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Would the theme park industry be different if Disney had gotten their hands on the Harry Potter IP instead of Universal?

Matt N

CF Legend
Hi guys. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando is quite arguably one of the most influential and successful theme park investments of all-time; prior to COVID, attendance at Universal Orlando had practically doubled compared to the pre-Potter days, and Universal felt like WWOHP was such a resounding success that they’ve transplanted it to 3 further Universal resorts. The other thing that WWOHP did was it stimulated Disney to compete; they now had a very strong competitor within the Orlando theme park market, and Universal’s product was quite unlike anything Disney offered in 2010; WWOHP was arguably the first land on Earth to really immerse guests into a familiar movie environment in quite such an enveloping way, and Disney had to compete with their own efforts in this area to keep up. Whether you consider it the best land of this type is down to personal opinion, but I’d certainly argue that when it opened, the Wizarding World was well and truly a game-changer for the Orlando theme park market, quite possibly the worldwide theme park market as a whole.

But it is a little-known fact that Harry Potter was very nearly snatched by Disney; a Harry Potter land was planned for the Magic Kingdom in the early 2000s, as a subsection of Fantasyland. The land would have been less extensive than Universal’s, but would have contained a wand-themed interactive dark ride, as well as a couple of shops. For more info, here’s a Yesterworld video about it, as well as Disney’s lesser-known history with the Harry Potter franchise:

So my question to you today is; do you feel that the theme park industry would be different had JK Rowling accepted Disney’s original idea for a Harry Potter land in the Magic Kingdom as opposed to going with Universal and concocting the land(s) we have today?

Personally, I think things would have been very different had Disney snagged the Harry Potter IP, at very least for the Orlando market.

This might not be too well known, but after I read a book on Universal Orlando’s history, I discovered that the Universal Orlando Resort was actually in pretty dire financial straits prior to Potter being built. Numerous factors, such as the tourism recession following 9/11 and the failure of IOA to raise attendance in the way originally hoped, amongst others, had led to the Resort really struggling financially, and having a lot of debt to deal with. I think it’s easy to massively underestimate the extent to which Harry Potter saved the Universal Orlando Resort, and as such, I certainly think things would have turned out pretty differently had UOR not received the Potter IP, or if WWOHP had been a flop.

For starters, I don’t think we would have a two-horse race between Universal and Disney like we do now. OK, two-horse race might be going a bit far, as Universal still has a fair way to go to match Disney’s attendance figures, but the two are certainly not poles apart by any means.

However, if we look at the 2009 attendance figures for the two Universal Orlando theme parks compared to the 2019 attendance figures, they’ve certainly come a long way; in 2009, Universal Studios Florida received 5,530,000 visitors, while Islands of Adventure received 4,627,000 visitors. To put things into perspective; they were nowhere near even the least visited WDW park (Animal Kingdom, at 9,590,000), both parks achieved less visitors than even SeaWorld Orlando was getting (SWO got 5,800,000 visitors in 2009), and IOA only had around 500,000 more guests than Busch Gardens Tampa (BGT got 4,100,000 visitors in 2009). Here’s the TEA report I’m referencing: https://www.teaconnect.org/images/files/TEA_24_693197_140617.pdf

By comparison, in 2019, Universal Studios Florida received 10,922,000 visitors (representing a 97.5% attendance increase since 2009), and Islands of Adventure received 10,375,000 visitors (representing a 124.2% attendance increase since 2009). While they were still both below the least visited WDW park (Hollywood Studios, which got 11,483,000 visitors), the gap has narrowed significantly, with USF being only around 500,000 visitors off and IOA being just over 1 million visitors off. That might still sound a lot, but when compared with the 4-5 million off the parks were in 2009 (especially considering that Disney’s lowest figure was lower to begin with in 2009), that is an absolutely cataclysmic attendance increase, and I would put much of it down to Harry Potter’s success. (TEA report from 2019: https://blooloop.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/tea-report-2019.pdf)

As such, had Disney built Harry Potter, I think Universal might still be stuck in the same place they were in in 2009, and I’m not sure that Harry Potter’s introduction to the theme park industry would have been greeted with quite the same fanfare. Unlike Universal, Disney were already a big player to begin with by this point, and had far less riding on the investment. The land planned by Disney was also far smaller in scale, and I’m not sure it would have generated the same interest as Universal’s product did. I’m not even sure whether the grand-scale immersive land trend would have caught on in the way it did, at least among Disney & Universal, had this proposal gone ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it would have been a great land, but it doesn’t leap off the page at you in quite the same way as Universal’s land does, in my opinion; rightly or wrongly, it would ultimately have been a much smaller-scale attraction.

I dare say that Disney may also have not invested to quite the same degree in the years following Potter had they gotten it instead of Universal, or at least not as quickly. They would not have had the same degree of mounting competition that they did with Universal building WWOHP, so would inevitably have felt less pressure to green-light astronomically expensive projects like Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge, and to build them relatively quickly (by Disney standards). I think they may well also have invested in different things, perhaps individual attractions as opposed to full-on themed lands.

But what are your thoughts? Do you agree with me, or do you think I’m talking utter rubbish, and that things would likely have worked out in the same way regardless of which theme park company ended up getting their hands on the Potter franchise?
 
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Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
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It's a very hypothetical question in two parts:
  1. How valuable is certain intellectual property?
  2. How is it executed within a theme park?
The second question is especially important. Using Marvel as an example, let us not forget how many amusement parks and tourism spots have had their hands on Marvel before Disney built Avengers Campus. But outside of Islands of Adventure, it's easy to say many have never properly harnessed the full value of the brand (and one could argue Disney still has yet to either).

So it is with Harry Potter - let's say Disney did do their Harry Potter expansion. Was it just a meet and greet of characters? Or a small-footprint immersive ride? One will never be able to tell, as it's not a simple question of "What if Disney did Harry Potter?", but rather "What if Disney did Harry Potter, and did it well?"

No doubt Universal has nailed the Harry Potter experience, now across multiple parks. But if we took Harry Potter completely out of the picture, a few hypothetical, alternative realities could emerge:
  1. Universal IoA expands Marvel or Jurassic Park footprints in the park.
  2. Universal nets new IP from Universal or other studios. For instance, what if Avatar went to Universal instead of Disney? Lord of the Rings is underneath Warner Bros. as well, right?
  3. Disney goes in big on Harry Potter, but doesn't do Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and other immersive experiences.
My essential point is: yes Harry Potter has been a pivotal point for Universal. But it wouldn't be 100% locked in to drive the same success under Disney's tenure, as there are quite a few other movies titles and franchises out there that have been up for grabs in recent years too.
 

nadroJ

CF Legend
I think it's a case of for Disney, Potter was a big fish in an even bigger pond whereas for Universal comparatively Potter was a big fish in a smaller pond. Universal knew this was the horse to bet on and were willing to do everything they could to make sure it succeeded. I think had Disney got their hands on the franchise it would just be another notch on the bedpost for them alongside their other giant brands.

Of the Top 25 IPs in the world, 8 are Disney-owned. Of the Top 10, 4 are Disney owned. Potter would have slid in quite nicely next to those, and done well no doubt, but it certainly wouldn't have had the impact and knock-on effect to the theme park industry it has had had Disney taken it because it wouldn't have been put up on the pedestal Universal put it on, because it was of equal importance to brands they already owned, so no need to put all their eggs in one basket.

And then like you mention we have the Avatars and the Galaxy's Edges of the world. Looking at that Top 25 IP list I cannot see another brand on there that Universal potentially could have gotten hold of that has a) the global reach and passion that Potter has and b) the world building opportunity that Potter has, save for Lord of the Rings. And honestly at this point I think the Tolkein family have made themselves pretty clear where we stand on seeing Middle Earth in a theme park any time soon. So in my opinion it really was only Potter that could have done this, so whilst we can argue yes there are other brands, none could have done what Potter did in the hands of Universal.

Let me take each of @Hyde's points here for a sec and deconstruct:

1. Universal IoA expands Marvel or Jurassic Park footprints in the park.
I think the Harry Potter 'cinematic universe' and the idea of HUGE synergetic world-building opportunities too is something that inspired Disney, outside even just the parks. Hell even Jurassic Park and the reboots associated, this colossal approach to blockbuster filmmaking we're seeing now I would argue is largely borne out of the ridiculousness that the Potter films started. So IoA expanding Marvel or JP would not have had a huge effect without the existence of Potter spurring those huge franchises in the first place.

2. Universal nets new IP from Universal or other studios. For instance, what if Avatar went to Universal instead of Disney? Lord of the Rings is underneath Warner Bros. as well, right?
For me Avatar only works because it looks beautiful - globally it doesn't have the same brand pulling power so arguably not something Universal could have successfully rolled out to say, Asia, the same way they did with Potter. Would it be successful? Sure, why not. But would it have the same impact? Absolutely not in a million years.

1. Disney goes in big on Harry Potter, but doesn't do Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and other immersive experiences.
I think this is potentially what we would have seen. In my opinion we only got Galaxy's Edge BECAUSE Potter changed the game in terms of what could be done with a rich, immersive fantasy world. That's not to say we wouldn't have gotten Star Wars down the line but certainly I don't think we'd have seen Pandora if Disney had Potter.
 
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FarleyFlavors

Mega Poster
1. Universal IoA expands Marvel or Jurassic Park footprints in the park.
I think the Harry Potter 'cinematic universe' and the idea of HUGE synergetic world-building opportunities too is something that inspired Disney, outside even just the parks. Hell even Jurassic Park and the reboots associated, this colossal approach to blockbuster filmmaking we're seeing now I would argue is largely borne out of the ridiculousness that the Potter films started. So IoA expanding Marvel or JP would not have had a huge effect without the existence of Potter spurring those huge franchises in the first place.
I reckon you're massively overstating the influence of the Harry Potter films there. There's nothing inherently different about them compared to the Star Wars ones - big budget movies aimed primarily at kids. Suggesting that the Marvel films or Jurassic Park sequels wouldn't have happened if the Potter films didn't exist is a bit of a leap.
 

Kw6sTheater

Hyper Poster
Meanwhile, in the Darkest Timeline:
Neither park gets access to the Potter IP. Universal isn't able to compete with Disney's new expansions, and the lack of competition means Disney doesn't try to up their game (with lands like Pandora & Galaxy's Edge) or continue to innovate. And the worst part of this is that Velocicoaster, Hagrids, Rise of the Resistance and Flight of Passage probably don't exist.
Seriously, though, I wonder what happened in all those other timelines?
 

nadroJ

CF Legend
I reckon you're massively overstating the influence of the Harry Potter films there. There's nothing inherently different about them compared to the Star Wars ones - big budget movies aimed primarily at kids. Suggesting that the Marvel films or Jurassic Park sequels wouldn't have happened if the Potter films didn't exist is a bit of a leap.

I disagree - there's a hugely differentiating factor with Potter vs. Star Wars: the internet. The Potter films came at a time when fans all over the world could connect and feed one another's fandom like no other franchise before it. Star Wars was huge of course, but nothing like Potter with the speed of the internet and the way fans could connect and snowball Pottermania into the phenomenon it became.

That's what we're seeing now with the Marvel franchise (and Star Wars, 40 years on or whatever it is) - big corporations exploiting that fan service for all its worth with every spin off, easter egg and whatever else they can squeeze out of their IPs. Star Wars had this sure, and even Star Trek, but it was a fairly niche, underground thing to be a huge Star Wars geek and write fan fiction and whatever comparatively - nowadays not only is it mainstream but it's worth billions. We're seeing it happen now with Star Wars because it didn't happen the first time around because the internet wasn't there to connect the mega geeks around the world to create this explosive demand for more and more content from our favourite franchises.

Jurassic Park isn't quite on the same level in terms of the lore and fandom, but I would say JP plays on this cult movie/nostalgia piece that we seem to love in modern pop culture instead. The same reason why things like Stranger Things are so popular and why we see Ghostbusters being rebooted every ten minutes.

My theory is that Disney saw what Warner Bros. were doing with Potter and the richness and synergetic power such a world could bring in terms of franchising and applied this for their MCU. Arguably the MCU is better from a movie perspective alone (personally I don't think the Marvel Avengers Campus thing looks very nice) whereas Potter has more of the whole package in terms of books/movies/merchandise/theme parks. We've seen loads of attempts at creating cinematic universes to emulate the success of the MCU like the DC universe and Universal's monster thing they tried, but honestly I just think there's a knack to it and if you get it, you get it (MCU) and if you don't you don't (Universal monsters). Some things just resonate more and Potter happens to be one of those things.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
It is kinda strange that J.K. Rowling now can add to her resumé being one of the most influential theme park designers of the past few decades. She demanded a really high level of creative control of the project, which resulted in features never seen before in a themed land: Fully immersive restaurants selling only themed meals, gift shops that only sold in-universe merchandise, and a general "total ban" of the outside world inside the land.

I think it's pretty fair to assume that Disney would never have yielded that much control. There would have been Goofy hats with Hogwarts colours and T-shirts featuring Mickey Mouse with round glasses and a lightning scar. The gift shops would have sold Star Wars merch and Nemo plushies alongside their Potter content. I mean, why would they change the formula that had worked for them since forever? Their Potter land would have been pretty much the same as their other lands, something akin to Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. There would be no competitive incentive to increase the level of effort.

With the Wizarding World, Universal raised the bar for immersion really high, and it paid off hugely. Fans were queuing for hours even to visit the gift shops. This really changed the game in Orlando. Disney's knee-jerk reaction was to try to copy it with a land of their own, and apparently thought that the highest-grossing movie of the time was a good place to start. Things move slowly in the theme park world, and Pandora was well underway when the Wizarding World opened, but I think Disney made some changes to their plans when they saw the smashing success of Potter at Universal. No Na'vi with Mickey ears or Lion King plushies in the gift shops. The imagineers probably also had Rowling's playbook open in their laps when they planned Galaxy's Edge. It's not like these lands would never have been made without the influence of the Wizarding World, but I think their ambitions had to be upped several notches because of it.

So yeah, I think the Wizarding World changed a lot in the higher tiers of the theme park industry. That is, for Disney and Universal. Nobody else have the funds to operate on that level of immersion anyway.
 

Nitefly

Hyper Poster
Incidental to the ongoing discussion, but I did feel a little…. jaded (?) with Diagon Alley on my second visit; aside from all of the excitement induced by the spectacle of the overall aesthetic, it is mostly a very pretty collection of ‘tat shops’. Impressive, but it really would benefit from having one other ride in there.

I would agree that the Harry Potz franchise was probably the strongest going in the world, as the time of the films at least. It’s probably passed it’s peak popularity now. It’s backed by a very popular and strong set of children’s books.

Marvel as a film and TV franchise seems to be pretty huge and possibly the most popular now, but aside from the comics the content has been quite boring/average and has definitely not captured my imagination. Domination by over-exposure? Guardians 1 and Infinity War are the only ‘great’ additions, with the Loki TV show being rather pleasing too and a candidate for a double thumbs up pending the final episodes.

Star Wars seems to have been eclipsed by both. I have never understood the generous enthusiasm for it either. There is one ‘great’ film and a lot of ‘watchable’.

Jurrassic Park is in a tier below all of that, somewhere. I don’t think there is much appetite for it as a franchise, rather there is one ‘great’ film (the first one) that carries the rest off the back of nostalgia.

Edit: Re-reading that I come across as a right boring and pretentious ****, oh no!
 
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Matt N

CF Legend
Incidental to the ongoing discussion, but I did feel a little…. jaded (?) with Diagon Alley on my second visit; aside from all of the excitement induced by the spectacle of the overall aesthetic, it is mostly a very pretty collection of ‘tat shops’. Impressive, but it really would benefit from having one other ride in there.
The problem is, I don’t think there’s any way you could really integrate another ride into Diagon Alley while still fitting in with the story. I know you say that Diagon is just a load of shops as a criticism, and through a certain lens I think that is a valid one, but the thing is; that’s exactly what it is in the films, and many people visiting won’t necessarily be theme park fans, but will be die-hard Harry Potter fans looking for a very “accurate-to-the-films-and-books” experience. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I think the thing that impresses so many people who visit WWOHP (myself included) is how phenomenally Diagon Alley recreates the Diagon Alley from the films (and presumably books), and how it gives people the opportunity to have certain experiences shown within the Potter books & films.

I’ve experienced Diagon Alley on 2 separate Florida visits (within about a month of its opening in 2014, and in 2016), and I’ve been equally floored by it both times, personally! I’ll admit that I’m not particularly into the whole “shopping”/non-ride elements of the Potter lands myself, but I was still equally wowed by the pure visual masterpiece and pure immersion of the whole thing! I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard Harry Potter fan, but I do really enjoy the books & films (I’m actually rereading the book series right now!), and even I was floored by the pure spectacle of the lands; I think they’re enough of an accurate visual centrepiece, and enough of a purely immersive environment, to make up for the fact that they’re not exactly filled with rides. Every inch of them is themed, and they’re some of those places where I almost think you can be satisfied by merely looking at them, and you really can suspend disbelief while you’re inside the areas. I know that magic is often seen as a cliched term when referring to theme parks, but I’ve got to say, stepping through the brick wall into Diagon Alley and seeing the Gringotts Bank lobby for the first time, as well as seeing Hogsmeade for the first time, have got to be some of the most magical theme park experiences I’ve ever had.

Before I ramble for too long, my basic point is; the Potter lands, especially Diagon Alley, aren’t really typical theme park lands. Their sole purpose is to transport guests into the world of Harry Potter, and immerse them into that world in just about every way possible. There will be many die-hard Harry Potter fans visiting the land who are wanting to go through certain “rites of passage” and experience certain environments within the Potter universe (e.g. getting a wand from Ollivander’s, eating in the Three Broomsticks or the Leaky Cauldron, shopping in Honeyduke’s or Madam Malkin’s; the list goes on!) as opposed to simply wanting to get on a load of Potter-themed theme park rides. As such, even the rides in WWOHP’s two lands exist as vehicles to transport guests on a Potter adventure and have Potter-related experiences, as opposed to just being there for the sake of having rides there, and the lands aren’t really designed to revolve around rides as much as they are around immersing you in the Potter universe through all kinds of means. If that’s not for you, then fair enough, but I think ultimately, as much as it might seem dull to many of us enthusiasts, I think a less ride-focused land is what a lot of guests visiting ultimately want.

If you’re viewing the Potter lands as typical theme park lands, then I admit they may fall a bit short compared to some, as they’re not especially ride-heavy. But if you view them more as experiences in their own right, then I personally feel they’re a lot stronger.
 
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Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
I would agree that the Harry Potz franchise was probably the strongest going in the world, as the time of the films at least. It’s probably passed it’s peak popularity now. It’s backed by a very popular and strong set of children’s books.

Marvel as a film and TV franchise seems to be pretty huge and possibly the most popular now, but aside from the comics the content has been quite boring/average and has definitely not captured my imagination. Domination by over-exposure? Guardians 1 and Infinity War are the only ‘great’ additions, with the Loki TV show being rather pleasing too and a candidate for a double thumbs up pending the final episodes.

Star Wars seems to have been eclipsed by both. I have never understood the generous enthusiasm for it either. There is one ‘great’ film and a lot of ‘watchable’.

Jurrassic Park is in a tier below all of that, somewhere. I don’t think there is much appetite for it as a franchise, rather there is one ‘great’ film (the first one) that carries the rest off the back of nostalgia.
The special thing about the Harry Potter franchise is that it is very closely tied to some iconic locations that the characters visit over and over again. That familiarity really helps sell the franchise. A book reader feels "at home" at Hogwarts, they will recognise Diagon Alley immediately, and can list off the landmarks in Hogsmeade by heart. The setting is almost as important as the story.

I mean, the exciting thing about the Marvel universe is the superpowers of the characters. But it's completely irrelevant where those superpowers are used. Any random street (or indeed, empty airport) could house an iconic MCU scene. But those locations are dull as flatbread whenever no MCU characters are using their superpowers there. Hogwarts, meanwhile, retains its feeling of magic and mystery even if Harry Potter and his friends are all absent. The MCU lacks those immediately obvious locations.

Star Wars has a similar issue. Its iconic moments are linked to specific characters and specific actions. The really iconic locations the movies repeatedly visit are either too cramped (i.e. the inside of the Millennium Falcon) or too sprawling to feasibly build in a theme park (Coruscant). Most other locations are only visited once or twice, and would not be very exciting to visit unless some iconic characters were present to do something iconic.

Harry Potter lends itself exceptionally well to a theme park land, as it presents places you would really like to visit, independent of the presence of its main characters or plot. The adaptation to a physical destination is both relatively easy and very effective. I guess Jurassic Park could be said to have the same iconic locations (the park itself), but it's entirely dependent on the presence of dinosaurs, which is very challenging to pull off for an immersive land.

I really can't think of many other places in fictional media that feature the same "instant familiarity" of locations quite like Harry Potter. Maybe Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sort-of, and maybe Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings, but making a fully themed land out of either would be difficult. Harry Potter really hit that perfect storm of coinciding factors.
 

Nitefly

Hyper Poster
@Matt N I know what you mean but the offerings are actually mostly tat. There’s a million variations of t-shirts that say hufflepuff / hogwarts etc, keychains and other guff - it just wasn’t that exciting to browse. I’ve already cut ‘Slytherine 4 Life’ into my forehead, I don’t need that ****.

Tat leaves me flaccid, but things like having a fire whisky / butter beer, or a flaming moe. That’s ‘raging semi’ material right there.

@Pokemaniac excellent observations. It also helps that Harry Potz is incredibly relatable (as a herp derp young teenager). When he was being a grade-A doofus with the girls you’re sat their with a tear in your eye. Plus it has that wonderful gloomy X-factor of “you’re parents are sooooOOoOoo dead”. Children love stuff gloomy stuff like that, can’t get enough.
 

nadroJ

CF Legend
a general "total ban" of the outside world inside the land.
I often wonder about this, and what the actual impact of it is. Is my experience heightened because I can't buy a Coke in Wizarding World? I quite enjoyed Disney's take on the 'alien' Coke and Sprite bottles - to me that feels more immersive than no Coke at all.

I have a bit of beef when it comes to immersion, because my opinion is that true immersion is impossible so where do you draw the line, and at what point does attempting to achieve 100% immersion become detrimental to your product. A good example here is Disney's obsession with Mine Train coasters, because 'runaway mine train' makes sense as both a real vehcile and a rollercoaster. The vehicle makes sense in the context of the narrative. But I always think if Disney weren't bogged down by this obsession that the vehicle has to make real-world sense so as not to break immersion what else could they come up with?

It also leads to ridiculous levels of exposition (looking at you, Flight of Passage pre-show). I adore theming, but standing me in a room for ten minutes of spiel explaining why I'm there when I'm literally in a ****ing theme park drives me nuts. I think there's a happy medium somewhere.

That was quite off-topic, I apologise, but feels worth discussing as part of this theme!
 

Hyde

Matt SR
Staff member
Moderator
Social Media Team
The special thing about the Harry Potter franchise is that it is very closely tied to some iconic locations that the characters visit over and over again. That familiarity really helps sell the franchise. A book reader feels "at home" at Hogwarts, they will recognise Diagon Alley immediately, and can list off the landmarks in Hogsmeade by heart. The setting is almost as important as the story.
This is further validated by speculation on Disney considering a replacement of Star Wars sequel characters (Kylo Ren, Rey, etc.) with the more familiar, traditional Star Wars characters - everyone loves to see their "friendly, at-home" Stormtrooper over the 7-9 redux. :p

This recent convo also has me realizing a key trend arguably on the rise: immersive experiences over "RIDEZ". While the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter was built with the Hogwarts ride as the crowning achievement (And a minor B&M dueling invert); we have absolutely seen newer "deep theme" park sections built out that put emphasis on "putting yourself there", over a singular "prime" attraction.

As a logistics management tool, this is a very smart play - those hoping for a chance to ride Rise of the Resistance need to arrive to Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning to check-in, yet how many thousands more guests aren't on the ball, but still wanting to get the Star Wars experience? And to the criticism of Avengers Campus - indeed, there's a specific focus on engaging with the characters/Marvel universe, over "riding your way through" on Spiderman Web Slingers, and whatever additional ride is planned for within the campus building. Nintendo Land too has a bigger focus on immersion, not only being about the Mario Kart racing attraction. And jumping back to Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, we are about to see the opening of their new Galactic Cruiser hotel as an extension of the experience, so one could literally eat, sleep, and stay within the Star Wars experience round the clock.

A lot of this detail and focus has been swept up in Covid, but as we re-emerge; while us coaster dorks are more focused on Smuggler's Run and Rise of the Resistance (which are simply amazing experiences), it's important to recognize the "bigger" experience Disney and Universal are also building into.

[EDIT] - Glad @nadroJ and I were thinking on the same immersion wave length. 😅
 

FarleyFlavors

Mega Poster
I disagree - there's a hugely differentiating factor with Potter vs. Star Wars: the internet. The Potter films came at a time when fans all over the world could connect and feed one another's fandom like no other franchise before it. Star Wars was huge of course, but nothing like Potter with the speed of the internet and the way fans could connect and snowball Pottermania into the phenomenon it became.
The Potter films were hugely influential because...internet?!

They're based on the single most popular series of books of all time. Assuming there were to be no major screwups in the translation to the screen, in the cinema world they were about the closest thing to a sure-fire hit imaginable.

So how exactly did this feeding "one another's fandom" with "the speed of the internet" manifest itself?

Improved box office?

Not really. On the list of the highest grossing films of all time, only the first film makes the top 100. The roughly contemporaneous Lord of the Rings films and Star Wars prequels are all in the top 100.

Maybe at the time the Tolkien fans and the Star Wars fans were using the "speed of the internet" to greater effect, eh?

Merchandising?

Yeah, probably worth an considerable quantity of cash. I'd guess probably not significantly more than Star Wars merchandising though. And, again, a significant proportion of that merchandising income will be due to the enormous success of the books rather than the films.
My theory is that Disney saw what Warner Bros. were doing with Potter and the richness and synergetic power such a world could bring in terms of franchising and applied this for their MCU.
My theory is that Marvel saw saw how popular the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises had become and figured they could exploit their own characters without licencing them to other studios. And they'd already released five films in the MCU before the first one to be distributed by Disney.

Star Wars had this sure, and even Star Trek, but it was a fairly niche, underground thing to be a huge Star Wars geek and write fan fiction and whatever comparatively - nowadays not only is it mainstream but it's worth billions. We're seeing it happen now with Star Wars because it didn't happen the first time around because the internet wasn't there to connect the mega geeks around the world
And now you're massively underestimating how huge Star Wars was in the Seventies and Eighties. It was about as far from niche and underground as it's possible to get.

ETA: Just read @Pokemaniac's post and he's probably nailed why the Potter theme park attractions have been so successful. Little to do with the success or influence of the films.
 
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nadroJ

CF Legend
The Potter films were hugely influential because...internet?!

They're based on the single most popular series of books of all time. Assuming there were to be no major screwups in the translation to the screen, in the cinema world they were about the closest thing to a sure-fire hit imaginable.

So how exactly did this feeding "one another's fandom" with "the speed of the internet" manifest itself?

Improved box office?

Not really. On the list of the highest grossing films of all time, only the first film makes the top 100. The roughly contemporaneous Lord of the Rings films and Star Wars prequels are all in the top 100.

Maybe at the time the Tolkien fans and the Star Wars fans were using the "speed of the internet" to greater effect, eh?

Merchandising?

Yeah, probably worth an considerable quantity of cash. I'd guess probably not significantly more than Star Wars merchandising though. And, again, a significant proportion of that merchandising income will be due to the enormous success of the books rather than the films.

My theory is that Marvel saw saw how popular the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises had become and figured they could exploit their own characters without licencing them to other studios. And they'd already released five films in the MCU before the first one to be distributed by Disney.


And now you're massively underestimating how huge Star Wars was in the Seventies and Eighties. It was about as far from niche and underground as it's possible to get.

I'm not saying the Potter films were hugely influential because of the Internet, I'm saying the fandom and ensuing mania persisted and grew into levels never seen before because of the Internet and the way fans were able to connect like never before. I think it's naive to look at box office alone - you only have to look at Avatar to understand that - highest grossing film of all time but does it have a fanbase? Not really. We have to look at the entire picture of the IP as a whole, which is where the internet comes in.

Potter IP is worth $31billion, Star Wars is worth $65billion. But there's a few things to note here. Firstly, Star Wars has the Disney machine behind it, so that arguably helps in terms of pushing the brand further globally. Secondly, Star Wars has been around since the late 70s - I wish there was a way to see what Star Wars was worth in 2001 so we could have a better comparison of value with Potter 24 years after its initial release (Potter first book was 1997, so 97 to now is 24 years).


Look at this - we can see that comparatively Star Wars vs. Potter in the Box Office they're worth relatively the same. Where Star Wars smashes it is the merchandising, which the IP has always been famous for but again I would argue has likely seen exponential growth under the Disney machine. Again, I wish I had some hands on those stats as I'd love to see a more like for like comparison.

You're taking a lot of what I'm saying out of context - I didn't say Star Wars was underground. I said being a super-fan and writing fan-fiction and things of that nature were. Being a 'stan', if you will, was an odd thing back then whereas nowadays it's cool to be a nerd and companies exploit that. In the 70s & 80s you maybe had a small group of friends who enjoyed doing that stuff with you but it was hardly mainstream like it is these days where if you're a Potter fan you can go into pretty much any shop on the high street and find some kind of Potter merch. And yes, the same can be said of Star Wars NOW, but back then I don't think it was comparable.

And then if we circle back to theme parks and influence each of the IPs had: Star Wars was a simulator in the Disney Parks which was a nice and fun addition for fans but nothing near approaching the game-changing phenomenon Wizarding World was for the theme park landscape. It's here you can really grasp the cultural impact of the two, done in the right way. Hell, even now with Galaxy's Edge, the reception is lukewarm at best whereas people still talk about going to the 'Harry Potter theme park' when they mean Island of Adventure. People don't call Hollywood Studios the 'Star Wars theme park'.

Essentially my point is that the Potter IP and subsquent Pottermania signalled something to Disney and other studios that they maybe hadn't nailed before in terms of elevating their IPs to unleash their full synergetic power globally. Which is what we have subsequently seen them do, with Star Wars and the MCU.

ETA: Just read @Pokemaniac's post and he's probably nailed why the Potter theme park attractions have been so successful. Little to do with the success or influence of the films.
Again, I disagree slightly here. With the books everybody had their own unique but similar ideas of what the places Rowling was describing looked like. The films brought these settings to life on-screen and aligned our collective imaginations. When we think of Hogwarts now, it's not the one we originally conjured in our heads when reading the books for the first time, it's the one we see in the films. The sets for the films were the blueprints for Wizarding World, so again I don't think you can look at each stem of the IP separately, you have to consider it collectively and how each subsection influenced one-another to create such a rich world from which to build from. I absolutely do agree with Poke's points about the locations lending themselves well to a theme park land vs. Star Wars/MCU.
 
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RTcmix

Mega Poster
With the books everybody had their own unique but similar ideas of what the places Rowling was describing looked like. The films brought these settings to life on-screen and aligned our collective imaginations. When we think of Hogwarts now, it's not the one we originally conjured in our heads when reading the books for the first time, it's the one we see in the films. The sets for the films were the blueprints for Wizarding World.

This progression is an essential part of what makes the Potter IP work so well. We read the books and imagined this magical world. Next we saw the films and got to see that world with our own eyes. Finally, we go to the parks and get to BE in that magical world.

The way that Potter became such a ubiquitous part the childhood experience of folks around my age (early 30s) also sets the IP apart. We all grew up with Potter, each book coming out when we were about the same age as the characters. I don't know of another IP that has such a profound connection with so much of a generation. While the progression from book to film to immersive land can be copied, this kind of phenomenon would be far more difficult, if not impossible to replicate.

All that being said, I agree with Nitefly that Diagon Alley doesn't quite have the same effect for me on return visits. Once the magic of the initial visit has worn off it does begin to feel like an incredibly well themed shopping area with one incredibly well themed ride that uses too many screens.
 
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FarleyFlavors

Mega Poster
Look at this - we can see that comparatively Star Wars vs. Potter in the Box Office they're worth relatively the same.
Unadjusted for inflation, which renders the stat meaningless. Based on that link I provided earlier, I did some number crunching on the various franchises:

Average box office take per film adjusted for inflation
Star Wars - main films(9) $799m
Indiana Jones(4) $539m
Lord of the Rings(3) $531m
Jurassic Park(5) $530m
Spider-Man(7) $405m
Harry Potter(8) $401m

So yeah, The Wonderful World of the Internet didn't do a hell of a lot for the box office.

I'm not trying to claim that Potter isn't a massively lucrative property - it clearly is - but given the book sales, it would be a major surprise if it wasn't. Just bristling at the suggestion that it's somehow directly responsible for the type of modern blockbuster filmmaking we're now seeing, for which there's really no evidence.

You're taking a lot of what I'm saying out of context - I didn't say Star Wars was underground. I said being a super-fan and writing fan-fiction and things of that nature were. Being a 'stan', if you will, was an odd thing back then whereas nowadays it's cool to be a nerd and companies exploit that.
No question there's been a Rise of the Nerds in recent years and as a fully-paid-up card-carrying geek myself, I welcome our new overlords.

Was Potter responsible for this? Partially. Was it a kind of ground zero for the phenomenon? Of course not
it was hardly mainstream like it is these days where if you're a Potter fan you can go into pretty much any shop on the high street and find some kind of Potter merch. And yes, the same can be said of Star Wars NOW, but back then I don't think it was comparable.
It really, really was both completely mainstream and directly comparable. Where do you think one went to score a box of these? Clue: it didn't involve a trip to Forbidden Planet...
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With the books everybody had their own unique but similar ideas of what the places Rowling was describing looked like. The films brought these settings to life on-screen and aligned our collective imaginations. When we think of Hogwarts now, it's not the one we originally conjured in our heads when reading the books for the first time, it's the one we see in the films.
Can't argue with that. Much as I'd like to :D
 

nadroJ

CF Legend
Unadjusted for inflation, which renders the stat meaningless. Based on that link I provided earlier, I did some number crunching on the various franchises:

Average box office take per film adjusted for inflation
Star Wars - main films(9) $799m
Indiana Jones(4) $539m
Lord of the Rings(3) $531m
Jurassic Park(5) $530m
Spider-Man(7) $405m
Harry Potter(8) $401m

So yeah, The Wonderful World of the Internet didn't do a hell of a lot for the box office.

I'm not trying to claim that Potter isn't a massively lucrative property - it clearly is - but given the book sales, it would be a major surprise if it wasn't. Just bristling at the suggestion that it's somehow directly responsible for the type of modern blockbuster filmmaking we're now seeing, for which there's really no evidence.

But this again is not what I'm saying, and I think you're misunderstanding my point. I never said the Internet is the reason the films are successful. I said the Internet was responsible for perpetuating the fandom. Which it is. And with my points around the MCU and things again I'm talking beyond cinema and more about synergetic juggernauts (books + films + merch + theme parks + TV spin offs, etc). And this being a theme park forum, I'm talking with a particular focus on successfully translating IP into theme park, which we've clarified hadn't been done on such a hugely successful scale before before Wizarding World.

And I never said it was directly responsible. Anywhere. I said Disney were 'inspired' by it and that the focus on 'cinematic universes' now is inspired by the potential showcased by Potter. Disney took that approach and applied it to IPs where it could work (MCU & Star Wars) and it's exploded. And yes, I do retain my belief that Disney were inspired by the success of the Potter franchise if we look specifically at the film+merch+theme park angle. I don't have any proof because frankly, I'm lazy and can't be bothered to find anything to back it up but I think it's something that's fair enough to theorise and honestly I don't really understand why you seem so irked by this concept?

Was it a kind of ground zero for the phenomenon? Of course not
Never said it was. You said Star Wars and Potter movies/fandoms were the same and I argued that wasn't true because Potter fans had the Internet and we'd never seen anything like that before because the Internet made things behave differently. And I stand by that.
 
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