Monday, December 12, 2011


The rivalry between WDW and UOR has a long history. From the opening of UOR to the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter these two theme park companies have traded blows for the last 20 years. It is believed that before Universal landed the Wizarding World that Disney was in talks with JK Rowling but talks broke down and Rowling took the wizard a few miles north on I-4. With the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter many Disney World fan boys have left the Disney resort and made the journey to Universal to visit Harry and crew. With many people discovering Universal Studios Orlando for the first time after a lifetime of nothing but Mickey they find out that there is a lot more to UOR than they knew. Some WDW fan boys come to a scary realization. They find that there are some things that Universal does BETTER than Disney! So let’s explore who does it better, Disney or Universal.

PARKING at Disney: Both of the Orlando resorts charge you about the same to park. Parking at Disney has always been a bit of a hassle for me. When you step out of your car you can hear the words of Walt Disney echoing around you; “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland...the blessing of size.”  What Walt saw as a blessing, many first time visitors to Disney see as a nightmare. The parking lots at the four theme parks of WDW are HUGE! You have two choices once your car is parked. You can walk the long hot sweaty walk to the park entrance or you can take a tram. In theory the Disney trams are great, but in reality I find them to be a massive hassle. Again, in theory you get out of your car, walk to the end of your row, hop on the tram and take the short tram ride to the park entrance. In reality you get out of your car, walk to the end of your row and hope that the tram is there waiting for you. This doesn’t always happen. It could take up to ten minutes at certain parks for another tram to come around to pick you up. Once on the tram you have to wait, and wait, and wait. Cars are continually entering the lot and people are continually racing to the end of their row to catch the tram you are already on. Depending on the type of tram operator you have, you may wait until the tram is full to take off. Sometimes you get lucky and the tram driver can see another tram is pulling up and the one your tram takes off. So great, your tram is moving and it’s time to relax and start your vacation right? Wrong! Suddenly you hear a noise that is louder than a T REX eating a jet engine. If the roaring sound of the engine isn’t loud enough, you might be unfortunate enough to be sitting under one of the equally loud and equally annoying tram speakers. The tram attendant is giving out very useful information but the speakers are way too loud and ear piercing. By the time your tram has arrived at the front gate you are prepared for a long day at Disney; lots of waiting, and very loud noises. If you chose to skip the tram and walk then you probably beat the tram to the front. You have saved yourself a lot of waiting and saved your hearing, but this is Florida and you just walked across a black tar parking lot in over 90 degree heat with a couple of kids and a backpack filled with the everything you are going to need to make it through the your day. Pick your poison with Disney parking. Me, I walk!       

PARKING at Universal: Parking at Universal Orlando is not quite the adventure you get at WDW. Universal does not have massive open parking lots like the ones at Disney. UOR instead has one multilevel covered parking garage. After parking your car you make the journey to the escalators or elevators to make your way to the appropriate level to get to the park entrance. Once on the correct level you can take a series of moving walkways, or you can take just walk to the entrance of CityWalk. The walkways are all covered and with the exception of a few ambitious people trying to run past you on the moving walkway, the walk to the entrance is fairly easy. It’s a lot like being in an airport and walking from security to your terminal. Its covered, there’s a lot to look at and you can go at your own pace.     

So who does it better? This one is pretty obvious: Universal Orlando

Now that you have made it to the front gate it is time to enter the park. Visitors to both Universal Studios and Disney World see the same thing when they enter the theme park. A person and a camera.

PHOTOPASS at Disney World: When entering WDW you are immediately greeted by a person with a smiling face and a camera. They say hello and you walk about your business. If you want them to take a picture of you, you can just simply walk up to them and ask to take a photo. After the photo they scan a small card about and hand it to you. You can take this card to any Disney photo pass photographer, hand it to them and your photos will accumulate throughout your vacation. The photographers are even floating around in the lazy rivers at Disney’s water parks. The price for Disney’s photo pass is the same if you take 1 picture or 200! At $120 it’s a great value if you take a ton of pictures. The photographers can even add in different photo shop type techniques to your pictures to show your family holding a baby dinosaur. The photographers are polite courteous and will gladly take a picture of you and your family with your own personal camera.

PHOTOPASS at Universal: When entering a park at the Universal Orlando resort you are greeted accosted by a Universal photographer who yells at your family, “Hey guys look over here!” “Guys smile! Come on smile!” Imagine running through the perfume department at Macys with a bunch of middle aged cat ladies in pants suits trying to spray you with the latest scent from Lady Ga Ga or Justin Bieber. #shudder.  If you do not respond to that, have no fear. The Universal photographer won’t hesitate to throw himself in front of you to take a picture. No matter where in the park you are. The photographers will even take a picture of you entering the park. No, not in front of the park icon, just a picture of you entering the park. Imagine a picture of you dazed confused, and trying to fit that damn park ticket back into your wallet. Who doesn’t want a picture like that!? The Universal photographers in the front are extremely aggressive and very annoying.  (Imagine a Universal photographer on a Disney tram. Eek.) On the bright side you may only run into these aggressive over bearing photogs when you enter the park. They are virtually nonexistent in the rest of the park. Maybe they turn up at a random unscheduled character meet and greet (more on that in a future edition), but that’s about it. At Disney the park wide photography service is called Photo Pass. At Universal Orlando the service is called….um… second, let me check google…. Ok, it’s called Universal photo connect. You don’t see that around the park much, maybe they are trying to keep it a secret. Remember how I said at Disney they give you one card with all of your pictures on it? Neat right? Well Universal decided to break the mode and revolutionize the business by giving a different card for every picture they take of you! Who doesn’t want to walk around the park with about 20 different strips in their pocket or bag? The price for Universal Photo Connect is about $20. That’s $20 per photo. You can buy your ride photos for about $5 but the process involves buying a different card, and it just gets convoluted and confusing from there            

So who does it better? Walt Disney World      

Keep checking back for more Who does it better articles!                                                                     

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