Theme park fans are a die-hard group of passionate people. There are many blogs, podcasts, and social media accounts keeping constant tabs on what is happening in the world of theme parks. Some details are as small as a bench being moved or a new sign being hung, and others are about larger projects, like brand new attractions or even lands. When it comes to official announcements about big projects from the top two (Disney and Universal), it’s interesting to see such drastically different announcement strategies.
Disney Parks tend to announce their new projects far in advance while Universal Parks tend to announce much closer to the opening date. I personally would like it somewhere in between for both, but it’s interesting to see these two different strategies at play.
I think most would agree that people are keeping a much closer eye on Disney Parks than they are at Universal. Both companies have their hardcore fandoms, but the amount of attention paid to Disney patent offices, licenses, trademarks, and leaks is sort of staggering. Disney fans want to know what’s happening in the theme parks before The Walt Disney Company even has their plans set in stone. Once a bit of new information is found, the theories and rumors begin.
It’s because of this that I think Disney probably announces projects sooner than they would actually like. I’m sure they want to share the news before it is leaked and the rumors start flying. I honestly feel bad for Disney when it comes to this. On the one hand, it’s quite flattering that fans are so obsessed with the Disney product that they want to know everything about it as soon as possible. But on the other hand, it must be terribly annoying for Disney not to be able to control the way their major announcements are presented. We all know how much Disney likes controlling their product and brand, so this must get quite frustrating for them.
If you look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the announcement for this mega expansion was announced at the D23 Expo in 2015. The land opened almost four years later in 2019. That is quite a long time to keep fans waiting. Even with a project as exciting as Galaxy’s Edge, keeping the buzz building consistently for four years is a tough task.
The other problem with announcing things so early is that plans and budgets are constantly changing, so with such a long lead time, there are bound to be announced details that don’t come to fruition. At least not immediately. In the case of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, we all remember the promise of large amounts of interaction with aliens who would be holding you accountable for the errors you make while visiting Batuu. And how about that Bantha ride we saw artwork for which hasn’t become a reality? If Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge had only been announced a year in advance, they most likely would have had a better idea on what would actually open within these 14-acre expansions.
Now on the complete opposite side of the spectrum is Universal’s theme parks. A recent example is the new roller coaster being built in the Jurassic Park area in Universal’s Islands of Adventure. There is no hiding this new attraction, but Universal hasn’t made any sort of announcement even though the name “Velocicoaster” has been leaked online and we can clearly see the new ride taking shape. It’s as if Universal encourages the fans to seek out the unconfirmed information, and when they’re ready, they basically say, “Yeah. You were right. Good job! It’s opening real soon.”
The thing I like about this strategy for Universal is that it feels very on-brand for them. It’s sort of a sassy way, being like, “We see what you think, but we’re not saying anything.” If you’re familiar with the Universal social media accounts, you’ll know that sass is their forte and I love it.
It’s very interesting to see the two main theme park competitors use such differing strategies when it comes to announcing their bread and butter. But what do you think? Do you prefer one strategy over the other? Do you think Disney is “forced” to announce plans sooner than they desire? Why do you think Universal waits so long to make official announcements? Let me know in the comments.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.