Wednesday, August 29, 2007

J.K. Rowlings Magical Gift


Just last May it was announced that Warner Bros. and Universal were partnering to create a 20 plus acre Harry Potter ‘theme park within a theme park’ at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. Disney Imagineering had officially lost the bid to celebrate all things 'Boy Wizard' within their own theme parks.

Intuition would tell us that the Disney Company had just dropped the ball on one of the most lucrative franchises on the planet. But for Disney Imagineers this was no loss whatsoever. In fact, it was cause for celebration. "Perhaps the best thing that's ever happened to WDI" one top level executive was overheard saying.

It’s certainly no loss to the notoriously quality obsessed J.K. Rowling either. Universal is sparing no expense to make sure this fully immersive environment will be of the highest caliber. Within this “Wizarding World” guests will be able to interact with many of the locations from the books and films, including the village of Hogsmeade, the Forbidden Forest and the iconic Hogwarts Castle. “I don't think fans of the books or films will be disappointed," said J.K. Rowling.

Taking a cue from the genesis of WED Imagineering in its golden age, talent isn’t being bartered from art school interns or freelanced out to fly-by-night design firms but is coming directly from artists, technicians and visual story-tellers from the motion picture industry itself. Stuart Craig, the three time Academy Award winning production designer of the Harry Potter movies (as well as Gandhi, Dangerous Liaisons and The English Patient) is heading up a core design team well versed in the incredibly specific milieu of three dimensional fantasy environments.

“The philosophy on the movies,” Stuart noted, “was to make everything seem as real and credible as possible. We undertook a period of research and looked at the great European cathedrals, Oxford University in this country. All of this informed us and helped us keep the world credible; to keep the detail very real and very specific. That same philosophy was applied to the theme park.”

You can bet that come late 2009 guests to Universal’s Islands of Adventure will feast on an intricately detailed fantasy environment that promises to rival the richness of a Pirates of the Caribbean or a Haunted Mansion, an ironic homage to the classic Walt era Imagineers. J.K. Rowling wouldn’t have it any other way.

After the official press release from Warner Bros. and Universal Orlando you’d have thought that Bob Iger would be marching several legions of Disney Executives to the guillotine or that an angry mob of stockholders would be storming the castle. Instead a group of resilient battle weary Imagineers were quietly grinning from ear to ear, cracking open a bottle of champagne and staring out upon a very, very ‘blue sky’.

Chat with any Imagineer that’s lived through the last couple decades at WDI and they’ll tell you tales of the good old days back in the 70’s and 80’s when the company took pride in being an industry leader and when it was not only fun but vital for Imagineering to one-up the competition every step of the way. This was a time when so much was going on at then WED that even friendly rivalries between creative leads on separate in-house attractions broke out, assuring the highest quality showmanship from every corner of the company.

Now more than ever Imagineers are itching to step up to the plate in the spirit of knocking the socks off the competition. With ‘Harry Potter’s Wizarding World’ opening in Orlando the competition has never been more fierce.

“We are going to devote more time, more money, more expertise and more executive talent from throughout our entire organization and creative team,” noted Tom Williams, chairman and CEO of Universal Parks, “to ensure that this entire environment is second-to-none.”


Universal can go right ahead and follow the franchise. The heritage of Disney Imagineering, however, is one of building franchises from the ground up. With Hogwarts Castle looming on the horizon, WDI is primed and ready to show the world something fresh, exciting, original, daring and wholly surprising, to dare to deliver to guests an experience they never knew they wanted.

Make no mistake about it, it's going to be tough for WDI to top what's going on over on those islands of adventure. But they will. They have to. For the company that put the ‘theme’ in theme parks nothing less than their reputation is at stake.

And for todays Renaissance Imagineers the challenge couldn’t be more intoxicating.

Gentlemen, start those engines.

49 comments:

Adam said...

One factor in Disney's corner: by 2009, the Harry movies will be over and the final book will be 2 years old. Someone should have started a Happy Potter themed attraction 4 years ago.

Paul Williams, PMP said...

One can only hope that enough resources are allocated to to take that "next step" above the incredibly immersive Chronicles of Narnia movie set.

Okay...sorry...that was uncalled for.

Come on Imagineers, show us what you've got!!!

Come on Accountaneers, look the other way!!!

Anonymous said...

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.
Debbie
Beaufort & Pittsburgh

Aaron said...

Oh, I hope you're right.

Nothing could be better for guests than a war of quality and imagination between the designers at Universal and WDI.

'Everest' is a testament to what Disney can do right. Set that same team to work on something with the scale of a Harry Potter island, and you'll have a new renaissance in park design.

Otter said...

I just hope that the inevitable outcome of this isn't a billion-dollar Pirates-ation of WDW. It was fun for awhile, but that teat's running dry.

Chris Peters, Atlanta, GA said...

Well stated. Harry Potter will be a franchise of note for several more years. However, by 2009, Potter will begin the downhill slide that is inevitable in any franchise. I, for one, am glad that Disney is not locked into committing all the money into this by sacrificing all of the new ideas that are currently in blue sky. I'm actually disappointed that Disney placed themselves in the running in the first place.

Mr. Mark said...

Disney has proven that they can create mind-bogglingly incredible immersive experiences for their guests. The prime example is Tokyo DisneySea, where budgets were increased rather than decreased by penny-pinching accountants. When Imagineers are given not only creative reign but appropriate financial resources, magic still happens. Here's to the hope that they will rise to the challenge, creatively and financially, and Disney's magic will outshine the competition.

teevtee said...

The last "great rivalry" between Universal and Disney was in the late 90's with Animal Kingdom and Islands of Adventure.

Disney fans the world over hoped that Universal FINALLY got it right so there would be REAL competition forcing Disney to up the ante once again. Sadly that was not to be.

IOA opened with one of the worst advertising campaigns in history (kids lost in a forest... huh?) and only a handful of functioning attractions. Of the attractions that actually DID work we found several off the shelf amusement park rides (HEY! It's themed after Hulk because the tracks are green... get it?) and a slate of unispired and in some cases down right BAD shows and attractions (thank Gof Posiedon's Fury will never again ruin anyone's vacation).

Only Spiderman proved to be a worthy challenger. The net result of all of this was not only Did Universal NOT challenge Disney but IOA became a HUGE strain on Universal Florida's bottom line. A strain so big it is still struggling with it's failure today. Universal has consistently had to literally give tickets away to get people into the park (Almost like DCA East or something). Disney never felt any pressure at all and worse yet... it VINDICATED the then in vougue idea at Disney of building small, cheap parks instead of risking collasal failure (ala IOA).

Even Spiderman failed to force Disney's hand... to this day we have yet to see a strong answer by Disney to the Spiderman attraction.

So I certainly hope we see some huge flood of creative concepts coming from Disney but I am afraid Disney might prefer to sit back and see how this plays out for Uni. I have no doubt that the additions to IOA will be MASSIVE improvements and likey a quite good "land" in the park. But Unbi may find it very difficult to justify the HUGE finacial commitment they were forced to make.

If this also blows up in Uni's face in ANY way I think you will see Disney once again feeling good about not spending big bucks. We all have to hope that Uni finally pulls of a miracle and delivers what it says it will. It has never come through before but if it can get this one right THEN Disney really will be forced to answer.

Mike said...

I really do hope that this cranks Disney's motor on creating some ORIGINAL, fresh attractions. I'm growing tired of UV-lit wooden cut-out type rides and seeing movie characters everywhere. Let's have some unique stuff - like the HM, Spaceship Earth, etc. get made using today's technology and discoveries. Oh, and I don't count opening more restaurants or stores as "attractions" like it seems some of the leaders of Disney do.

Anonymous said...

teevtee-
I'd like to see your burden of proof that IOA in its current form is still struggling. Seems more opinionated than factually based- maybe when it first opened but not now.....

I would also like to see Disney's board throw the same amount of money they jsust did to the dogs at DCA to the dogs in Orlando.

Mark said...

And yet, news out of Disney is that the vast majority of resources for the next decade will go to fix DCA and Hong Kong. Not much budgeted to mount a defense against Universal in Florida....

Looking at the big picture, Disney does over 4 time the business that Universal does in Florida. They won't take that much of a hit.

Also, looking at the Potter ride, a kuka arm ride (as has been reported variously on the net) has extremely low capacity. 2 people is usual, 4 people max. I'm thinking this ride will have a capacity lower than the Nemo subs at Disneyland....

4 people times a 15 second dispatch (and that is being generous) gives you 960 people per hour. A more likely 20 second disatch gives you 720 people per hour, about what a Fantasyland dark ride does. Even if there are 2 tracks, the majority of people on a summer day won't get to ride....

Ladysmith said...

In my opinion, the logical answer to the Harry Potter attraction will be for Disney to actually follow through on the Kingdom of Dragons over at Animal Kingdom. If people want fantasy, GIVE them fantasy. And we've been waiting for Dragons since AK opened.

teevtee said...

Hey, I'm with you! I'd love to see some SERIOSU cash thrown to WDW, While nothing at WDW needs the help that DCA does there certainly is a ton of stuff that could use help BIG TIME.

As for proof that IOA has failed, well it is really pretty common knowledge and has been aknowledged by Uni itself buch as Disney has aknowledged the failure of DCA. I guess the easiest proof is simply the fact that they are ALWAYS giving away tickets to IOA. The VAST majority of visitors to IOA are in using free companion tickets to those they purchased for USF. This is not a damnation of the park itself which I greatly prefer to USF.

If you look at the attendance preditions made in 1999 IOA has failed to meet them even one year. I admit that 9-11 had a HUGE impact on the entire industry and yet IOA has not been able to snap back. The MASSIVE finacial comitment to IOA has turned into a huge drag on the bottom line and Uni has openly discussed this many times (I am sure a Google search would turn up many references to this). Currently IOA struggles to reach about 6 million visitors a year, predictions called for as much as 2 million more at this point in it's life. When you factor is that most of those are not actually paying extra to get into the park I think it becomes clear what I am talking about.

Anyway... again, this is not meant as a bashing of IOA but rather hope that this Potter deal works out for them and finally gets the boost of attendance IOA needs, for only THEN will Disney really feel pressure.

teevtee said...

BTW, just to clarify my point. Lets look at the cirrent numbers...

In 2006 IOA had an attendance of 5,300,000 which places it 17th world wide. This was a pretty big loss of attendance from the previous year and the year prior as well. Again, many of those 5.3 million did not pay to get in. This is about 40% below the early predictions for IOA.

Animal Kingdom had an attendance of nearly 9 million visitors in 2006, a huge increase that ranks it #8 in the world.

Of course the MK ranks #1 in the world with 16,640,000 in 2006.

Universal Studios Florida had 6 million in 2006 ranking at #11.

Of course numbers can be misleading and they can be manipulated but they do offer some insight. After spending over a billion dollars Universal needed IOA to be pulling in not only much larger numbers for itself than it is, but they were banking on it bringing up USF numbers as well. this has substantionally failed to happen. Because of this Disney has not felt the pressure to answer Uni and in fact feel vindicated in being cheap! As a Disney fan the failure of IOA is the worst possible thing that could happen to Disney and so I really hope that Potter works, brings in REAL crowds and puts REAL pressure on Disney.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Disney is interested in doing anything original in their parks. They will only capitalize on some other success. Hence, Pixar-land. Or Pirate (Tom Sawyer) Island. If its not directly related to an existing successful franchise, they have no stomach for it. They'd like to call it synergy, but its not. It's just taking advantage of a built-in audience. Not that a Potter World attraction would be any different... it just amuses me to hear how they going to start designing/building original competition to Universal.

What blows my mind is the animosity that Disney fans have for Universal. It's like they can't allow themselves to enjoy both resorts.

Anonymous said...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is tentatively scheduled for 2010 (www.imdb.com) so there's going to be more than ample time to allow for promoting the movie/theme park tie-in. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if Universal worked out a deal to put some sort of promotional material out there in conjunction with the film's release - including getting the Today Show to broadcast live from the park in the days leading up to the final film's premiere. I wouldn't be surprised if USF puts up an in-park preview in an effort to entice current visitors to return.

Sadly, given the decline of Walt Disney Feature Animation, the theme parks have been cut off from new material. Notice how many Pixar-themed attractions are going in? (Pretty certain that's been discussed here before) When you look at the classic attractions, the bulk of them were built on animated films with the occasional Space Mountain and Country Bear Jambore here and there. The bottom line is, TWDC has not created a lasting film/theme park franchise in decades. Yes, there's Pirates, but that's nothing more than reviving an existing franchise. It is not the creation of a new one. In fact, the only *new* film/theme park franchise that I can think of that is 100%* Disney would be Mermaid in '89 (?) and Lion King back in '93

David

*100% being defined as a purely new widely-popular franchise consisting of an original Disney produced film with attraction follow-up as opposed to a non-Disney film tied to a Disney attraction or the reworking of an existing attraction to tie in with an existing film (Stitch's Escape). Pixar is excluded as it was originally a separate entity. Winnie the Pooh is excluded as the film franchise dates back to the 60's. Sadly, Aladdin is excluded due to the lack of exploiting the film in the parks. Yes there's Aladdin's carpet ride - but its off the shelf.

(Yeah, I probably rambled...but the sad state of affairs in that organization is downright pathetic)

Anonymous said...

Harry Potter is not a Disney movie, so Harry Potter should not be in Disneyland.

I only hope the rumors that "Mickey allegedly wants to turn a large portion of Tomorrowland @ Disneyland over to George Lucas are only rumors.

Chris said...

"IOA opened with one of the worst advertising campaigns in history (kids lost in a forest... huh?) and only a handful of functioning attractions. Of the attractions that actually DID work we found several off the shelf amusement park rides (HEY! It's themed after Hulk because the tracks are green... get it?) and a slate of unispired and in some cases down right BAD shows and attractions (thank Gof Posiedon's Fury will never again ruin anyone's vacation).'

Actually Poseidon's Fury is still open, but modified and most people prefer the original to the new version.

I disagree about "off the shelf amusement park rides"...yes the coasters are outdoors, but everything else, the queues, the theming has been stepped up greatly from anything you find at other parks.

Marketing has been its largest let down...I've not seen a single ad or commercial that truly tells me what IOA is overall, most people had no clue it was even a second park for a long time.

Anonymous said...

People will go to Florida to see Harry Potter and then they will go over to WDW too. Disney doesn't need to go crazy. They are adding value to Disney's Hollywood Studios and I'm sure more. Universal is a nice park. WDW is a destination resort.

I wish WDW would respond with MAJOR developments but I really don't believe they will. One more terrorist attack and there goes the Orlando financials. That reality of 2001 must loom in their minds when they get ready to spend money.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to remind to all of you, that there is at least one bad thing that happen to disney thanks to this harry potter new land at IOA: because of the 10 years exclusivity that Kuka - the manufacturer of the moving-robot-arm gave to Universal, the "Incredibles" attraction using the same technology that Tony Baxter and his team was working on is now dead for a long time. And believe me, it would have been a great attraction!

RC said...

Wow, that sounds incredibly interesting. I'm sure it will be a big success if they really put the time and energy into it.

I hope they look for ways to give it a classic feel that is fun for all ages and for people who aren't wrapped up completly into the world of Harry Potter-dom.

Andy Castro said...

I'm unconvinced this is a good thing.

If Disney had fought tooth and nail to get rights to Harry Potter, they'd had proven that they're willing to spend the money required to make a top-notch experience. That they lost the rights to Potter shows that they have no desire to make something amazing and immersive like Potter's Wizarding World for their Orlando parks.

It's another missed opportunity for Disney to show us what they can do, and instead it gives them another chance to give us crap like Monsters Inc Laugh Floor or Toy Story Mania and try to pass it off as the latest-and-greatest.

Anonymous said...

A Harry Potter attraction opening in 2009 will feel like a Lord of the Rings attraction opening last Summer. Cool, but a little late.

Chris said...

A Harry Potter attraction opening in 2009 will feel like a Lord of the Rings attraction opening last Summer. Cool, but a little late.

Jurassic Park was released in 1993 yet the island at IOA was opened in 1999, a full 6 years after the movie that the island is based upon. (The sequels were too different IMO to relate the same feeling as the first)

I don't think JK Rowling wanted anything to be built until she decided how it was all going to end.

Adam said...

It's interesting to think how many things Universal does a little late:
Comics peaked in modern popularity in the early 90's (though they lucked out with the popularity of comic book movies)
Their Back to the Future ride made it's debut well after the final movie
Their Mummy ride debuted well after the final move
The Simpsons ride, while an awesome prospect, should have been done at least 5 years ago
What gives? Are they just conservative? I suppose this is besides the point of the post. But I really think Disney dodged a bullet (or wand blast, as the case may be).

teevtee said...

It's not a matter of timing as much as money.
the Potter franchise costs a FORTUNE and has SEVERE limitations on what can or cannot be done with it (as dictated by Rowlings).

None of this matters at all to park goers, who likely will get a very good experience, but they may turn out to be very bad business decisions. Spending that kind of money on a torubled park with a franchise well out of your control is a bit scary and some would argue stupid.

Now I am not sure what else they could of done seeing that IOA needs SOMETHING to turn it aroudn and I doubt anything smaller than Potter woudl work... but at the same time if anything breaks bad on them this could really be a disaster.

Disney was likely wise to pass on in for a great many reasons, chief among them the fact that they simply do not need to risk that kind of cash at the moment. I really wish that this would somehow pressure Disney into building some new large scale stuff but I also really doubt that will be the case. Disney prefers a wait and see approach. If this fails for Universal in any way Disney laughs itself to the bank. If it works out well for Uni Disney has plenty of time to react without losing any significant audience and in fact possibly GAINING attendance as people flow between the resorts.

So for Disney it is a win/win proposition, for fans not so much.

Anonymous said...

As a follow-up to my original comment...I believe that the attention given to the perceived lateness of the opening date of the Harry Potter attraction, is extremely short-sighted. Those of us who grew up on Disney couldn't wait to introduce our children to characters and movies that we fell in love with. I took my daughter to see the theatrical re-release of Cinderella in the late '80s at the age of 3, propping her up in the seat with a pillow so that she could see the screen. Thereby spawning the beginning of a life long love of Disney.

The magic of Harry Potter will be rediscovered with every new generation as they pick up the first book and can't wait to get to the next. I think that this is what the present, post Walt, Disney Execs don't understand. People of all ages want to be enchanted, not marketed!
Debbie
Beaufort & Pittsburgh

teevtee said...

I agree with Debbie.

Though Potter holds no personal interest for me it is obviously clear that this is an enduring character that will last for generations. It is in fact exactly wgat universal needs much worse than Disney because Disney already has MANY classic and enduring characters. Universal was building very of the moment type of attractions that date themselves quickly. Things liek Back to the Future, Back Draft, even Shrek are much to transient to really last for generations. Potter on the other hand will be around forever. I only question the money they spent but I do think it is a MUCH better fit at Uni than it ever would have been at Disney.

Tongaroa said...

I also agree with Debbie.

Harry Potter has a wider appeal than any other character franchise out there and will stand the test of time. Universal has a real winner here, and the fact that the attraction will be open before the final film is released puts them ahead of Disney, which has been opening attractions 3-4 years after the film is released (look at DCA’s Monsters Inc. and the three new Nemo attractions). It’s interesting that people are immediately wondering if the attraction will have appeal for non-Potter fans, when I have never heard people wonder if any of the many Disney franchise-based attractions would have appeal to people who are not fans of those franchises.

Here’s some food for thought for those of you who don’t get the Harry Potter-thing. The five Harry Potter films have made more money at the international Box Office than the six Star Wars movies (including re-releases).

Geoffrey said...

The Harry Potter thing is out of the bag so to speak, theres been talk of a harry potter theme park in florida for quite some time, and it's finally at this moment that we see it start to bloom and come to fruition.

Disney has the talent, the money the only question is if they have the desire to do something better. They do need to come up with some type of response to the Harry Potter Island thats being built at IOA, the only it doesn't have to be huge like building a whole nother park, but something like a fantasy land at DAK would be a good response and if they started now could probably get it done at the same time if not earlier than the Harry Potter island.

I do agree though WDW is a resort destination, its got everything a family could want on their vacation, universal has two theme parks and a shopping center, whereas for almost the same price that your paying to get into one possibley two parks at UNI (my family has never been able to visit both due to the ride quality at UNI the lines always tend to be longer than heck, and stop frequently) they can pay near that SAME amount to go to four parks water parks, or go to downtown disney as well and then if they wanted to go to a place just for the adults theres many many more options left open.

I hope at the very least that this Harry Potter Island makes Disney start putting more money into WDW as they need to and should, it may not be a matter of life and death but if enough people see that Disney WILL not respond to this type of threat there will be more competition as good if not better than, and thats what worries me the most...

Sorry if I rambled on too much..

Önskedröm said...

My question is this:
Would Harry Potter really have fitted in in Disney?

He is way to gloomy to fit into the "Happiest Place on Earth".

teevtee said...

People need to realize that Universal Florida and Walt Disney World are not really competitors to begin with. I know there is a rivalry amingst fans and all of that but the honest truth is that there is ZERO evidence that universal has harmed Disney in any way whatsoever and a LOT of evidence that Disney has helped Universal and like vice versa as well.

The sheer numbers tell the story. Disney in park attendance along has 5 times the attendance of the Universal parks. Disney owns thousands of hotel rooms on property while Universal onws none (Lowes owns and operates the three hotels and even then it is a fraction of what Disney has). Disney owns and operates golf courses and water parks and much more shopping and dinning options than universal and on and on and on. It really is not a fair comparison in any way. Saying that WDW and USF are competitors is just not at all the case.

The truth is that they have a much more symbiotic relationship. Visiotrs of Uni are likely extending Disney trips in order to have an extra day at Uni. There is no evidence as far as hotel figures, attendance figures or gross profits that supports in any way whatsoever that Disney loses customers to Universal. That simply ahs not materialized. in fact a strong Universal which may actually lure fans of it's own woudl likely be a boon for Disney. All of those Potter fans visiting IOA will likely spend a few days at Disney as well.

the point here is that Disney does not really feel the need to repsond to something that ultimately is likely to HELP Disney if it works well. Now I hope that they DO respond if for nothing else than to keep the spotlight on themselves, but this is not some sort of tit for tat type of thing and I can tell you Disney wants Universal to be successful and Universal NEEDS Disney to be so.

Anonymous said...

There are film classics and there are pretenders (i.e. HP is NOT E.T.). INDY will always work at DL because it is A-awesome and B-based on a real classic film series. Ditto for Potter if they produce the same sort of jaw-dropping "OH-MY-GOD-THAT-WAS-AMAZING!" reaction INDY did when I first rode it over ten years ago. Heck, even dated ride tech like Star Tours still draws guests because of the quality of the franchise on which it was based. And Lucas was apparently pretty high-maintainence too. I think IOA won this one... but competition will be good for everyone.

JB said...

This 'theme park war' between Disney and Universal was supposed to happen after IOA opened too. Instead we got Mission: Space, a ruined Epcot, a 45 second Rockin Rollercoaster, a budget cut Everest, and -- well I know I'm forgetting stuff, but you get the point. Maybe Disney will go and build another awesome park in Japan, but other than that it will probably be more of the same. Disney probably anticipates IOA laying an egg for 10 years after Potterland opens, too, so I anticipate Disney simply weathering the storm until everyone forgets about IOA again. One great addition every 10 years is not enough to stir the sleeping giant.

Anonymous said...

I'll believe it when I see it. Disney won't be doing anything different; Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor will be the rule rather than the exception.

(Aside: Star Tours at MGM opened six years after the "final" Star Wars film, when the new trilogy was still a distant pipe-dream. Harry Potter Land will not be in any danger of being "dated" by any stretch.)

Barry Moss said...

I really have to laugh at all the comments about Harry being dated by the time the attraction opens. The attraction will be open a year or tow before the final movie. Very few Disney attractions opened before the film came out (Sleeping Beauty's Castle and A Bug's Life come to mind). By that logic we should be shuttering most of WDW. Who want's to ride an elephant from a film 60 years old? Who wants anything to do with a mouse that hasn't made a feature film in years? Time to shut down those classic dark rides through films from the 30's and 50's.

I think that IOA will have a real hit with Harry. Its too bad the rest of the park (other than Spiderman) is so very lame. I seriously doubt that Disney will do anything significant to respond. In the last decade we've only had one hit (Everest) out of WDI and they still haven't come up with anything as good as Spiderman. I hope I'm wrong, but sadly, I don't think so.

Tongaroa said...

For the first time ever, I have to disagree with teevtee. I think Universal could potentially draw guests away from Disney property for a portion of their visit. I’m not saying large numbers of people will travel to Orlando and visit Universal instead of Disney, but many will choose to spend a day at IOA during their Central Florida vacation instead of a day at Epcot, Animal Kingdom or Disney-MGM Studios. And that is a serious concern to Corporate Disney.

I think the theme park market in Central Florida is saturated (or "mature" depending on your metaphor preference), and Corporate Disney seems to think so too--consider how much effort they’ve put into keeping people on their property recently: Magical Express, the expansion of DVC, the Disney Dining Plan, the new ticket system. All of these programs are designed to keep tourist dollars on property.

Look at attendance for last year.

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/200704/320/

Animal Kingdom benefitted from Everest while IOA suffered from a lack of new attractions. I can easily imagine this situation reversed in 2010.

Anonymous said...

I also do not believe that Disney is going to do anything unless they see a drop in attendance. I have completely lost hope after I went on Everest. This ride was NOT good enough (too short notably) compared to Disney's classics like Pirates or the Haunted House (and btw, how old are they ??????? Their staying power does not cease to amaze me). WDW is still where it is because of its reputation.

I do not agree with the assertion that Universal is not a resort destination. I went there twice and stayed in two of their hotels and I had an amazing experience (especially with the Portofino). But you do not need to stay more than 3 days. That is the big difference, in my mind. Disney has much much more. But for a weekend, it is perfect (I live in New York).

Harry Potter will be popular for a very long time. And it is even more popular abroad than in the US. It will bring customers to Universal from all over the world. I am pretty sure of it. Of course, they better do it right. I do not like the fact that Disney did not try harder because I feel that they were cheap. And this is the problem I have with them now: they are cheap on every level to the point that it shows in the Parks. You can not charge people so much and not provide an amazing experience. The meals are changing (breakfast way downgraded in AK Lodge for example), the painting is not done, the rides are not upgraded, etc...

This is why I happen to like part of IOA. I love Spiderman (the best ride in the US I think). I enjoy some fabulous meal in Mythos. I really love what they did with the entrance, the world of Dr Seuss as well as Jurassic Park. Some parts are really stunning. I will go as far as to stay that this park is better than Disney's MK which is very very sad to me. Granted, some rides or shows are really really bad (Sinbad, their flume ride, Poseidon) and the superheros world is poory designed. But they have been able to do things that Disney does not seem to be able to do anymore.

Geoffrey said: "Disney has the talent, the money the only question is if they have the desire to do something better." I totally agree with him. But I feel like they became way too complacent and I am not optimistic. Please, guys! Amaze me again !

JML

teevtee said...

Well Tongaroa, I really hope you are right on this one.

I WANT Universal to do well with Potter fpr twp reasons:

1) I would like to see another interesting element to a solid park (and by far Universal's best) because as a park fan it would be fun.

2) I want Disney to feel soem pressure and respond with something great.

This is what you call win / win from a fan's perspective.

However. in judging from overall numbers, both attendance and profits it seems unlikely that the addition will be enough to make Disney budge in any meaningful way. In fact, as I have mentioned, if this thing back fires in ANY way for Universal Disney will be forever reluctant to ever spend big money for big attractions in FLorida again. DIsney watched the original IOA debacle and laughed to the bank as Uni floundered. Should Potter do the same to them Disney will simply feel it is unwise to spend like that.

So lets cross our fingers and hope Uni really nails it AND that fans flock to Uni to the point of impacting DIsney's bottom line. I think it is more likely that assuming Potter is a huge hit that Disney actually sees a modest INCREASE as more fans visit Orlando and thus both parks.

Lastly, someone mentioned Universal not being a destination resort, or more to the point they argued that it was when others (myself included) said it really was not.

Please understand that this is not really my personal opinion or anything and I know there is a lot of anicdotal evidence (such as tyhe fact that you enjoy making it a destination vacation) but this is just going by the numbers. Since Uni built IOA in the big push to make it a destination resort it has struggled every year to meet constantly lowered attandence projections and it has resorted to the same thing Disney has had to do with DCA... that is bundling tickets to IOA with those from USF, in essence giveing them away, in order to fill both parks. It just has not turned out the way they had hoped. Perhpas Potter will change all of that! I think it is a good move for Uni and I hope it works.

C33 said...

Even Spiderman failed to force Disney's hand... to this day we have yet to see a strong answer by Disney to the Spiderman attraction.

True, but it looks like Toy Story Mania could be a contender. A 3D, immersive ride environment. Not only that, but interactive and easy to update and upgrade. They will (in theory anyway) be able to change the ride theming for the release of Toy Story 3 or for a holiday overnight, instead of needing lengthy (and expensive) changeovers to in install and remove new props and effects.

I too am glad for this. Disney needs competition, and they need to be able to create cutting edge, immersive attractions without relying on existing properties.

I'd say Disney has yet to give us an answer to Pirates of the Caribbean. Or Haunted Mansion, really- depends on how you look at it since Phantom Manor does depart from the traditional mansion.

theatreman said...

Mike described best what has been on my mind: the "UV-lit wooden cut-out type rides, and seeing movie characters everywhere."

The multiplication of cheesy two-dimensional gaudily-painted rides (Buzz Lightyear) really cheapens the Disney experience.

While the average park-goer may not be able to quite "put a finger" on the differences, the continual drift from the original dimensional Disney quality to cookie-cutter character-huckstering will eventually take its toll, as the parks become more and more "OK" rather than stunningly unique.

The Disney Characters are great, but their over-exposure intrusions into attractons like The Seas, eXtraterestrial and Pirates seems more like repetitive marketing than attraction enhancement.

As for more expensive rides,
Disney tried, but in my view blundered badly with Test Track and then Mission Space. Both were non-film or character-based endeavors, and probably sounded great as concepts, but both deliver very little "bang for the buck." They were character-less, yes, but also soul-less.

The challenges I see for the new age Imagineers and Accountants then are four:

#1 - Bar the door to the Characters, except when their presence in a new attraction really makes essential sense. Or create new characters as park designers did in the past (Madame Leota and the now-vulgarized Tiki Birds).

#2 - Take a very hard look before leaping onto another expensive but basically mundane roadway or centrifuge, and let sponsors sponsor -- but not commercialze -- content and theming.

#3 - Take a humbling group outing to SPIDERMAN prior to a three-day 24-hour sequestered charette in which the best and brightest artists and accountants blue-sky together, and then embark on re-capturing the title of "World's Best Ride" for Disney.

#4 - Don't go for the cheap. I still recoil at the photo on these pages which shows the view of Mt. Everest from the parking lot, with undisguished escape stairways, and rock facing that doesn't quite reach the ground.

I have heard young Disney executives sneer at the question "What would Walt do?" but Walt would never have let the magic and illusion of a majestic mountain be ruined before guests even leave their cars!

And I think he would not have seen park attractions as primarily (or even secondarily) vehicles for flacking films.

And I think he would have anticipated that riding in a car at about the same speed one might have traveled to a park, driving under some heat lamps and over a few bumps, and then proceeding into an auto showroom was not going to make a Disney-worthy attraction experience.

I still have great faith in The Disney Company's ability to "rise again."

theatreman said...

Mike described best what has been on my mind: the "UV-lit wooden cut-out type rides, and seeing movie characters everywhere."

The multiplication of cheesy two-dimensional gaudily-painted rides (Buzz Lightyear) really cheapens the Disney experience.

While the average park-goer may not be able to quite "put a finger" on the differences, the continual drift from the original dimensional Disney quality to cookie-cutter character-huckstering will eventually take its toll, as the parks become more and more "OK" rather than stunningly unique.

The Disney Characters are great, but their over-exposure intrusions into attractons like The Seas, eXtraterestrial and Pirates seems more like repetitive marketing than attraction enhancement.

As for more expensive rides,
Disney tried, but in my view blundered badly with Test Track and then Mission Space. Both were non-film or character-based endeavors, and probably sounded great as concepts, but both deliver very little "bang for the buck." They were character-less, yes, but also soul-less.

The challenges I see for the new age Imagineers and Accountants then are four:

#1 - Bar the door to the Characters, except when their presence in a new attraction really makes essential sense. Or create new characters as park designers did in the past (Madame Leota and the now-vulgarized Tiki Birds).

#2 - Take a very hard look before leaping onto another expensive but basically mundane roadway or centrifuge, and let sponsors sponsor -- but not commercialze -- content and theming.

#3 - Take a humbling group outing to SPIDERMAN prior to a three-day 24-hour sequestered charette in which the best and brightest artists and accountants blue-sky together, and then embark on re-capturing the title of "World's Best Ride" for Disney.

#4 - Don't go for the cheap. I still recoil at the photo on these pages which shows the view of Mt. Everest from the parking lot, with undisguished escape stairways, and rock facing that doesn't quite reach the ground.

I have heard young Disney executives sneer at the question "What would Walt do?" but Walt would never have let the magic and illusion of a majestic mountain be ruined before guests even leave their cars!

And I think he would not have seen park attractions as primarily (or even secondarily) vehicles for flacking films.

And I think he would have anticipated that riding in a car at about the same speed one might have traveled to a park, driving under some heat lamps and over a few bumps, and then proceeding into an auto showroom was not going to make a Disney-worthy attraction experience.

I still have great faith in The Disney Company's ability to "rise again."

Anonymous said...

yeah i have to agree. a lucas area would be cool, but i gotta thinkg beastly kingdom finally being buitl is the best competition for a harry potter kind of place. besides, it would give the imagineers complete and total free run of a whole new thing. lucasland would rule, but i dont think it compares to letting the imagineers go crazy with an entirely new place based entirely on their own imaginations and interpretations. no cartoons, no movies, nothing but raw imagination. they could build a whole a new land at animal kingdom and finally finish the beautiful place it is. lets test out this new imagineering mantra, lets push these amazing folks harder than ever before. lets go imagineers. time for something completely new.
e.

g-pants said...

I am convinced that WDI has the most talented and creative people they have ever had in their history. They have a huge stock of young, fresh minds that know how to use new technology, and experienced leaders to guide them. Technology must now catch up to the great ideas. It's just a matter of figuring out what technology to use, and how to use it, or combine it with other technologies.

The key to all of this, of course, is money.

While the Harry Potter land will be amazing to look at, the challenge is making people feel like they are really there....it will feel and look different than the movie without a doubt, and that may be it's downfall.

Disney is better off creating something completely original and using technology to make sure people will re-visit it and also that it will have a very high theoretical hourly ride capacity.

...it's all about money...if WDI gets cash to play with then I think we'll see another renaissance.

Mike said...

This stuff about IOA being a disappointment is just amazing to me. My first read of IOA is that Universal simultaneously got great rides and Disney-classic theming done right. It's a joy to be in, when the lines are short enough, and I haven't had the slightest interest in going back to Disney since it opened, although we'll probably do so in the next couple of years as I have a 3-year-old now. IOA is great already - and with Potter, it's going to capture more of the pre-teen crowd; and Disney had better view it as competition, because whatever delusions you're under, it already is.

kayleigh said...

wow i can,t belive harry potter is coming to orlandio florida in universal studios in island of adventure i love harry potter so mush i have all the books and the films we have been to orlandio florida 13 times and we will still come back time and time again as everytime we come back there is something now to see and do can't wait to go back to universal islands of adventure to do all the new harry potter stuff kayleigh cheek age 18 years old

Anonymous said...

One huge factor in the Disney corner is the family appeal. Universal does not seem to have the draw factor quite the same as the Disney properties. Pixar only builds onto this and strengthens the appeal. Families are drawn to Disneyland because of the magic, innocence and the feeling of being someplace special. From the very beginning, Disney parks have been about storyline and have defined the term "Theme Park". It all started with a mouse...and it will continue to grow and innovate the industry for many years to come.

Anonymous said...

Potter doesn't belong at Disney. Period.
The Imagineers are happy, and for the right reasons.
More people visiting Universal simply translates to even more people visiting WDW.
Period.
Disney brass are happy, and for the right reasons.
People who don't like anything Disney since Walt's passing should stop going and stop dedicating entire websites to all their whiny dissatisfaction.
Period.
:-)

Anonymous said...

There was a scene in a recent Simpsons episode that beautifully illustrated the true nature of the Potter books' popularity: each member of the Simpson family are shown buying the latest Potter installment, then they all listen while Lisa speed-reads through it telling everyone what happens, whereupon the family members cheerfully throw the books out the car window and onto the sidewalk, which cracks under their weight. Hilarious and so true. The scene perfectly illustrated the fact that while Rowling's books had strong plotting, they have very little else in the way of literary merit. I realize that to some the following comment is sacrilege, but here goes: Rowling is a crummy writer. Her prose is wooden, stilted, uninspired and derivative and she couldn't write humor if her life depended on it. She caught lightning in a bottle, pure and simple. I'm glad the Disney parks won't be infested with her "magic". They're far better off with Narnia.