Disney Resorts boss on Universal's Harry Potter: "They did a nice job"

Posted Monday, February 7, 2011 11:55 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The St. Petersburg Times interviewed Thomas O. Staggs, chair of Disney Resorts, in January aboard the newly christened Disney Dream. He talks about the recession, ship building and the competition in Orlando.

Read more from The St. Petersburg Times.

Monday, February 7, 2011 12:10 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

I think that at the end of the day, to the extent that if anyone builds something that brings more people to Central Florida, given the strength of our offering, we do well with that.

You mean, if another competitor builds something that brings people to Orlando, that they might go to Disney too? Weird! ;)

But seriously, people have said that Potter spells the end of Disney if they don't 'adapt and move forward'. I see quite the opposite. Disney needs to focus on keeping the people that go to Disney going to Disney, and offering a nice couple days of play to people that go to Universal, which, as much as I love those parks, is a 2 day park at best.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011 1:06 PM

Anyone who said it was the end of Disney is an idiot. What it does mean is that Disney now has a serious competitor to its core theme park business trait of "hiqh quality immersive environments", and something that is aimed squarely at Magic Kingdom's target market of 6-10 year old children. The fact that people are lining up for 90 minutes to get into a shop (where $29 plastic wands are sold), should tell you that they did something right.

While IOA has some wonderful thematic elements, and it is probably the closest to a "Disney" park anywhere in the US, prior to WWoHP, the total package isn't/wasn't "Disney Quality" all around. Universal Studios still has a hard time making a convincing argument for families with smaller children only. As much as I enjoy Spiderman and Hulk, Marvel Island and Toon Lagoon just are not spectacular themed environments. Individual rides are great (Spidey, Popeye), but the actual lands are poorly done, IMHO.

The Potter segment far and away beats anything Disney has done recently (outside of Japan) for a whole "land", and especially in Florida. It should be a wake up call that Disney has been sitting on it's arse when it comes to maintenance, upkeep, etc.

The attendance spike and retail sales numbers tell the tale. I think Disney World's Fantasyland expansion will (once completed) be incredible (as the Glendale folks were working overtime to retool designs, based on Stagg's urging). However, for me I don't think it will surpass Potter (primarily because it is not designed for adults), and thus we'll be having this same conversation next summer and in 2013.

The real question is will it charm the kids for who it's aimed, and will that cause enough parents to go home talking about how great the next-gen queues were, etc.

Last edited by CreditWh0re, Tuesday, February 8, 2011 1:17 PM
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 2:03 PM
rollergator's avatar

Might be me, but when I first walked in and saw Toon Lagoon, Seuss Landing, and Lost Continent - I thought it was one of the greatest places I'd ever seen, certainly "on par" with Disney. Over the years, there's been a few minor lapses, but like the recent re-do of Seuss Landing, the place looks fabulous again (hard to keep paint from fading in the FL sun).

That being said, Disney is in NO danger whatsoever....WWoHP isn't really taking a slice of Disney's pie...it's making the pie higher. ;)

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011 2:15 PM
Jeff's avatar

Yeah, IOA blew me away as well the first time I went, and certainly struck me as "Disney level" at the time. The problem is that pundits and press seem to view this as some kind of zero-sum game. Maybe that was fair at the bottom of the economy, but going forward I suspect that overall the "competition" just brings more money into Central Florida.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 4:11 PM
LostKause's avatar

When I worked there near the time when IOA opened, I noticed that most people who were there were adding the Universal visit to their Disney / Orlando vacation. It's probably the same these days too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 4:31 PM

They are much more of a complimentary package than a competitive race to draw away customers from each other. While Disney may be losing families from the parks and such for a day or two because of the Wizarding World, they're still bringing in a nice bit on the extra night or two at the resort.

Darn it, now I want a Butterbeer and a lap on Forbidden Journey!

Original BlueStreak64

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 9:46 PM
Jeff's avatar

I'm not convinced that they ever intended to compete directly. I think if you were to develop customer personas of people who go to Disney and people who go to UO, they would be fairly different. In my 20-something no-kids days, UO definitely suited the taste of my former wife and I in a way that Disney did not. When my kid gets older, I think we'll gravitate more to Disney. When he's a teen, back to UO.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 10:05 AM

I've always thought of Universal as "Disney for adults."


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