Monday, February 15, 2010

Mouse Ramblings: A Wizard vs A Sorcerer's Apprentice

Disney World this summer is going to be an interesting (and fun) place to be. The newly announced Summer Nightastic is a good thing, with some very cool additions and/or changes to the parks coming our way.

I've never seen The Mainstreet Electrical Parade in person, so I'm very much looking forward to finally catching that in Magic Kingdom. I'm also looking forward to the new fireworks show (rumored to be the Magic, Music and Mayhem fireworks from the Pirates and Princesses Party) that will be replacing Wishes. A new drop sequence will be added to the Tower of Terror as will new sound and visual effects. This is VERY cool news. Animal Kingdom will be opened later at night (which is a GORGEOUS park after dark) and they will be bringing back the Sounds Of Summer concert series at Epcot. All the parks get a little something, and they're all good things.

But I'm not blown away with this. Don't get me wrong - I like all of it. They are all positive changes to shake things up a bit, something Disney should be doing all the time...but a bit underwhelming in my opinion. Especially when considering what their competition up the street has planned for this summer: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Potter will be a massively popular addition to the Universal Orlando theme parks. It WILL be a major success. And it will take visitors away from Disney World. How much it will effect WDW is another question. Will families taking their summer trip down to central Florida skip Disney altogether and just hit Universal? Will they hit both and give each about equal time when they used to give the vast majority to Disney? Will they spend the majority of their time at Disney, but give one or two days to Universal for the express purpose of seeing Harry Potter when they wouldn't have left Disney otherwise? In this economy, these are legit questions.

This doesn't mean Universal is going to out-draw Walt Disney World this summer. It won't, and it won't be close. But you can bet a healthy percentage will be taken out of Disney's pocketbook as a result of Potter. And like we said, in this economy, when the crowds are expected to be down this summer to begin with, The Mouse will feel it.

All of this is why I'm surprised Disney didn't have something major up their sleeve for this summer. Something HUGE. As in E-Ticket huge. As in Expedition Everest E-Ticket huge. As nice as Summer Nightastic sounds, can it really be the answer to something as culturally enormous as Harry Potter?

Don't underestimate how popular Harry Potter is around the world. Those books and movies are monsters. People will come from all over to be able to surround themselves in that world - it's perfect for a theme park. It's going to be a hit.

In a recent article, we talking about how Epcot is due for a major E-Ticket attraction (Random Mouse Ramblings: Epcot's Next E-Ticket, Feb. 1, 2010) - they haven't had one there since 2005 (Soarin), and they're due. This would have been the perfect answer to Potter. They could have torn down The Wonders Of Life pavilion and put something incredible there - something HUGE to counter punch Potter. There has been plenty of time; the plans for Harry Potter have been known for quite a while, and in the last two years or so Imagineering could very well have come up with that answer. Maybe they did, but budget held it back? But then how did they see it appropriate to throw billions of dollars around at the Marvel acquisition and the RFID technology project that's going on behind the scenes?

The Fantasyland expansion is on its way, but that won't be open for another 2 years. Over that time, Harry Potter will have the run of things as THE big new addition to central Florida theme parks. Star Tours 2.0 will open in 2011, but that's still giving Potter a year with virtually nothing opposing it. And even when Star Tours does open back up, it's still a single attraction - it may have groundbreaking technological advancements and it may be awesome, but it's still a single attraction. Potter is a whole area with multiple attractions. That's a whole different ballgame.

The point is, Disney has seen Potter coming for quite a while. Epcot is due for an E-Ticket and they have the space (Wonders of Life pavilion) to accommodate it. Considering Disney's investments, they obviously have the money. They also have the talent. They should have prepared a MASSIVE counter punch to strike back with this summer. It would have been good for us - the consumer. When businesses compete, they go the extra mile to make the customer happy...we benefit. But it almost seems as though Disney is conceding the summer to Potter, and Nightastic is their way of making an effort, but not a big effort.

And as huge a Disney family as we are, we will probably eventually make our way to Universal once to check out Potter. We'll be back to Disney again and again afterward, but that's still a trip we wouldn't have made if Potter wasn't opening. And in this economy, I'm sure there are families out there who aren't local who can't afford to do both - or give all the time in the world to both - and they just might pick Universal and Potter instead of Mickey this year.

That should frighten Disney. But it didn't seem to frighten them enough to go toe-to-toe with Harry Potter this summer. And that's not a good thing - for us.


  1. We are one those families that will spend part of our Disney trip checking out HP at Universal. Granted, it may only be for a day or two but it's still time that we will be in Orlando yet NOT at Disney.

    Yeah, unless there's a big, ol' secret in the works, Disney missed the ball on this one.

    As for AK at night, I think that may be the only way I could like this park. It is our least favorite park - no matter how many times we try to change our opinion. I do love the Nemo show, though!

  2. Hi blondie!

    It's funny about Animal Kingdom - that more than any park is very polarizing with the fans. Personally, I love it, but I know many that don't. The best thing about that park at night is riding Expedition Everest with all of Walt Disney World lit up all around as you rise up the lift. It's awesome!

    I don't blame you at all for trying Universal on your trips - they do have things in their favor (I LOVE The Mummy ride and Spiderman!). They just don't have the repeatability factor that WDW has. And the problem Disney is going to have with Potter is that a lot of people who don't usually include Universal at all in their trips will allocate at least SOME time to Universal to see the Potter area. Disney did indeed drop the ball on counter-punching it this summer.

    Thank you so much as always for your responses!