon Alley in two and a half years...and it wasn't like they had land that was just sitting there open. They had to dismantle Jaws, then build an entire land on that ground. (And I suspect they would have opened earlier, but they likely hit construction snafus, causing the area's opening date to be pushed back a bit.) King Kong? That began construction WHILE THEY WERE STILL BUILDING HARRY POTTER! Construction began in 2014 and the attraction will open officially in 2016. Again. Two years. And while nothing has officially been announced, at the rate they are going, I would fully expect for the Nintendo area, which I'm going to assume will be build in Orlando, will begin construction in 2015 and open in either 2017 or 2018.
That's why I'm just floored at Disney's lengthy timing. I know they can bust out these type of projects, because Universal clearly is, but instead, what's instead and what's incredibly frustrating is that they are taking their sweet time.
What I really see as a major problem is the loss of the hype factor. With Disney, the hype I'm feeling is at like maybe a 7 but I can tell you, I'm currently feeling the hype for Universal Orlando at like an 11. Universal is doing a fantastic job of making guests excited for what's coming, and providing that finished product in a timely fashion so that guests are still pumped about what they've been working on. While they aren't the same as Disney, and they never will be in my eyes, they are still making me excited about what they have in store for guests. Oh and let me clear one thing up for you...it's not because of the Intellectual Properties that they are using, because I really could care less about King Kong and Nintendo...it's because they aren't making guests wait what feels like 100 years to experience what they've been working on.
Speaking of the use of Intellectual Properties, in Part Two I'm going to take a look at the excessive reliance recently on IPs from both entities and why I don't think they are really necessary.