>Theme Parks – Separate and Unequal?

>I visited the Disney World and Universal theme parks in Orlando on vacation recently. It reminded me of the difference in how they choose to manage the lines for their rides. Universal allows visitors to pay their way out of long lines [Express pass] with an additional daily charge or for staying at one of their resorts. Disney [Fast pass] allows visitors to select which rides they can eliminate their wait times for, but severely restricts the number times of times it can be used.

I prefer Disney’s way of attempting to manage the lines. Here I must admit to a socialist tendency in my otherwise right-wing-Cuban-exile DNA. In our increasingly [by choice] segregated lives, I much prefer the ‘we’re all equal here’ mind-set which the Disney way encourages. Part of the appeal in visiting a theme park is the people-watching aspect. Some of it can be mean-spirited [obesity on parade? – see Michael Fumento]. But mostly it’s a very positive reinforcement of those things we have in common with other people, and especially parents, who don’t look like us.

At Disney, when you stroll past those in a regular line with your Fast pass, there are no issues since you are exercising an option which was available to them as well. To paraphrase John [keeping it Rielle] Edwards, the two Americas are on the same vacation page. But that all changes at Universal.

At Universal, it feels as though social stratification never takes a vacation. I’ve had Universal’s Express pass the last few times I’ve visited and I find myself never making eye contact with the people in line I’m walking past – almost like I don’t want to rub it in. Now the guy in line with the 2.5 kids may have $2.5 million in an IRA and fully funded his kid’s college tuition, but that’s not the point. He may also be getting embarrassed and then resentful about having to explain to his kids that they can’t afford the pass which is allowing others to walk past them.

Those of you without kids may be tempted to suggest that if you just explain …, please rid yourself of such nonsensical notions now. If as a parent you’re having that conversation, you have officially left ‘happy-land’ and won’t be returning until you get on the ride or the next purchase.

Some basics about Theme Park attendance as provided by TEA – in 2007 the combined visitors to the 4 Disney parks in Orlando totaled approx 47 million as compared to the 2 Universal parks total of 11.5 million – or about 25% of Disney’s visitors – see the worldwide top 15 list below.

  1. MAGIC KINGDOM at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA 17,060,000
  2. DISNEYLAND, Anaheim, CA, USA 14,870,000
  3. TOKYO DISNEYLAND, Tokyo, Japan 13,906,000
  4. TOKYO DISNEYSEA, Tokyo, Japan 12,413,000
  5. DISNEYLAND PARIS, Marne-La-Vallee, France 12,000,000
  6. EPCOT at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA 10,930,000
  7. DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena V 9,510,000
  8. DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, FL 9,490,000
  9. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN, Osaka, Japan 8,713,000
  10. EVERLAND, Kyonggi-Do, South Korea 7,200,000
  11. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS at Universal Orlando, Orlando, FL 6,200,000
  12. SEAWORLD FLORIDA, Orlando, FL, USA 5,800,000
  13. DISNEY’S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE, Anaheim, CA, USA 5,680,000
  14. PLEASURE BEACH, Blackpool, UK 5,500,000
  15. ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE at Universal Orlando, Orlando, FL, USA 5,430,000

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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2 Responses to >Theme Parks – Separate and Unequal?

  1. Well Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on earth. Universal might be the most realistic since in life the guy that tips the doorman always gets in first. BTW last time I visited both sets of parks I noticed that Disney is getting run down, something I never noticed before in my lifetime and Universal (besides having the more thrilling rides) has that brand new flawless feeling to it that Disney used to have.

  2. Jorge Costales says:

    Agreed about the rides at Universal – I have a trio of teenagers as a focus group. But to use the word rundown and Disney in the same sentence is, as they say in the Godfather, infamnia!

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