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5 Reasons Why It’s Time for Universal to Make a Big Splash Once Again

Pandora Was Way Too Good

 chad_sparkes, Flickr

Image: chad_sparkes, Flickr (license)

Pandora: The World of Avatar was Disney simultaneously at its best and at its worst. Borne of an ill-conceived partnership and based on a film franchise that, while monetarily successful, has largely receded to history, Pandora was both a tone-deaf response to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a singular achievement of artistic vision.

No one was clamoring to truly spend time in Pandora quite at the same level that Harry Potter fans dreamt of walking through the doors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It was pure arrogance that led Disney into believing they could transform this film franchise into as beloved an environment as the Wizarding World.

And yet, against all odds, Pandora was a masterpiece. Chief Imagineer Joe Rohde created one of Disney’s most surreal and beautiful spaces within a park he built as an ode to the real beauty of the natural world. Even working in a headwind, Disney pulled off something remarkable.

As Disney’s attendance increased following the opening of Pandora, Universal was left with some uncomfortable questions. If a once-in-a-century gift fell into their laps with Harry Potter, and Disney was somehow able to match that land’s astonishing immersiveness with something based on a backbench intellectual property, how could Universal truly compete long term? If Joe Rohde and Co. could throw something together with plaster and greenery that is as magnificent an achievement as Pandora, what could Imagineering do with a bigger property?

Universal needs to move now in making another shot at Disney, because the answer to those questions is just around the corner...

Star Wars Is Coming

 © Disney

Image: Disney

With apologies to Universal, the only thing that comes to mind here is a scene from Avengers: Infinity War. After Bruce Banner has been summoned back to earth, Tony Stark explains to him that the Avengers have broken up. In response, Banner looks at him, sullen, and says, “Listen to me: Thanos is coming. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to or not.” 

Universal, hear me: Star Wars is coming. It doesn’t matter if you own IP or not.

It’s hard to overstate it, but when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge comes on line in 2019, it will be an event unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in the theme park world. Disney, likely, isn’t even prepared for the mass of people who will arrive in Anaheim and Central Florida hoping to experience this incredible universe for themselves. There will be hours-long lines, overcrowding, and tickets so expensive, you’ll need to save up for half a decade to go.

If Universal thinks they can withstand the sea change without heavily going on attack, they will be washed away. 

Rumors of Universal’s third non-water park gate have reached a fever pitch, and the massive tracts of land they’ve acquired near the convention center certainly portend something big. But whatever Universal has planned, they clearly need to widen the scope of what they think is possible. Attractions on par with Skull Island or Fast and Furious will not be enough to slow Star Wars’ reforming of the Orlando theme park landscape. 

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