Universal Studios and Disney have launched big announcements all week. From new locations, to ride launches, and even the possibility of a new theme park.
In a battle of Disney vs Universal this week, a bevy on announcements has pitted the two theme park behomoths against each other.
Disney World Announces Launch Date for TRON Lightcycle Run
Following a busy year that saw Disney open Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (both at Epcot), the long-awaited TRON Lightcycle Run has an open date set: April 4th, 2023. The ride, a smaller version of the same attraction at Disney’s Shanghai Disneyland took more than five years to develop.
>◎//: Prepare to enter the Grid. It’s almost your turn. Ready? TRON Lightcycle/Run opens at Magic Kingdom Park on 04/04/23_
— Walt Disney World (@WaltDisneyWorld) January 10, 2023
The new ride will be located in Disney Resorts’ Magic Kingdom, Epcot continues with another renovation though a water-based Moana attraction is not expected to have a ride.
The three Disney rides were meant to compete with Universal Studios Islands of Adventure roller coasters, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (one of the most complete rides I have ever ridden) and Velocicoaster in the nearby Jurassic Park section of the park.
Some speculated that TRON may not open before the new Universal Epic theme park opens in 2025.
Universal Adds Location In Frisco, Texas
Universal Studios is adding a community attraction to Frisco, Texas near the Dallas Metroplex. The concept, unnamed officially at this time, will be a collection of themed hotels, attractions, and small rides though not particularly a theme park, unlike Universal Studios Florida or Hollywood.
JUST ANNOUNCED: Universal Parks & Resorts plans to bring a new concept for families with young children to Frisco, Texas! pic.twitter.com/5rsAyEAcMO
— Universal Orlando Resort (@UniversalORL) January 11, 2023
The development brings an opportunity to connect with the Universal characters and brand without building a competing theme park to battle Six Flags over Texas in Arlington, Texas. The family-friendly concept will be welcome news to Texas residents who may want some of the World of Harry Potter magic (unconfirmed but almost assuredly part of the park) without the trip to Orlando or Los Angeles.
While scant details are available, it looks like the area will mirror a combination of resorts and limited rides with low height requirements that is more shopping and dining focused. This follows Universal’s City Walk (similar to Disney Springs) which visitors have made extremely popular.
Universal Horror Nights to Go Year-round in Las Vegas
Universal Studios Horror Nights is bringing its scary October-long event to Las Vegas and operating it year-round. One of the differences between Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort is the latter’s willingness to lean into an older audience. Universal’s Horror Nights in the parks start at a 6 PM early close time and require separate park tickets taking over the park attractions converting them to haunted houses and horror movie-themed dining options.
The location of Universal’s Horror Nights Las Vegas location has not been announced but has been assumed to be on the strip.
Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District Approves Up to Two New Parks
The group that determines decisions for Disney’s Orlando group, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, has approved either one large new park or two small parks for the house of mouse. This could include a water park like Disney’s pair that competes with Universal’s Volcano Bay.
“Of note was the long-term land use plan which includes more hotel rooms, two additional minor theme parks (waterparks), and one additional major theme park.
The updated plan is expected to be released in February 2023, which will provide an interesting insight into future development possibilities at Walt Disney World.” – WDW Magic
Disney has not excluded the possibility of a Villans-themed park. The largest studios/franchises for the brand are Star Wars, Avatar, and Marvel but both of the latter have a dedicated land within other parks, Marvel gets a cut out of its own in California so those three seem less likely to get their own dedicated park. Disney is also under pressure from Universal Epic which will open dozens of new rides in just a few years with Universal Orlando opening its third gate.
Reedy Creek’s approvals and outlines only indicate an endorsement and cooperation but Disney would still need to make a market-based decision as to whether a fifth gate in Orlando (in addition to Disney Springs and two water parks) is necessary.
Disney Lowers Prices and Re-Opens Annual Pass Sales
Following a disastrous term running Disney for Bob Chepak, Chairman (and now CEO) Bob Iger’s return to the helm has been widely lauded. Doing away with some of the unfriendly customer changes that sent my own family packing from the Happiest Place on Earth, Iger announced this week that prices were going to come down slightly, annual passes will re-open for sale, and adding back features like photos and removing 2 PM park hopping reservation requirements.
“[Disney Parks President] D’Amaro also said the company — which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Disney Studios — will “significantly” increase the number of days that tickets to Disneyland sell for their lowest price of $104.” – New York Post
Making reservations for three years was really the biggest problem for my family as we liked being able to switch parks. We might end at Magic Kingdom late at night for extended hours after spending the day at Hollywood Studios and inside Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge for example. That sort of hopping was possible but not guaranteed in the way it had been in the past, now it seems to be a return to normal, more or less.
In a week of “hold my beer” moments, Universal and Disney battled back and forth with announcements of competing grandeur. It’s welcome to see substantial competition between the two leading theme park operators in the world, especially with so much development slotted for the United States. In the coming years, assuming the success of Universal’s outpost projects could extend the magic away from the coasts. Disney likely needs to make some sort of a move in Orlando to maintain its position against Universal’s Epic, but in the interim, the announcement that prices will drop and the return of annual passes will bring some back into the fold.
What do you think? Who won the week of announcements? Are you and your family inclined to try Universal’s Frisco property or the Las Vegas Horror Nights project? Do you think Disney should add one large park, two smaller parks, or no additional parks at all?