Universal Studios, Disney theme parks face a major new rival

In the United States, Universal Studios and Walt Disney stand as the unquestioned giants of the theme park space. Both companies operate parks in California, but their crown jewels, the flagships of their empires, operate in Orlando, Fla.

At Universal Studios Orlando, the Comcast (CMCSA) – Get Free Report company offers two theme parks, a massive, heavily-themed water park, hotels, restaurants, and the City Walk shopping area. The company is also building a third theme Park, Epic Universe, which will contain its World of Nintendo land as well as a first-of-its-kind new expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Walt Disney’s (DIS) – Get Free Report Florida has an even larger scale. The property includes four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom — as well as two water parks, numerous hotels, and restaurants as well as the Disney Spring shopping district.

Disney and Universal Studios simply do things on a more impressive level than rivals like SeaWorld and Six Flags. Those companies have bet big on thrill rides and they’re essentially single-day parks for tourists (in Orlando) or parks that serve regional markets.

There’s nothing at either of those companies’ parks that rivals the ride and immersive “land” experiences Disney and Universal Studios have built around their biggest intellectual property (IP.) Six Flags has some loose theming around DC Comics superheroes, but nothing that equals the Harry Potter lands at Universal Studios parks or Disney’s “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” at Hollywood Studios or “Pandora: The World of Avatar” at Animal Kingdom.

Very few companies — even if they wanted to build rides that equal what’s offered at Disney and Universal’s parks — own IP that people care about as much as they do about the two theme park leaders’ top brands. Now, however, a new park that’s being built in Arizona has become a much more serious rival due to the unexpected massive success of the “Barbie” movie.      

Wizarding World of Harry Potter set a new standard for theme park lands.

Image source: Shutterstock

Mattel’s Action Adventure Park looks a whole lot better

Before the “Barbie” movie became a phenomenon, the well-loved Mattel (MAT) – Get Free Report doll was largely viewed as a children’s brand that adults maybe had some nostalgic ties to. You could say the same for a number of other key Mattel properties — He-Man (Masters of the Universe), Hot Wheels, and Thomas the Tank Engine — which will be cornerstone franchises at Mattel Adventure Park.

In size, Mattel Action Park, which is being built on 9 acres in Glendale Ariz., by Epic Resort Destinations won’t compete in any meaningful way with Disney or Universal’s offerings. “Barbie,” however, might be a factor in families deciding to visit the new park given the toy’s massive pop culture resurgence. 

Mattel Action Park will feature a replica of the Barbie Beach House. That will offer a number of Barbie experiences including: 

The Barbie flying theater, taking riders on a journey from deep underwater to outer space.The Dream Closet Experience, where Barbie, through state-of-the-art hologram technology, is brought to life to help curate the ultimate wardrobe. The Barbie Rooftop where guests can enjoy a selection of signature pink beverages perfectly paired with sweet and savory snacks while enjoying panoramic views of the property. 

The new park, which is on track to open in 2024 will also have multiple Hot Wheels-themed roller coasters and a multi-level go-kart track themed to the beloved toy cars.

Mattel may be opening at the right time    

Both Disney and Universal Studios have experienced some level of slowing business at their Florida theme parks. That can be blamed at least partially on people having more economic worries than they did last year, largely due to many Americans being worried about keeping their jobs.

It can cost over $2,000 in tickets for a family of four to visit Universal Studios or Disney World, a price that does not include food, hotel, or travel. That’s a big number during the best of times and it’s a harder pill for some to swallow during this period of economic uncertainty.

Six Flags and SeaWorld parks are sort of poor substitutes for a Disney or Universal trip, but Mattel Action Park may not be. It won’t equal, or really come close to what the two big players offer, but the Barbie factor, plus a lower price (pricing has not been set for the new park) could win the Mattel park some customers.    

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