Universal’s Thriving Franchise Strategy Shines as Disney Stays Stuck in the Past

Universal new franchises
Credit: @Neil_Druckmann, Twitter/X; Disney

Universal Studios has become a shining example of how to meet a moment and invest in fresh yet familiar modern audience demands. While Disney has long held the crown as the reigning champion of beloved franchises, recent years have seen Universal Studios making strategic moves to challenge the status quo. Universal’s embrace of new and fresh franchises has invigorated not only its media content but its theme park offerings as well.

Super Mario Bros. movie

Credit: Universal

Universal Embraces New Franchises

It’s not hard to see the competing company’s success through its willingness to branch out. The Super Mario Bros. Movie, released in April 2023, brought the iconic video game franchise to life in a way Hollywood had previously struggled to achieve. Featuring a star-studded cast, including Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Charlie Day, the film’s financial triumph demonstrated the untapped potential of seeking out beloved franchises that haven’t been explored well in Hollywood.

Furthermore, Universal Studios caused major hype with its The Last of Us attraction, a spine-tingling interactive experience that debuted this week at Halloween Horror Nights 2023. Based on the award-winning post-apocalyptic video game and complemented by the pop culture success of HBO’s Emmy-nominated television adaptation, this IP alone has fueled attendance to the seasonal event. Universal Studios’ keen embrace of this franchise solidified its reputation as a studio willing to take calculated risks on fresh yet familiar ideas.

Last of Us Universal

Credit: Universal Studios

Strategic Success

Beyond these standout projects, Universal Studios has strategically diversified its attractions. Introducing rides and experiences rooted in pop culture phenomena like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Nintendo has broadened its appeal to a global audience. These initiatives have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by the growing popularity of Universal’s parks.

In fact, the accolades keep rolling in, with Central Florida’s Islands of Adventure theme park earning the title of “Best Orlando Theme Park for 2023” from Orlando Weekly this year. This recognition represents Universal Studios’ forward-thinking approach and its commitment to creating immersive experiences that resonate with modern audiences.

Warner Bros. also made a ton of money utilizing Universal Studios’ strategy. Its investment in the well-recognized Mattel brand with the Barbie movie just further proved that audiences love familiarity but don’t necessarily want it through sequels and spinoffs.


Credit: Warner Bros.

Disney Doubles Down

In stark contrast, Disney has faced criticism for its reliance on older franchises, a strategy that has yielded mixed results. Recent box office disappointments like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, and Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania have raised questions about Disney’s reluctance to embrace new and uncharted intellectual properties.

Indiana Jones De-Aging Scene

Credit: Lucasfilm

As the demand for fresh narratives grows, Disney’s reliance on well-worn stories shows signs of wear. While the company should consider Universal’s franchise strategy, it seems to be doubling down on its current approach. CEO Bob Iger said Disney will put out less content and focus more on quality projects within its proven franchises. This solution might help with oversaturation, but it does nothing to stop the burnout caused by repeatedly retelling the same stories with the same characters.

Universal Studios has definitely discovered a good course for creating success. Its commitment to new and fresh franchises has reinvigorated its brand and positioned it as a formidable contender in the battle for modern audiences. In fact, the studio is in the process of creating another major proven success untapped in Hollywood via its adaption of the Broadway musical Wicked. Disney would do well to consider its competitors or risk staying in a slump of oversaturation and decline.

About Michael Stoyanoff

Michael is a Disney fan with an entertainment background and passion for writing. Living in Orlando, he has been around the theme parks for over a decade. In his free time he enjoys running, playing video games, and traveling the world. He also loves hanging out with his dog, Mr. Pippers the Pug.

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