A fierce battle has been taking place in Orlando between two giants of the media world. Behind all the smiles and thrills a battle has been taking place to get our attention and keep us interested and coming back for more.
Ever since Universal Studios opened in 1990, Disney World has had competition, and the theme park going public have had a choice. Universal
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter has been very good to Universal. Visitor numbers are up as is customer spending. Wands and butterbeer are flying off the shelves. Disney hasn’t been taking this lightly. Avatar – World Of Pandora opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017 to rave reviews. The battle really gets going this year when a new attraction, the most immersive roller coaster ever created, opens at Universal’s Islands Of Adventure on 13th June. Disney meanwhile opens the long-awaited Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge on 29th August. This is the first time that two huge draws are opening within weeks of each other.
A Shift In Theme Parks Of The Future
This is just the start. What the Wizarding World and Galaxy’s Edge show us, and the theme park
The new park is going to be 541.5 acres but how is Universal which is already at capacity on its original land plot totalling 541 acres going to bring such ambition to life? The answer is money and lots of it. Over the past couple of years, Universal has been buying small unconnected packets of land. They now hold ownership of around 1000 acres near the C
New Infrastructure To Support Big Plans
With a 4rd main gate, Universal’s largest theme park development ever, they can truly start to take on Disney but they first need infrastructure in place ready. That starts with hotels. They have 2 new affordable hotels totalling 4000 rooms opening up over the next two years. The first, Surfside Inn & Suites opens later this year on the former Wet ‘N’ Wild waterpark site which Universal acquired but closed 2 years ago when Volcano Bay opened. A sister hotel, Dockside Inn & Suites opens in 2020 over the road from Surfside Inn, on the area that was formerly the Wet ‘N’ Wild car park. Together they will make up Universal’s Endless Summer Resort.
We’re not quite on a Disney scale yet but they are going in that direction very quickly under Comcast, their current parent company. With the opening of Universal’s Endless Summer Resort, Universal will have around 9000 hotel rooms in 8 resort hotels compared to Disney’s 30,000 spread over 36 hotels and various price bands. Endless Summer Resort marks Universal’s first venture into the ‘value’ hotel market although they will likely still charge quite a premium over nearby hotels on International Drive.
Filling The New Park
Nearly 4 years ago Universal announced a collaboration with Nintendo to bring Nintendo’s rich list of gaming favourite characters to life. Super Nintendo World was h
Proof Of A New Park Finally Uncovered
Permits filed with Orange County earlier this year show a huge parking lot and multiple access roads going into the new speculated site of the theme park. Thanks to a photo posted to Twitter by Alicia Stella of the Orlando
“This brand new theme park, titled Universal’s Fantastic Worlds, will turn the Universal Orlando Resort from a two-, or three-day travel destination to a week-long vacation destination. The Fantastic Worlds name signifies the many beloved ‘Worlds’ from all types of media that our guests want to step into, experience and explore, in a fully immersive way – fromQuote from Comcast NBC Universal handout
rides,to restaurants, shows, shops, and even restrooms.”
It’s clear they are taking immersion to another level throughout this entire park which will also be built with expansion in mind. Current permits put the park at 541.5 acres leaving plenty of room for future expansion to keep the park relevant. A hub and spoke design would also lend itself well to being able to swap out worlds as pop culture changes and things fall out of fashion. They are trying to future proof the park before it is even built which is a very smart move.
What’s Disney Doing?
Rumours about a new Disney park are almost continuous but there is nothing yet confirming that one is even in the planning stages. If Universal’s Fantastic World’s does come to life it will put pressure on Disney to open a 5th main gate.
Disneyworld has a major milestone coming up on October 1st 2021 when it turns 50. A slew of upgrades and new additions are going into the Magic Kingdom which will finally get Shanghai Disneyland’s popular Tron Lightcycle rollercoaster and rumours of upgrades to several classic rides such as Big Thunder Mountain. Peter Pans Flight meanwhile already has an extended closure planned in, prior to the anniversary. Tomorrowland Speedway is already getting a slight redesign thanks to Tron.
EPCOT is getting huge investment in the form of the largest indoor rollercoaster in the world, Guardians Of The Galaxy. A new Ratatouille dark ride is coming to the France Pavilion and the entrance is getting redesigned while Spaceship Earth is getting a complete makeover.
Whatever the time scale, and we are talking years away at this point, there is one clear winner and that is us. Theme parks are sinking vast sums of money at impossibly complex rides and immersive lands to captivate us.
With this amount of capital expenditure going into new lands the theme parks of today could be endangered. The days of theming starting at the ride queue line and ending in a gift shop at the exit look to be numbered. Theming will extend everywhere, even to the bathrooms.
With Universal and Disney trying to one-up each other, the bar is getting raised very high indeed. Universal’s Fantastic Worlds is shaping up to be a true successor to Islands Of Adventure which to this day is still winning awards 20 years after it opened. Universal’s Fantastic Worlds could usher in a new era in theme park design and that is something we should all be very excited about. Unfortunately we are going to have to wait another 4 or 5 years minimum for Fantastic Worlds to become a reality.