A Paradigm Shift in Theme Parks?

It goes without saying the Mouse is the 800 pound gorilla in any discussion on theme entertainment or amusement parks. Their dominance of the market is impressive. I can’t think of another company that dominates in an entertainment field quite like Disney does for the top travel dollars of tourists bound for Orlando or Anaheim.

The biggest threat to Disney is obviously Universal, now owned by Comcast. They are flush with cash and emboldened by the huge success of one boy wizard taking up residence at one of their parks.

In the past Universal was a nice one day detour for the throngs of people streaming through Main Gate toward the Disney kingdom. Even through big multi million dollar moves Universal Orlando has never been able to wrestle the focus or the first dollar away from Disney.

No longer. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s huge draw has swung the public interest clearly toward the Universal Orlando Resort. Universal is doubling down too with big expansions planned for the future. They smell blood for the first time, and it isn’t some aberration.

Since 1999, when Universal’s Islands of Adventure opened they have been leading the industry in innovative attractions. Disney hasn’t even attempted to wrestle the creative crown back either. They have instead rested on their loyal fan base to keep returning based on nostalgia and clever marketing campaigns.

There is a real long term danger for Disney in Orlando. All young children love Disney, but that has to be more than a childhood connection for someone to become a fan. At some point later in life someone has to make that connection and fall in love with the place. For me it was my teenage years. Universal existed, but no IOA. This was the early nineties and Disney was amazing to me. Truly magical, not just a corporate greeting. We went every year, sometimes twice and were always amazed by the new attractions, resorts, and areas opening at a faster pace than our frequent visits.

Herein lies the real danger. If kids today grow up thinking Disney is stale and Universal is magical then not too far down the road those “kids” bring their kids to the resort that gave them the real magical experience. Just like we return to Disney with our kids today. The paradigm can shift in a big way and a cultural shift like that is nearly impossible to recover from in the short term.

I live and work amongst young professionals with families. I can’t tell you how many are planning Universal trips, not just because of the boy wizard, but because “the rides are so awesome.”

Attendance goes flat. Then starts slipping. Then never recovers. The once giant is left to wonder why their new attractions dont change the cycle.

Perhaps they recognize this or perhaps they are so caught up in the corporate machine they are blind to the real danger.

This would be a common narrative of once industry dominant American corporations. I hope it doesn’t happen to my favorite company.


Not Very Batman – Batman

After all the positive reviews here are my thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises.

I enjoyed it. It was a good movie, but far from great.

My biggest issue is that it was a Batman movie without being very Batman. It was almost like Nolan decided he had played all the secretive sneaky ninja Batman tricks in the previous films and was now going to just march him right into the middle of the action? Where was the big clever Batman style entrance and take down? He goes to war with a couple hundred police Braveheart style? Stupid. Not in character. Threw out the play book.

It was bloated as well. 30 minutes should have been trimmed from the movie to make it more streamlined. Over two and a half hours? Ok Peter Jackson.

Bane was an awesome badass for 80% of the movie and then is a non-factor for the climax? I get the League of Shadows tie in, but there has never been a less interesting villainess or less obvious twist in a superhero movie. If you didn’t see that coming you weren’t paying attention.

Lastly, he ends up with the calculating self centered burglar that tried to kill him thrice? Cliche.

Dark Knight > Batman Begins >>> Dark Knight Rises