Why Is Disney So Terrified of Following Universal?

Cinderella Castle Disney World and Hogwarts Castle Universal
Credit: Disney/Universal

For nearly twenty years, Walt Disney World Resort was the place to vacation in Central Florida. It was the reason most people visited the area in the first place. Then, in 1990, 19 years after the Magic Kingdom opened, Universal Studios Orlando opened just down the road.

The new theme park gave guests another option for their Florida vacation. Nine years after that, Universal opened a second theme park at the Resort — Islands of Adventure — which was aimed at guests who were looking for more thrill rides.

universal islands of adventure

Credit: Universal Parks

Related: Universal Is Coming for Disney’s Fireworks

While Walt Disney World is still the top choice for people looking to vacation in Central Florida, Universal is quickly catching up. Universal opened its own water park, Volcano Bay, in 2017, and a third theme park is currently being built.

Epic Universe is slated to open in 2025 and will have a third Harry Potter area, SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, and several other lands. It will be full of new and exciting rides, including a roller coaster that jumps the track.

An animated scene of Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong riding a thrilling roller coaster through a jungle theme park with ancient ruins. Characters are seen enjoying the ride, with vibrant colors, palm trees, and dynamic motion filling the background, reminiscent of Disney and Universal's magical settings.

Credit: Universal

Disney World has had decades to perfect the theme park game, and they do a lot of things really well. But there are some procedures in place at the Universal Orlando Resort that are just better. Those things are its Disability Service and its security procedures.

Disney recently made changes to its DAS and security systems, but most people don’t think they have improved them. Instead, Disney has made things more complicated and angered guests. Before the changes, guests would take to social media to say that Disney should copy Universal, but Disney ignored those pleas.

DAS Defenders challenge Disney disability changes

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Just Told Thousands of Disabled Guests That They Don’t Count

This begs the question, WHY is Disney so afraid of following Universal?

Disney’s Controversial DAS Changes

Right now, thousands of people are incredibly angry with Disney for the changes it made to its Disability Access Service program at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.

In early April, Disney announced that its DAS program would only be available to those with cognitive disabilities, such as autism. This action was being taken to cut down on fraud, which was running rampant. This new system would exclude everyone with medical and physical disabilities.

Three girls in princess costumes, one in a wheelchair, joyfully playing outdoors at sunset, with lush greenery in the background.

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney’s Own Greed Ruined Its Disability Program

Shortly after Disney’s announcement, angry fans flooded social media to share their grievances. They said that Disney should copy Universal, which requires guests to provide proof of a disability if they want access to the Disability Program. Universal works with the IBCCES — The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. Guests must go through that service and then speak to a Universal team member before getting approved.

harry potter diagon alley dragon, universal studios orlando

Credit: Aditya Vyas, Unsplash

Despite petitions and thousands of guests telling Disney it was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, Disney went ahead with its DAS changes. Now, thousands of Disney World guests are left wondering what to do and come June, those visiting Disneyland will be in the same boat.

Universal’s Superior Security

Disneyland Resort security recently made a change to its procedures, which have led to massive lines and guests waiting more than an hour to get into the parks. Each bag is thoroughly examined by a security guard, then a guest must go through a metal detector.

Before the changes, guests would slide their inspected bags down a table next to the metal detector. Now, another Disney security guard must take the bag, put loose items in a bowl, and move it while the guest walks through the metal detector.

Disney world security

Credit: Disney Dining

Over at Disney World, guests can hold metal items in their hands as they walk through a scanner with their bags. If they set the machine off, they must go to a security officer, who will inspect the bag.

Both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood have the same security procedure. Much like the airport, guests put their bags and loose items in a container, which then goes through an X-ray machine. The guest walks through a metal detector and then picks up their bag. Of course, if a Universal security guard spots something in the bag, it will be examined.

Universal Studios security lines

Credit: Chris Yarzab, Flickr

Universal’s security procedure makes things easier for guests and Universal team members alike. Even if the security lines get a little long, they move relatively quickly because the machines make things move a lot faster.

Disney is probably very aware of how Universal’s disability program and security procedures work. And if they were not before, after all the guests who reached out to them, they are now. But Disney just seems insistent on doing its own thing, regardless of how it affects the guest experience.

mickey toontown

Credit: Disney

Disney has always seemed to be “on top” of Universal, and it’s possible that they don’t want to look like they are copying Universal because they want to be the standard setter. However, if Disney wants to prove that it truly is all about the guests, it will swallow their pride and just do something that is already being done by its competitor.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the views of Disney Dining as a whole.

Do you think Disney just needs to suck it up and make things easier for guests by copying Universal? Let us know in the comments!

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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