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  • Disneyland Family Visits Universal Orlando for the First Time

    I grew up going to Disneyland and only Disneyland. Since becoming parents, Disneyland and DCA are the only theme parks we’ve ever taken our family to.

    We just took a family trip in September to see Galaxy’s Edge for our first time. We are big Star Wars fans and it was impressive. Rise is the most amazing attraction we’ve ever experienced.

    We love Disneyland and in our minds Disney was always the top tier. Why would we go anywhere else? Well, after spending 3 days at Universal Orlando, our eyes have been opened!

    These were our thoughts as we compared each Resort’s newest and most expensive lands.

    1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is more immersive than Galaxy’s Edge.

    We spent HOURS in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and we still didn’t see every detail. Galaxy’s Edge is impressive to look at, but after our initial walk around we felt like we’d seen everything.

    2. Universal understands that franchise fans want to see original beloved characters, places and storylines, not some newly imagined unfamiliar place.

    We are also big Harry Potter fans. It didn’t bother us one bit that young Harry, Ron and Hermione were a part of the attractions even though they are technically supposed to be middle aged by now. Or that Voldemort was after us, even though he died in the last book/movie. Those are the characters that made the franchise great, so of course those are the characters that make the attractions great!

    The obsession with an accurate storyline is one huge downfall of Galaxy’s Edge. Nobody has grown up wanting to visit Batuu or be greeted by Mr. Squid Dreds as they enter the Millenium Falcon.

    Our thoughts after returning are: Disney needs to up their game. Specifically Disneyland. The Universal Orlando security screening and pathway from parking garage to park (thank you moving walkways!) were a breeze. Dining was managed much much better. And lastly, crowds were much more manageable. Even during the nighttime shows and fireworks we never felt crushed like we do every evening at Disneyland.

    We have decided to switch our February 2023 Disneyland trip to Universal Orlando.

    I’d love to hear others chime in on this topic. Do you think Universal is gaining the lead on Disney?


  • #2
    Ever since visiting Universal Orlando for the first time in 2005, I have held the resort in much higher regard than WDW. We even stay at UO and visit Disney, we enjoy it that much more. I grew up thinking that DLR was the pinnacle, just like you, but that first orlando trip changed my mind.

    Comment


    • #3
      Definitely glad to see another Universal Orlando fan. It is incredible, definitely better than WDW IMO.

      Resort wise Universal Orlando is definitely second best in the world in my opinion. With Tokyo Disney Resort being the best for obvious reasons. However, I’d argue Disneyland Park is still better overall than anything Universal offers, but the gap is definitely closing.
      Favorite Ride: Tower of Terror

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      • #4
        Its crazy how the Disneyland Resort and Universal Orlando are extremely similar. 2 Parks landlocked with little room to expand the original parks. I visited Universal Orlando this summer and was impressed by the new Hagrid's Coaster and how easy it is to park hop, but Disneyland has the better food.

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        • #5
          I visited Universal Orlando years ago, and while I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, I still wouldn't put it on the same tier as Disney.

          The pros:
          The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, obviously. I like Galaxy's Edge very much, but HP remains the pinnacle of movie to theme park adaptation. (Did anyone notice Diagon Alley is diagonally split into two words🤔).

          Islands of Adventure is surprisingly well designed, particularly the Port of Entry. This is how you design lands not based on movies, take note modern Disney and Universal.

          Universal connects their two theme parks with a ride. Need I say more?

          E.T.!

          The cons:
          Less clean and more trashy than a Disney park would be, at least when I went. People were leaving food and cups in the queue and cast members weren't picking it up. Gross.

          The main theme park is pretty forgettable in terms of layout. Besides Diagon Alley and the Simpsons town, I don't really remember what it looked like.

          Too many screen rides in ration to the total number of rides. King Kong, Spider-Man, Forbidden Journey, Fast and Furious, Transformers, Despicable Me, the Simpsons, Gringotts. Am I forgetting any?
          Brian the Pooh

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          • #6
            Originally posted by jbapples View Post
            Its crazy how the Disneyland Resort and Universal Orlando are extremely similar. 2 Parks landlocked with little room to expand the original parks. I visited Universal Orlando this summer and was impressed by the new Hagrid's Coaster and how easy it is to park hop, but Disneyland has the better food.
            I hadn’t realized that before, but you’re right how similar they are.

            We agree with you on Hagrid’s coaster, we rode it 3 times. Both the queue and ride were really impressive!

            Aside from the Harry Potter themed restaurants (which had fun food options and good service) the park food was pretty basic and forgettable. But sometimes a generic slice of pepperoni pizza that takes 30 seconds to order (versus a mobile ordering gauntlet) is adequate.
            Last edited by Kikdenn; 11-19-2021, 03:07 PM.

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            • #7
              While I agree with you on the Harry Potter areas of Universal Orlando those are amazing and immersive I don't think the rest of the Universal parks come close to meeting that standard. Especially the Universal Studios park. Islands of Adventure is close but aside from the Potter areas I would not go back to Universal myself.
              BGood! It's not just my motto its my name!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Brian PieGuy View Post
                I visited Universal Orlando years ago, and while I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, I still wouldn't put it on the same tier as Disney.

                The pros:
                The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, obviously. I like Galaxy's Edge very much, but HP remains the pinnacle of movie to theme park adaptation. (Did anyone notice Diagon Alley is diagonally split into two words🤔).

                Islands of Adventure is surprisingly well designed, particularly the Port of Entry. This is how you design lands not based on movies, take note modern Disney and Universal.

                Universal connects their two theme parks with a ride. Need I say more?

                E.T.!

                The cons:
                Less clean and more trashy than a Disney park would be, at least when I went. People were leaving food and cups in the queue and cast members weren't picking it up. Gross.

                The main theme park is pretty forgettable in terms of layout. Besides Diagon Alley and the Simpsons town, I don't really remember what it looked like.

                Too many screen rides in ration to the total number of rides. King Kong, Spider-Man, Forbidden Journey, Fast and Furious, Transformers, Despicable Me, the Simpsons, Gringotts. Am I forgetting any?
                I agree with all of this. And will add that there are also too many coasters. Not nearly enough family/slow rides for us old folk with motion sickness. I can hardly do anyhting in Universal Orlando.

                Somehow, even with all the complaints, Disneyland still has the nostalgia and magic for me.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I found Universal Orlando's two parks to be great overall aside from the dated 90s depictions of Marvel characters (can someone please make a deal here to swap some IPs with Universal and get the rights back for a 5th WDW park?). Yes, lots of screen based rides but they are very well done especially the Spider-Man ride and Escape from Gringott's. I would argue that Universal does better with screens than Disney as their image quality is better and usually some fixed objects are also on the sets. I didn't find cleanliness issues. Although the theming of the parks themselves is bland the cast members were great and the Harry Potter lands were truly World Class attractions that everyone should go to see at least once as you will feel like you are truly immersed in the movie (except for the snowy roofs when it is 105° with 80% humidity). The Harry Potter cast in Florida stays in character so well that they are just plain unshakable - nothing will get them to break. Even a janitor called out to some kids who were misbehaving that "the Ministry of Magic frowns upon muggles who don't maintain good behavior in Hogsmeade.". It rolled off his tongue without a second of thought or hesitation and did not sound the least bit forced (ahem, Galaxy's Edge).

                  However, I warn you that once you visit Universal Orlando you will never again be satisfied with their Hollywood operation. It is a terribly scaled down version of a few cloned attractions. I have heard that the new Pets ride in Hollywood is great but not worthy of a park ticket. They need to figure out once and for all if they are going to be a working studio or a world class theme park. They don't have the room for both. If you have seen the colossal Hogwarts castle in Florida you would be disgusted with the puny one in Hollywood.

                  I suspect that Universal makes decisions as follows - "Lets build a Harry Potter themed land in each park. Each park gets the same budget of $500M to build." In Orlando that gets a castle so large that WDW's massive castle could fit inside Hogwarts, as well as a second land linked by train. Tokyo gets the first land but not the second. Hollywood gets a shrunken down single land with a weenie that is a small shack on the roof of a warehouse, and everything else is 70% smaller than Orlando's first land. And the Hollywood ticket price is higher than the Orlando park hopper.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Kikdenn View Post

                    2. Universal understands that franchise fans want to see original beloved characters, places and storylines, not some newly imagined unfamiliar place.

                    We are also big Harry Potter fans. It didn’t bother us one bit that young Harry, Ron and Hermione were a part of the attractions even though they are technically supposed to be middle aged by now. Or that Voldemort was after us, even though he died in the last book/movie. Those are the characters that made the franchise great, so of course those are the characters that make the attractions great!

                    The obsession with an accurate storyline is one huge downfall of Galaxy’s Edge. Nobody has grown up wanting to visit Batuu or be greeted by Mr. Squid Dreds as they enter the Millenium Falcon.
                    I love Star Wars, but I totally get where this is coming from. I'd consider my level of Star Wars knowledge to be pretty high, but adding in characters that most people don't know isn't a good call. Most people haven't seen the Clone Wars cartoons to know who Hondo Ohnaka is. Maybe they should have just had a Chewbacca animatronic to host Smuggler's Run and have C3PO do a translation.

                    I think that one advantage that Harry Potter has in this regard is that the environments of Hogwarts or Diagon Alley are actually places that you'd actually want to visit. Anyone who has seen the movies can see how special those areas are. I don't think there is a singular location in the Star Wars universe that can actually replicate how central Hogwarts and Diagon Alley are to the Harry Potter universe. The only Star Wars locale that comes close is Tatooine, but it's not really an interesting or inviting environment. It's just brown, flat, and off putting.

                    My guess is that Batuu was created in order to split the difference between being based on an IP and also being original. These are two opposing camps that you can see play out here on MiceChat and it seems like the strategy was to try and make both groups happy. Maybe what wound up happening is that by trying to please everyone they didn't really knock it out of the park for either group. It's not original enough to make the No-IP crowd happy, but not familiar enough to make casual Star Wars fans happy.

                    Full disclosure, I haven't been to Galaxy's Edge or Universal, so take my opinion here with a grain of salt.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Co Foo View Post
                      I love Star Wars, but I totally get where this is coming from. I'd consider my level of Star Wars knowledge to be pretty high, but adding in characters that most people don't know isn't a good call. Most people haven't seen the Clone Wars cartoons to know who Hondo Ohnaka is. Maybe they should have just had a Chewbacca animatronic to host Smuggler's Run and have C3PO do a translation.

                      I think that one advantage that Harry Potter has in this regard is that the environments of Hogwarts or Diagon Alley are actually places that you'd actually want to visit. Anyone who has seen the movies can see how special those areas are. I don't think there is a singular location in the Star Wars universe that can actually replicate how central Hogwarts and Diagon Alley are to the Harry Potter universe. The only Star Wars locale that comes close is Tatooine, but it's not really an interesting or inviting environment. It's just brown, flat, and off putting.
                      Well said.


                      Originally posted by Co Foo View Post
                      My guess is that Batuu was created in order to split the difference between being based on an IP and also being original. These are two opposing camps that you can see play out here on MiceChat and it seems like the strategy was to try and make both groups happy. Maybe what wound up happening is that by trying to please everyone they didn't really knock it out of the park for either group. It's not original enough to make the No-IP crowd happy, but not familiar enough to make casual Star Wars fans happy.
                      According to Chapek, it was created as a marketing strategy -- a theme-park catalyst for merchandise, publishing and film:

                      "We have eleven one-billion-dollar-or-more consumer products franchises in terms of retail sales. Eleven of ‘em. And that’s that portfolio that we can draw upon. By bringing these business units together it enables us to tell stories, and to act as a catalyst for further storytelling in the world of publishing, games, and even merchandise outside the berm, if you will, in a much greater way. You know, we have millions of people that see movies – our movies, our Star Wars movies, our Marvel movies, all the time. And that’s always been a catalyst for our activities outside the berm. But we’ve never really thought about a theme park as a catalyst for those things as well. But if you think about it, millions of people see those movies, we have millions of people who walk through these gates 365 days a year on both coasts. That in itself is a catalyst for further storytelling.

                      "Maybe the most important thing about what we’re doing here is that we all live within the world of the canon of Star Wars. But we’re not constrained by the stories that have been told only to date. This [land] is another venue for storytelling. This is another blank canvas. And we’ve already created seven or eight different publishing products based on the backstory of the Black Spire Outpost. So it’s already happening – much like Pirates of the Caribbean seeded the movie franchise, or in many cases like the great Avengers movies have really helped us create Marvel-based superhero attractions in our parks as well. It’s very symbiotic. Well this place itself
                      [SW:GE] is about to launch a whole bunch of fantastic content for the Walt Disney Company based on the mythologies that we’re creating. So we’re working with Lucas very carefully to make sure that we stay within that mythology. But at the same time, we have many degrees of freedom to create our own story. You see Hondo Ohnaka, right? – who greets you at the beginning of Millennium Falcon. Certainly, Hondo was a more or less obscure character, but now he’s got his own story, right? Smuggler’s Run. Where’s that going to go? Stay tuned."
                      "Disneyland is often called a magic kingdom because
                      it combines fantasy and history, adventure and learning,
                      together with every variety of recreation and fun,
                      designed to appeal to everyone."

                      - Walt Disney

                      "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides."
                      - Michael Eisner

                      "It's very symbiotic."
                      - Bob Chapek

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                      • #12
                        .
                        Last edited by 9oldmen; 11-23-2021, 10:44 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Regarding Wizarding World vs. Galaxy’s Edge, I’m split down the middle, but I understand where you are coming from with your opinion.

                          I think Galaxy’s Edge is pretty dependent on whether or not you like the characters from the new trilogy. In my view, the characters were quite strong, but the story itself across the three films had some hiccups. I would be lying if I didn’t say that seeing Poe appear on screen in ROTR made me feel super excited and giddy. In the case of Smuggler’s Run, it could go two ways — maybe it’s refreshing to see a new character that you haven’t seen before, like that of Rex from the original Star Tours. I can also see how it might be underwhelming.

                          Universal’s Wizarding World is it’s own great thing, and it definitely is a fan’s dream, but I have trouble comparing the two because they are two projects trying to achieve different things. You can’t tell an imagineer to not craft a story when there’s a chance to do so — it would be a missed opportunity. In my view, it’s better to take a chance than not at all.

                          There are always opportunities for Disney to up their game, certainly, but I’d like to think that in the case of Galaxy’s Edge a lot of the heavy lifting has been done — it just needs a bit more life with live shows and interactive droids going about.

                          I can’t in good conscious defend Avenger’s Campus anymore, so maybe your criticism could be applied over yonder.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Elements of Uni in Orlando are outstanding and most of those are the newer ones. There are definitely portions of the parks that feel incoherent and dated. I feel this isn’t as glaring a thing in DLrR outside of maybe Toon Town, which is now getting a fix and perhaps portions of Tomorrowland.

                            I will add in to the SWGE item as it was a marketing tool that pushed books comics and more. It was also a result of Disney’s steadfast and somewhat militant attempt to have absolutely everything be canon and connected.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Universal has done some great things with Harry Potter. Both lands are fantastic, super immersive, with great rides, food, and shopping. Plus Universal lets you wear your robe and has engaging elements for the wand you buy. You truly feel like you're in the HP story. Disney would do well to take some queues from them (namely, relax your costume policy to let people wear a damn Jedi/Sith robe and have elements of the land that interact with you outside the phone "datapad" app).

                              The rest of Universal leaves a lot to be desired. Everyone seems to agree that Islands of Adventure is great, with generally good theming overall because it really is. They definitely took some lessons learned and applied them when building the park and it shows. The OG park is a pile of crap though. My gosh it's just a concrete jungle of nothing. Also, as noted, both parks are dirty with trash everywhere, terrible bathrooms, and the food is absolutely disgusting. For all we like to rip on some of Disney's lesser quick service options, they are so many leaps and bounds better than even the best non-HP quick service food at Universal that it is astounding.

                              Lastly, the Citywalk is just trashy Americana at its finest - lousy chain restaurants, garbage shopping, and a general party vibe that feels more like Vegas than a family place. I don't think Disney Springs is close to the epitome of a shopping district, but it beats the pants off Citywalk

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