In a time when we hear about the opening of major new attractions, we are often asked the question regarding Florida’s other major theme park group. The appropriate answer is usually to address how Walt Disney World and Universal Studios cater to different audiences. However there are now several attractions that could draw the imagination of an entire family. So we will take this moment to break down the draw for your time to some basic points.
Let’s begin by diving into the traditional build of the parks, using the basis of each to illustrate the points needed here.
During the creation of Walt Disney World back almost 50 years ago, Walt Disney himself was looking for a place where the entire family could enjoy attractions and experiences together. There was little intention to develop thrills to a teen or adult generation alone. However as the years passed, other theme parks realized the potential in the market and began to create theme parks around the rides needed to draw this group. An example of this is how Universal capitalized on this with their Islands of Adventure park. At the same time Disney was opening their fourth gate, the Animal Kingdom. The difference in the spirit of these two can serve as our model to delineate the difference in the design of Disney vs Universal parks.
In general, Theme parks built around a collection of individual themed rides will often have a family running from line to line to experience the next one. In order to find more, Disney was engaged in developing an experience between the rides to be attractive to all ages. The experience was designed to allow all to see and think, imagining what it would be like to a frontier man or woman…an explorer through tropical jungles…or a person in revolutionary America…all seen in the creation of the original Magic Kingdom in WDW back in the early Seventies. While there were attractions themed in a land of Fantasy that did retell a famous fairy tale or movie, even those were surrounded by all new stories or new points of view.
This model continued in future parks, consistently creating new storytelling alongside experiences based on the characters of famous stories….in between as well as inside of the attractions. It followed with Future World and World Showcase in Epcot, Animation courtyard and Sunset Blvd in Hollywood Studios, and finally Lands designed around the animals of Africa, Asia…even from the times of Dinosaurs.
As other rival theme parks have attempted to develop new “lands” to follow suit, in a way to deliver the point that they too were not just building a series of rides, there is still one major difference that has become clear:
It is one thing to being able to relive the experiences by any characters from a famous story.
It is another to be able to tell a new story ..which is by far is a greater experience for any of our imaginations.