Greetings…You may call me keeper…for I am the keeper of theme park tales. Some tales are not as pleasant as others to tell. Some my editor would prefer I avoid for fear you attribute it to him. But I feel that I owe it to you, my friends in the effort to further examine the stories being told…and not told in our theme park visits. I’ve found in the past when I’m critical of something my happy supporters sometimes stray and let their alliances cloud their objectivity. We all have our preferences…Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonald’s vs. Burger King, Rock vs. Pop, and countless others. It’s our differences that make a community and those differences don’t make one fan wrong and another right, they are just differences.
The difference on the agenda today is Disney vs. Universal. I try to keep my opinions as open and even-keeled as possible but it’s no secret that I lean towards Universal. It’s not a position that I’ve taken without observation of the two for over almost 30 years. Yes, I have penned some glowing tributes for Disney in these very pages when they do something I feel is spot on, story-wise but I am also just as quick to share my opinion when it is not as favorable. I try to look at all with as objective a viewpoint as I can. I am not here to try to change your opinion, just to make an observation on how these two companies handle themselves.
The tale takes place Memorial Day weekend 2015. As always our focus is on storytelling in theme parks. Make no mistake, there are A LOT of other things going on during this period….branding, increasing attendance, marketing, revenue enhancement, and increasing loyalty to name a few, but our focus is on the stories being told. We are concentrating on this weekend because it illustrates very dramatically a fundamental difference in philosophy between the two organizations.
Disney’s entry was the bold two pronged approach of 24 hour day at the Magic Kingdom coupled with weekend two of Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios. Both events highly publicized. Lots of merchandise, character photo opps, autographs sessions, specialty food and drink and lots of cosplay opportunities. In my mind, although it serves many functions from the list above, it does very little to tell or enhance a story at either event.
Universal, with no advance publicity quietly opened a raptor attraction in the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure and in doing so presented an enhancement in story to Triceratops Encounter. That is the name of the attraction that used to inhabit the very spot where Raptors now greet guests.
Video-Go for a walk with Raptors at Universal Orlando
To me this was the “mic drop” of the year in this ongoing battle. Disney’s message was “come dress up and spend money” and Universal’s was “we have a frickin raptor!” Obviously, that’s oversimplifying but it shows something that seems to be popping up more and more often when the two are compared. Flash vs. substance. For this observer, it seems that the once masters of storytelling are not maintaining their own high standards, and are coming closer and closer to not be deserving of that title. That number two tries harder…. and that maybe, just maybe a raptor in the hand is worth more than two dress-up parties in the bush.
Every Day’s An Adventure
Editor’s Note: Not only do we stand by Keeper on this one, we fully endorse it.