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Disney World vs Universal Studios
Credit: Universal (left); Disney (right)

Why Universal Studios will Always Win the ‘Short Game’ with Disney World

The relationship between the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios Florida has been built up as a massive Theme Park industry rivalry. The ultimate question whenever someone says they are visiting Florida seems to be, “are you going to Disney or Universal?”

Living in the Sunshine State, I am more than familiar with this supposed rivalry, and it is comical sometimes to see SeaWorld and its still-relatively-new property, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, try to insert itself in the mix like a UCF voice in a UF/FSU debate. But when you look at the short-term and long-term track records, there is no rivalry. Universal will always win the momentary ‘short game,’ but in the long run, Disney World has and will always triumph.

Universal

Credit: Universal

Recently, we at Disney Fanatic shared the news that fans were dumping their Disney tickets and passes and flocking to Universal instead. People’s reasoning now is essentially the same reasoning they had in choosing Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure over the Magic Kingdom and other Theme Parks when Theme Parks reopened after the COVID shutdown: Universal is offering more for their money.

From where I am standing, that argument makes sense! Guests are able to get a more complete and fulfilled Guest experience at Universal Orlando Resort than at the Walt Disney World Resort. But Universal is cheaper because it offers a cheaper experience. Universal has Harry Potter, Jurrasic World, and thrill rides. That is it.

Jurassic Park, Universal

Credit: Universal

Sure, they incorporate some of Walt Disney Imagineering’s tricks to increase the immersion levels of the Harry Potter-themed lands. But it is still nowhere near the level of immersion one can find at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or the overall immersion level of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Instead of giving Potterheads their own Theme Park, Universal chose to cram a small piece of the Wizarding World into each of its two smaller Parks. And, from personal experience, even on Cast Members’ worst days, they still provide better service than Universal Team Members.

If I want to go to an amusement Park where I know I am going to get my money’s worth of thrills and shallow fun, I will choose–and admittedly have chosen in the past–Universal. But those moments are few and far between. I go to Disney World when I want something more.

disney-characters-magic-kingdom

Credit: Disney

Guests do not just go to Disney World for rides. They go for the Resort Hotels. They go for gastronomical experiences like EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival. They go to see the parades, shows, and fireworks and to see their favorite characters. They go to have access to not one, not two, but four completely unique Theme Parks with their own unique rides and attractions.

Are all of the rides as thrilling and exciting as Universals? Absolutely not, and this is part of why Universal will most likely continue to win over teenagers and kids in their early 20s. But Disney will continue to win the entire Family. At least, again, in the long run.

epcot-international-food-and-wine-festival

Credit: Disney

Right now, Disney World appears to be losing the Family because price hikes take the cost above its perceived value. The name “Walt Disney World” has always held an expectation of unmatched family-friendly quality. But a combination of factors from Theme Park Reservations and lower quality experience to its stance in the current culture war, which is embodied by the “Reimagine Tomorrow” initiative, has momentarily created an ambiance that is perceived as not family-friendly and not worth the money.

Princess makeover

Credit: Disney Springs

The Walt Disney World is at a very critical moment in its history. Their “sensitivity” and “inclusion” methods are self-sabotaging (i.e., no longer calling little girls “princess” and labeling Tinker Bell “problematic”), their construction projects have gone long overdue–even with the COVID lockdown–, and their prices have significantly increased for a Resort that is still restricting capacity, making people pay for a lackluster FastPass+ replacement, and still not allowing ParkHopping until half the day is done, along with a multitude of other reasonings undoubtedly held by the other Fanatics and Guests.

Disney World Park Pass Reservations

Credit: Disney

But this is just a moment.

Universal should enjoy this moment because it is not going to last long. Disney World will wake up. The “woke” trend will go away, and the quality expected of every person on property, from the construction crew to the lowest-rung Cast Members, will return to its proper level, and a Walt Disney World Vacation will be worth its price once again.

MagicBand+

MagicBand+ (Credit: Disney)

Like the tide, all things ebb and flow. I have no doubt that the proverbial Disney tide will be coming back in just in time for when it is my turn to take my Family on vacation. And I don’t plan on settling for anything less than the Disney Standard.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.

About T.K. Bosacki

TK is a writer and editor based in Tampa, FL with a passion for all things Disney, and adventure.