“It’s Like the 90s,” Fans Pull Disney Apart After Universal Completely Changes Theme Park Model

in Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

Cinderella Castle at sunset

Credit: Disney

It has been a week for theme park news.

In just two days both of the big industry leaders, Disney Parks and Universal Parks and Resorts, made waves with numerous theme park announcements but one in particular left fans pulling the Mouse House apart.

Wondrous Journeys projections at Sleeping Beauty Castle
Credit: Disney

Related: All the Details On Disney World’s New Expansion Plan

When you think of theme parks in the United States, you may think of Dollywood or Six Flags, but more often than not it is Disney and Universal that are at the forefront of people’s minds. Found in both Florida and California, The Walt Disney Company has Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, while Universal Parks & Resorts operates Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Now, Universal has broken away from the east and west coast model, announcing a new theme park concept in Frisco, Texas, and a year-round horror experience in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the first time in history that Universal or Disney has announced and set forth plans for new theme park locations outside of Central Florida and Southern California and many are surprised, due to the sheer theme park market share Disney holds, that it is not the House of Mouse that has made the move first.

Universal Studios Florida at Universal Orlando Resort
Credit: Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando Resort shared the exciting update yesterday. Posting on Twitter, the company said:

JUST ANNOUNCED: Universal Parks & Resorts plans to bring a new concept for families with young children to Frisco, Texas!

The announcement of this family-friendly concept to Texas comes as Universal Parks & Resorts continues its work on the third theme park gate in Orlando. Universal’s Epic Universe will join Universal Studios Orlando, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and water park, Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, as a massive new expansion featuring lands like Super Nintendo World, and others themed to Classic Monsters, How to Train Your Dragon and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Many have dubbed Epic Universe as a “Disney Killer”, and it’s easy to see the context. In 2021, Universal Orlando Resort reportedly had more visitors than most Walt Disney World Resort Parks, and with Epic Universe on the way and new experiences in Nevada and Texas, Universal is quickly becoming the industry leader in the great theme park game.

Universal Orlando Resort
Credit: Universal Orlando

On the flip side, Universal’s announcement came a day after Disney dropped a ton of news including the return date for the fan-favorite Happily Ever After, the removal of paid parking at Disney Resort hotels, and the official closure of Harmonious. None, however, are on the same level as a new theme park announcement and Disney has been taking criticism for its lack of newness at Disney World Resort. To put it into perspective, TRON Lightcycle/Run opens this April after having been announced almost six years ago at D23 Expo 2017.

And it seems many more have noticed Universal pulling away.

@justinstorm90 said:

Universal announcing another park the day after mass announcements from Disney. The amount of growth that is happening with Universal Parks and Resorts should send a message to Disney that they are losing more and more market share.

Another tweet from @discampbell read:

Disney: we’re kind of getting rid of park reservations and bringing back the previous fireworks show

Universal: we’re building a brand new theme park in an entirely untouched market and opening a year-round experience of our market-dominating horror event

Some recognized the timing of Universal’s announcement as @JoseMLuna said:

Universal instilling fear into Disney’s heart is the most reliable competition incentive, they need to keep these expansions up so that we can bully Disney into doing something

@TCJaalin commented on how Universal’s efforts are not only exciting but diverse:

When I tell you Universal is staying on that neck, THEY STAYING ON THAT NECK! The diversification of new offerings really reminds me of Disney in the 90s. Just taking a chance and giving things a try. I really like what they’re doing with these two new developments

Under former CEO Michael Eisner, the “Disney decade” of the 90s featured the opening of Disneyland Paris, Disney-MGM Studios, now Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney California Adventure at Disneyland Resort. While Eisner’s tenure was marred with other failures, his bold expansion of Disney Parks is one of his career highlights.

The Disney Park vs. Universal Park rhetoric has long been a part of theme park culture, naturally because the two companies own Parks in the same areas but this new move from the latter is a real pull away from the normal way of doing things and it may spark Disney to follow suit. As it has been noticed, the announcements this week from both Resorts are seemingly bigger than anything the House of Mouse revealed at its massive biannual D23 Expo last year. At the convention, fans were treated to “blue sky” ideas but not anything concrete.

disney world 50th anniversary character outfits
Credit: Disney

Related: Magic Kingdom Is a Ghost Town as Crowds Vanish From Walt Disney World

Universal already has construction on the ground with Epic Universe and it can be expected that movement in Frisco and Las Vegas will get underway soon.

What do you think Disney should do next? Let us know in the comments down below!

in Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

View Comments (20)