Disney vs. Islands of Adventure

Have you ever wondered how theme parks pick which rides to build, which characters to capitalize upon, which properties to highlight?

Yeah, me neither. I’m more of a “which rides go the fastest and where can I get a funnel cake?” kind of gal, myself, when it comes to theme parks. I’m a simple girl of simple means. Or maybe I’m just simple.

Anyway, Disney has long reigned supreme when it comes to a family destination where the children can feel like they’ve died on gone to Saturday cartoon heaven, and the parents don’t end the day wishing they’d never had kid. It’s a conglomerate that’s taken on a life of its own, due largely in part to their success with a huge age demographic. Disney has something for everyone, or so they say. And they were arguably the first to craft this sort of vacation experience for families.

Now, of course, there are other theme parks. Competition has sprung up in both Orlando and Anaheim, and still Disney has never seemed to feel the squeeze. In fact, some would say that competition is a good thing all around; it can raise the bar for all involved.

All of this is to say, I find it very interesting that the Disney Blog is addressing whether or not Disney has an answer to Harry Potter. Islands of Adventure will have a world of wizardry based upon the most popular series of our time, and Disney will have…? Well, the outlook is interesting:

One question is will Harry Potter cause more Disney destined guests to move into the IOA column. It probably will change the vacation patterns of some, most likely those who don’t stay on Disney property anyway. I think Harry Potter is more likely to draw new guests to Orlando that otherwise wouldn’t have made the trip. Those 100 million plus kids who’ve read the series and now desperately want a chance to live the story. They’re going to want to visit IOA first, maybe spend two days there. On a five night vacation that only leaves 2-3 days for Disney.

But the funny thing is, that will be new business (for both resorts). Both resorts will really have to put on the shine to turn these guests into repeat visitors. That is why Disney needs something with a big fan following that is tangential to the Harry Potter craze. That is probably why Disney is courting George Lucas, trying to repair the bridges that were burnt in the Eisner administration. Star Wars/Indiana Jones is the perfect counter to Harry Potter.

I decided to test this theory.

“Hey kids!” I said, “who would you rather go meet Harry Potter or Indiana Jones?”

They blinked at me. Finally my daughter said, “Who?”

Then they asked when they could meet Harry. Things sort of went downhill from there. (Me and my big mouth.)

If you’re the sort of person who finds this stuff interesting, go check out the entire article. Even just as a parent considering a theme park visit, it’s quite something to have a peek into this process. I’ll be very curious to see what happens once IOA finishes their Harry Potter destination (slated for completion in late 2009).

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