In the battle of the theme parks, there is only one hard and fast rule: stay relevant. This is often an uphill battle for Disney and Universal. Both resorts battle to dominate the industry and have the highest attendance. The race is neck and neck, but each resort faces its own challenges when it comes to staying relevant.
Disney’s problem comes from having built so many lands around the future- a future that keeps catching up to it. This had led to a major overhaul of EPCOT’s Future World. It had become so outdated that it was nostalgic rather than futuristic. Its reimagining will change all of that.
Universal, however, has a very different problem. Since their theming revolves almost exclusively around movies And TV shows, what they’ve essentially done is build two entire theme parks on pop culture references. That’s a risky move because pop culture changes as often as the weather (or my hair color). One generation’s “classic film” is another’s “never heard of it.” In fact, my 7-year-old son only knows “E.T” because of the ride. He would have no clue what “Jaws” or “Back to the Future” was.
This presents a problem in that the Park has to reinvent itself constantly. Unlike Disney, its “classics” just don’t have staying power. This is why there’s only one original attraction left.
So when Classic Monsters Cafe closed its doors earlier this year, no one was shocked. Classic monster movies like Frankenstein and Dracula certainly have more staying power than, say, Fast and the Furious or possibly even Minions. Still, the general public’s interest in them has waned. Most kids today, and even their parents, haven’t seen those films. In a world where relevance is everything, that just won’t do.
Universal’s theme park space is at a premium. Unlike Disney, they don’t have a property the size of San Francisco. To stay relevant, they must remove outdated things to make room for new ones. Disney has a size advantage and, therefore, can afford to keep nostalgic attractions. Universal doesn’t have that luxury.
Universal has yet to announce what will replace the now defunct restaurant, but the smart money is on a Minions-themed eatery. That seems to be their hottest property…for now. It seems as though they hope Minions are the answer to their lack of timeless characters like Disney’s fab 5: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy. While the Minnions are hilarious and lovable, they just haven’t been around long enough to prove if they have what it takes to go head to head with Disney’s beloved mouse. Time will tell if this investment will pay off but now, I’m suddenly hungry for a banana… weird.