Disney: Do or do not, there is no try


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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You may have heard that over the past few years, Disney has made some significant and substantial moves in multiple industries. As examples…

  • Both Marvel Entertainment and LucasFilm have been purchased since 2009. Disney spent, according to most reports, just shy of $9 billion for these acquisitions. The deal with LucasFilm included both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.
  • Pixar… should mention Pixar. Around 2006, Disney purchased Pixar. They had worked together releasing Pixar films up until that point. But, with the contract essentially done, and some words going back and forth (not important for this essay, especially given the ultimate results), Disney spent more than $7 billion on this purchase.
  • They came to an agreement with James Cameron and his group to bring Avatar to Disney World and the Animal Kingdom theme park. This should prove to be a huge arrival for a park that is incredible, gets plenty of visitors, but really could use an exciting addition.
  • The more-or-less response to Harry Potter arriving in Orlando at Universal Studios? Well… the direct response appears to have been the overhaul and expansion of Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. (But… yeah… don’t discount that Avatar news being a part of that response, or even the whispers of Star Wars heading in to expand the Hollywood Studios. Still… major response… Fantasyland.)

And there are other things…

Disney right now is at an interesting point. (Though I suppose Disney always is.)

The last theme park built in Disney World was the Animal Kingdom, which opened in 1998. The last theme park built in the United States by Disney was the California Adventure, which opened in 2001. The 15+ years since the Animal Kingdom opening, and the 12+ years since the California Adventure opening, reflect the longest stretches of time without a new Disney Park either for Orlando or the U.S. since Disney World opened in 1971.

And yet… parks are being built, such as in China.

Marvel is releasing multiple movies each year… Iron Man and Thor had franchise entries in 2013, with Captain America and the new Guardians of the Galaxy heading to the screen in 2014.

Frozen could be a big hit… though that is still to be determined. This film is being regarded with interest as a potential true return to animation significance for Disney. Plus, Pixar is beginning work on sequels for Finding Nemo and, rumors… rumors… rumors… for Cars and The Incredibles.

So… say whatever you want about The Lone Ranger, the movie studio offerings appear strong.

And all of those details bring us back to the general concept of the title of this little essay (a play on the words of Yoda). When Disney arrives at the party, everyone knows they are in the room.

Don’t believe me?

Ok… All reports indicate that Universal Studios experienced a HUGE bump in attendance at Islands of Adventure (and a more modest gain, but still good gain, at their original Orlando park). And yet, HUGE gain included, Islands of Adventure is apparently still shy of 8 million annual visitors.

What does that mean? Consider…

  • Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom both seem to clear 9.5 million visitors each year, and have cleared that mark each year going back to 2008. (I didn’t go back any earlier in my not-to-exhaustive search.)
  • Epcot… sure… Epcot… that park clears 10 million per year.
  • And the Magic Kingdom? Well… the two Universal theme parks of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Orlando combined don’t reach what the Magic Kingdom does each year on its own. Disney World’s original park regularly clears 17 million guests, and could conceivably approach 18 million as the new Fanstasyland is mostly open and nears its completion in 2014.

And in the near future… Star Wars is ramping up for a yearly presence in movie theaters… Marvel is considering expanding to three and possibly even four major films each year… and we aren’t even going down the road of what might happen next with Pixar, Pirates of the Caribbean, and that little talked about but still in the background Indiana Jones property… we aren’t considering that they run the ABC family of television networks (which, oh yeah, involves ESPN)… and, sure, The Muppets run out of Disney as well.

It’s easy to look at the House of the Mouse and not really understand how strong of a presence this company has.

Heck, when you hear all the hoopla surrounding Harry Potter and the Wizarding World and ginormous attendance and jumps in sales of theme park merchandise, you would even believe Universal is closing ground by the hour and ready to contend with Disney.

But no.

You hear about the money spent on blockbuster underperformers, and you might believe that the movies will need to really watch budgets and reduce their release numbers.

But no.

They either light up the sky as an industry leader, or, every so often fizzle and pop with projects that don’t deliver major dollars. Far more often than not these days though… massive displays of fireworks decorate the evening.

Disney always goes big. And that normally means blazing trails and setting standards for others to follow.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com