Universal Follows Disney’s Footsteps, Creates Uncertain Future

in Universal Studios

Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal Studios Florida icons and entrances together

Credit: Universal

Universal seems to have followed in Disney’s footsteps in a recent move, and it may not be for the better.

The Disney and Universal Parks have been going head to head for years battling for dominance in California and Florida specifically. As Universal Orlando Resort works on building its third Park, Epic Universe, Walt Disney World seems to be lagging behind in recent years. The EPCOT Overhaul project was first announced in 2019 as a major renovation of the Park, including new attractions, brand new pavilions, an overhaul of Future World into three new sections of the Park, and more. However, what was originally expected only take a few years is still ongoing, with construction walls still up around the Park and many changes made to the original plans.

Universal's Epic Universe
Credit: Universal Orlando

Other than that, TRON Lightcycle / Run opened at Magic Kingdom and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened in Disneyland’s ToonTown, but none of that can really compete with an all-new Park. Disney has also been receiving a lot of backlash recently for focusing heavily on retheming existing attractions around popular Disney IPs, essentially removing original attractions from the Parks. While IPs have become the focus inside the Parks, various Disney Resorts have done the opposite, slowly phasing out their heavily themed concepts in favor of more modern and minimalist decor.

The Villas at Disneyland Hotel bedroom
Credit: Disney Parks

The Villas at Disneyland Hotel, Pixar Place Hotel, and even Downtown Disney’s Jazz Kitchen all unveiled toned-down, modernized facades and decor throughout this year, to much disappointment and confusion from Disney fans. Now, Universal may be following suit with the announcement of their new president of Universal Creative, Molly Murphy. Murphy joins the Universal team as a former member of Gensler, which is a global architecture, design, and planning company.

Hogwarts at Universal Studios Orlando
Credit: Brian McGowan on Unsplash

The current president of Walt Disney Imagineering, Barbara Bouza, also came from Gensler, and fans took to Twitter to share their disgust over Universal’s choice. “Gensler already provided Barbara Bouza… Not a good news for Universal… So long creativity and welcome bland architecture,” said @_JNutterville. “Considering the President of WDI comes from Gensler, and given the very generic refurbs of hotel and retail space at Disney World, this doesn’t fill me with confidence. We shall see,” stated @LaReinaCreole.

Guests riding Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood
Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

As @TRVLtruth explained, “Gensler’s an architecture firm not a themed entertainment design firm. The best theme park designers come from art, cinema, storytelling – They dream an experience, then use architects at the right time to help create a time and place.” Many comments expressed gratitude that Epic Universe is already well underway with its design and construction, with others warning fans about “bland hotel re-themes coming your way!”

Paradise Pier Hotel Room
Credit: Disney

Hopefully, Murphy will take the complaints about Disney’s bland rebranding and understand what not to do with the Universal Parks in the future. At least Epic Universe is sure to be an immersive and colorful third Park, still expected to open during summer 2025, but it remains to be seen if or how the “GENSLER-ification” will affect the rest of the Universal Parks.

Are you excited for Epic Universe? Let us know in the comments below!

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