Can Walt Disney World beat The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando?

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Will Disney manage to keep its edge — and for how long? The attractions' ecology will undergo another change soon when Universal opens the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, easily one of the most anticipated new additions to the local market of the decade.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

It should be interesting... my guess would be even those staying on-site at WDW would be more inclined to venture out to check it out, while some of those off-site may well not change their patterns of going to every park while in FL. It'll be interesting to see WDW's attendance figures for the remainder of this year.

I think Universal will get a spike when they first open and a general increase overall for this year, which may have a knock-on effect for the other parks - you have to wonder how many people would normally do seaworld OR universal when they're at WDW, but not both, and now will either do both or lean towards universal....

I have this vision of mickey in his sorcerer's hat at a stand-off with harry potter, with their respective 'armies' of co-stars behind them... that would make for one epic wallpaper ;)

I don't think it will hurt Disney much, somewhat because I think Potter at IOA is being overhyped. A retheme of a 54" coaster, a retheme of a Junior coaster, a new ride that will likely be too thriiling for many especially if it goes upside down and that is it for rides. When families with younger kids realize that I don't think they will be rushing over. On the other hand, I could be totally wrong and people going to Orlando for IOA will stop at Disney too. I know it will bring crowds even if it is overhyped but I think once word gets out of what is there, it may not be as jammed as everyone is expecting

While they may not admit it...anything new in Orlando is good for all. Internationals will not choose to come to Florida because of Harry Potterland (well, a few zealots might) but they do choose to come to Florida for WDW. If they throw in a sidetrip to Universal then, well...great.

I think Disney's planned upgrades to Fantasyland will have a greater impact on MKs park attendance once that is done. Fantasyland is where every child wants to be and that will just intensify with the announced attractions.

RPM's avatar

Maybe its just me, but the whole Harry Potter craze seems to have died down after the final book was released. I know they got more movies coming, but they seem so far apart that its hard to keep the marketing momentum going. But I don't have any kids at the age where they would be into Harry, so maybe I'm totally wrong.

Jeff's avatar

"Overhyped?" What difference does that make if people show up?

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

ridemcoaster's avatar

I think the term is supplement vs beat. I have a feeling one will feed off the other. I don't think in a 10 mile corridor of parks, people will just stop at just 1 location.

Beating the Mouse is improbable.

I don't think Universal has their eyes set on beating the Mouse. They want to remain competitive and Potterland will help.

The opening of Universal Florida within months of Disney's then MGM Studios proved there is plenty of room for both. The big winner continues to be Orlando and Orange and Osceola counties. Add to the fact that Orlando is becoming just as well known in the business community as a leader in technology jobs as it is in the travel industry for tourism and they are REALLY doing well.

I know one large, local sub-set of people that will be flocking to Universal for Harry Potter; Disney cast members, particularly college program cast members. It is a regular topic of discussion among most everyone. I know quite a few people who have requested and gotten June 18th off already (I normally have Thur. and Fri. off, so I'm counting on that continuing). The buzz around Disney is comically strong. Heck, I've used my Universal AP almost as much as I've used my company ID to go to the parks. Contrast that with the seeming lack of excitement among most of the people I know for the Fantasyland expansion. I just find it kind of ironic/hilarious to see the polar opposite of what you would expect. The local buzz is all about Harry Potter, and almost nothing about Fantasyland. Of course, there will be nothing to "see" with the Fantasyland expansion for at least another two years, so Universal has the definite "leg-up" for the next two to four years. A giant new castle (visible from I-4, no less) will hold tourists' attention much more than a green wall with the same Walt quotes you see a hundred times during your days at all the parks.

Original BlueStreak64

Jeff's avatar

That brings up an interesting point though, in that I think the Fantasyland expansion, which isn't really a focus for marketing purposes, has a great deal of long-term value. With the Harry Potter series wrapping up, I wonder how it will endure. I would think pretty well, but it's hard to say. I mean, I still think Jurassic Park is cool, and that's an aging franchise.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

And therein lies a rub with both of the Orlando park expansions, at least in my opinion. I think the Potter theme will give them enough mileage to get a decent profit out of it, however I'm not sure I see it lasting more than 15-20 years, if even that long. As a major financial outlay for Universal, they certainly want it to go that long (at least), but I have my doubts about its viability in even 10 years. I would consider the Lord Of the Rings a much more timeless book and movie-based platform, and that has even slowly begun to slide back into its (albeit very large and motivated) niche as of late (the release of the Hobbit in a year not withstanding). With the Fantasyland expansion I really doubt the reliance on the Pixie Hollow portion, as I just have not seen anything in the way of a retail push similar to either LOTR or Potter to get that series out there. I may just be missing how popular it is with the target market of young girls, but I can't say I have heard of any familiarity with that subset of Disney like I do with pretty much every other recent animated and CG feature. Of course with the Pixie Hollow area it doesn't appear to be featuring anything overly large like Hogwarts that can't be quickly and easily transformed to another Disney feature when Pixie Hollow wears off like I expect it to. That is the good thing about meet and greets, I guess, they can be quickly converted if need be.

I do agree that I still find Jurassic Park a great ride (and movie, at least the first one, and partly the second one). I just don't remember getting so wet on it back in 04...

And that reminds me of something else, the increasing ease that the newer generations shift their focus and interests. Even between my age group and my younger cousins there is a dramatic difference that I've noted. While most of the people my age that I know still talk about and even watch the classic Disney movies we grew up with, my younger cousins scoff at the Disney stuff they grew up watching, even things as recent as three years ago. They've moved on and show no indication of interest in going back to those. That seems to me to be the ever increasing case with the younger kids, and makes me wonder how much longer this major, fixed-theme attractions and areas approach will be viable when we're talking about capturing the young audience (and their parents of course, who are spending the money). I think the increasing digital technology use that allows rides and attractions to be changed rather easily (i.e. Toy Story) is a hint at what will quickly become the new norm.

Original BlueStreak64

The Mole's avatar

THere will be an uptick in attendance along with some angry people who thought they were getting a new park. There will be no "winner" as if this was a sports game, to suggest it is quite immature and biased.

I very much agree with the first sentence, but don't quite understand where you are coming from with your second sentence. I don't believe anyone in the thread has talked about this in terms of Universal or Disney winning some sort of imagined game/competition. If you're referring to my treatment of the local buzz, you misunderstood me. I guess if you want to get technical, I think they are both "losing" propositions from the point of their reliance on respective properties not being ones I expect to endure in the way that I mentioned LOTR enduring (substitute that with Narnia or any other popular classic fantasy literature if you wish). But again, that just goes back to my point about the Pixie Hollow part of the Fantasyland expansion possibly being more versatile in the long run than putting up a gigantic castle that may not be as easily rid of an out-of-date theme. Not really picking a winner or loser, just pointing out a few major pros and cons that I see for each expansion project.

And on second thought, you were probably just referring to the Sentinel article, in which case I ask; did you expect any better? :)

*Edited to clarify that when I say "properties" in connection with Fantasyland, I mean Pixie Hollow. I have no doubt about the long-term viability of the other princess areas.

Last edited by maXairMike,

Original BlueStreak64

I have heard through a couple of different sources that the "Glamor Shots" Princess Edition (the beauty salon for Princess wannabes at Downtown Disney's World of Disney) makes $1 million per year. So, I'd say the staying power of the princesses is pretty secure.

I definitely don't doubt that at all. I see so many little girls around the parks and DTD that have done the princess thing all the time. Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, etc. are definitely here to stay. Tinkerbell as well. The other pixies from Pixie Hollow...I couldn't even tell you their names or what they look like.

Again, I don't doubt the princesses, it is Pixie Hollow characters that I expect to be short-lived in the minds of the kids.

*Am I too cryptic/not clear enough that I mean Pixie Hollow specifically in this discussion? I feel like I've said it a hundred times.

Last edited by maXairMike,

Original BlueStreak64

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