Universal Studios, which is owned by Comcast, is getting a whole new theme park, and Disney has finally given some hints about how it plans to respond.
When Universal Studios added Harry Potter to its parks, it became a serious competitor to Walt Disney (DIS) in the theme park business. It wasn’t just that Comcast’s (CMCSA) Islands of Adventure park added a top-tier intellectual property; it was also how it was done.
When “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” opened in 2010, it changed how theme parks work. The themed land wasn’t just a bunch of rides, shops, and restaurants; it was an immersive world that took people to a completely different place. Fans of the books and movies could actually live in the world they had read about because every detail was taken into account.
Nothing from the outside world existed in the first Harry Potter land or when it was added to the first Universal Studios Florida theme park in 2014. For example, there was no Coke or traditional bottled water. Even the drinks were different in the world of the made-up wizard.
When these two lands were added, Disney had to change its plan and start putting a lot of money into its four Disney World theme parks. Harry Potter made Universal Studios a competitor for vacationers, so the Mouse House added “Pandora: The World of Avatar” to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and “Toy Story Land” and “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” to Hollywood Studios.
It was a growing arms race, and Disney had answered Universal’s best shots well until the Comcast-owned company announced plans for Epic Universe, its third Florida theme park.
Building for Everyone Its “Disney Killer” Epic Universe will give Universal Studios’ Florida complex, which already has the Volcano Bay water park, three theme parks. That will help it compete with Disney because it will give it more things to do to keep customers interested for longer. All the rides and attractions at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida can be seen in three days (two if you really push it). The new park will help Universal convince people to spend their whole vacation at its theme park complex instead of going to Disney for a day or two.
More importantly, Comcast hasn’t said much about Epic Universe, but it will be a very modern theme park that builds on the success of “Wizarding World.” The new park will have an immersive Nintendo-themed world with the same rides as the first Super Nintendo World at the company’s theme park in Japan.
Leaks and rumors also say that Epic Universe will get another Harry Potter expansion (maybe the Ministry of Magic) and a land based on Universal’s classic movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, etc.). It’s a big problem for Disney World, and Disney hadn’t said much about how it was going to respond until Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro spoke at D23.
Disney could make Disney World bigger.
Disney hasn’t said anything about adding a new park, but D’Amaro brought up the idea of a big expansion of Magic Kingdom and new plans for Animal Kingdom.
“Next, we’ll talk about something that happens very early on in the creative process. Our Imagineers call this “Blue Sky.” But I want everyone in here to know that we are not daydreaming. I want you to know that the things we’re going to talk about are very real. I’m having very serious talks with our teams about the future of our parks and attractions D’Amaro said.
After that meeting, D’Amaro and other Disney executives talked about a lot of ideas, including the possibility of a big Disney World expansion. Even though no specific rides were promised, the panel talked about possible new lands for “Enchanted” and “Coco.”
But the biggest surprise was just a short hint. D’Amaro talked about having a land that is all about Disney’s bad guys. It had been said that Disney World might add a fifth gate, but in this conversation, it was clear that the idea was being brought up as a possible addition to the Magic Kingdom.
The panel also brought up the idea that Animal Kingdom might add “Moana” and “Zootopia”-themed lands. One of these lands would likely take over the large open area in Dinoland USA.
Even though none of these projects were officially announced, it was made clear that they are no longer just ideas but are now being worked on. That’s not the same as starting construction, but it does suggest that Disney won’t let Epic Universe open before it starts its own expansion plans.
Sid Philips is a father of two and a loving husband. He currently resides in Pennsylvania and has been a fan of Disney since his parents took him there in 1980! Sid has visited multiple Disney parks around the world and loves each one!
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