Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Mouse Castle Lounge 12-18-2014 - 'Universal vs. Disney' Author Sam Gennawey

Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood dressed up for the holidays.
It's come a long way since the 1960s.
There’s no bigger theme park rivalry today than the one going on between Universal Studios and Disney. Just take a look at both company’s resort operations in Orlando where Walt Disney World was the dominant force for nearly 20 years. For the most part it still is, but in 1990 Universal moved into the neighborhood and began an ambitious plan to compete with Disney for Florida tourist dollars. Today, Universal Orlando boasts two theme parks, four onsite hotels and the CityWalk shopping, dining and entertainment complex. In 2010, Universal Orlando introduced the game-changing Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. In 2014, they upped the ante with the opening of Diagon Alley at the Universal Studios theme park.

Harry Potter will make his debut at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2016. The original California park has come a long way since its modest beginnings in the 1960s with a backlot tram tour through a functioning film studio. In those early days Universal didn’t have any ambitions to compete with Disney and purposely positioned itself as the anti-Disney park. Over time, though, ownership changes, management changes, egos and hurt feelings set in motion the competitive rivalry we see today between Universal and Disney. It’s a fascinating story.

Sam Gennawey
Sam Gennawey
Telling that story is author and historian Sam Gennawey. His new book is Universal vs. Disney: The Unofficial Guide to American Theme Parks’ Greatest Rivalry. In it, Sam offers a detailed history of Universal Studios dating back to the silent film era when Carl Laemmle, a German immigrant with a knack for business and showmanship, built a studio not only to make movies, but to share the experience with the public. Just like Sam’s previous two books, Universal vs. Disney is a carefully researched and detailed exploration of theme park planning, business and entertainment—with plenty of palace intrigue. Sam Gennawey is my guest today in The Mouse Castle Lounge.



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