Universal Wakes “Sleeping Giant” as Disney Parks Make Huge Plan to Compete

in Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World

Guests walking into Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Credit: Disney

In recent years, Universal Studios Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood have taken some market share away from Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California. Once the pinnacle of theme park entertainment, Disney Parks have faltered somewhat in recent years thanks to both the COVID-19 pandemic and, according to many Disney fans, current Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek’s leadership.

bob iger (left) and bob chapek (right) in front of millennium falcon galaxy's edge
Credit: Disney

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Tens of thousands of Disney Park goers, as a matter of fact, have signed a petition calling for Chapek to step down, with some hoping that former CEO and Executive Chairman Bob Iger will once again take the reins at the House of Mouse.

Guests entering Universal Studios Orlando Florida
Credit: Universal

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Regardless of if this unlikely event were to to ever actually occur, however, the fact remains that Universal’s properties are becoming the theme parks to beat. From The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando to the upcoming Nintendo World in Tinseltown, Universal is truly appealing to Guests as a theme park destination, not just a “day trip” during a Disney visit, as one recent article noted.

Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

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The same report pointed out that until 2010, when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, “the Disney theme parks were frozen in time” in much the way of a traveling carnival that added a new attraction once every few years.

The immersive Harry Potter land, however, spurred the company to action, and Disney broke ground on Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney World’s Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park in 2014. The land went on to open in 2017.

family staring at tree in pandora world of avatar
Credit: Disney

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The home world of the Na’vi was followed by Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on both coasts. Batuu East and Batuu West opened in August 2019 and May 2019, respectively. Then came the Marvel Cinematic Universe-themed Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort’s Disney California Adventure Park in 2021.

galaxy's edge
Credit: ITM Rebekah B.

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As the aforementioned article noted, however, Universal is currently constructing its biggest Park in the U.S. — Epic Universe — as a third gate in Orlando, and it set to truly live up to its name:

The new park may include a third Harry Potter land and it will almost certainly be home to a land themed to Nintendo’s popular character. Universal Studios Japan has launched rides based on Super Mario Bros. Mario Kart, Yoshi, and Bowser Jr. Universal has not confirmed any specific attractions for Epic Universe.

Basically, Universal wants to become the default family vacation option and in trying to become that has woken up a sleeping giant.

Universal's Epic Universe
Credit: Universal Orlando

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The “sleeping giant” that is Disney has big plans in the near future, including the massive DisneylandForward expansion that will include at least one Resort and, potentially, a land themed after Black Panther‘s Wakanda.

galactic starcruiser exterior
Credit: Disney

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At Disney World the — albeit controversial — Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel is set to open in March 2022. Although cancelations have been pouring in amid concerns about the experience, Imagineers and CEO Chapek have maintained that the insanely immersive experience will leave Guests “blown away.”

galactic starcruiser stateroom
Credit: Disney

As for what else the “sleeping giant” has in store for Guests, CFO Christine McCarthy noted on the company’s 2021 fourth-quarter earnings call that spending for Josh D’Amaro’s Parks, Experiences and Products division is set to continue increasing, indicating that Disney will continue to answer Universal Studios in new and unique ways:

“At DPEP [Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products], we expect that per cap spending at our domestic parks in fiscal 2022 will continue to significantly exceed pre-pandemic levels, and we are particularly encouraged by the early response we are seeing to Genie at Walt Disney World…”

What do you think? Does Disney have to play catch-up to Universal Studios in the modern era?

Let the expert team at Academy Travel help you plan your next magical vacation to Walt Disney World Resort’s four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios — and the Disney Springs shopping and dining district!

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