Disney, Universal or a ?

Instead of covering minor matters such as politics, education, or living right, I am going to weigh in on a matter of great importance to families all around the world.

The crucial question of whether to choose Disney or Universal as your amusement park experience today. Tomorrow is another story.

As far as amusement parks go, I have been in the Disney corner for 30 years. I now move into the Universal corner based on last weeks experiences in Orlando.

All amusement parks are basically just trying to make as much money as possible off their guests, but Disney is taking it too far.

Since our guests had travelled all the way from Finland, we didn’t want to hit the parks on a rainy day, so we didn’t buy and pay for our tickets in advance.

Even though we came to the park at 9 AM, the earliest fast passes available to the most popular rides were for times later than 7 PM.

We ended up waiting 60-105 minutes in the standby lines, while Florida residents with cheap annual passes and pre-reserved fast passes flew past us along with resort residents, who had early entry to the park.

And yes, if you are wondering, someone actually put up signs dividing customers into fast pass and standby people. So after using up his or her maximum of four fast passes, each and every park guest becomes a standby customer. Talk about making your customer feel valued.

The Disney magic is slowly suffocating under the over-selling and money-grabbing. The Magic Kingdom is not so magic anymore. It is beginning to have a desperate feel of minimised investments and maximised revenues.

If I ever needed an example of what the BCG consultants meant with a cash cow on its way to being a dog, it would be Walt Disney World. You do remember the good old BCG matrix, don’t you? It was consultancy at its best as far as I am concerned. Helpful and simple.

But back to Disney. If you are a girl aged 9 or under, or a boy aged six or under, this would probably still be your park. The same is true, if you just have this thing for Disney characters, and are ready to suffer for it.

If your party includes none of the above, head for Universal and don’t forget to buy a fast pass. In Universal it actually works and anybody can buy it. The extra speed will cost you though.

The less adventurous kids up to the age of 12 will be happy in Universal Studios. Grandma and grandpa will also love it because it is not that crowded. Older kids and their parents will probably want to head to Universal´s Islands of Adventure, which manages to interest “kids” of any ages.

If I were a potential amusement park investor, I would not let myself be fooled by present amusement park performance data as far as Disney is concerned. The cow is clearly being overmilked. Universal on the other hand still has upside potential, but needs to step up its game too.

I found myself wondering what the future of amusement parks will look like. Intel, to name one, already sells the concept of merged reality where virtual becomes reality as far as the person experiencing it is concerned. If Intel is to be believed, virtual experiences are bound only by our imagination these days, not by technology.

In BCG matrix terms: Is there a question mark business already out there that will end up threatening the amusement park businesses as we know them today?

Both Universal and Disney are still far away from the Intel promise. New worlds will come alive. The technology is there, someone will use it in exciting new ways. How will it change the amusement park world? The 4D “rides” with some vibration, wind and a sprinkle of water  will not cut it for long. Not to mention the Disney Magic Carpet ride, which has lost its magic altogether.

The amusement park business is basically all about keeping the hotels, restaurants and shops full. The job of the parks is to draw people in. When even grandma Nasty feels that the parks are outdated, it is time to act.

We didn’t try the resort services, but we did sample the park food. Disney gives the airlines stiff competition in the worst food and most uninspiring eating environment categories. Universal did a little better, but just a little.

In terms of merchandising, Disney is still ahead of Universal. However, Universal’s Harry Potter magic wand shop did take first place on my granddaughter’s shopping list, so  they are not as far behind as they used to be.

By the end of the day, it´s all about the company you keep. I had a great time in both parks even when standing in the lines, because I was there in such fun company.

But when the time comes for our grandson to be given the same experience, we will skip Disney and do Universal instead. A weak signal as far as Disney is concerned, but a signal nevertheless.

And now to my other business comment. It is a minor one, but the business it concerns is major. I am talking about Apple.

There is nothing more streamlined and pleasing to the eye than the Apple products. Which begs the question:Who is the nontalent responsible for the phone cases? Whoever it is, he or she should be let go asap.

I have tried to find a phone case that would not ruin the design of my iPhone 6s. I finally found one. It was hard and clear. It didn’t look cheap. It didn’t cover the original phone design, it just protected it.

So naturally Apple discontinued the product and went with a cheap looking version of the same, with a matte finish to highlight the cheap plastic case rather than the rose gold phone in it.  Apple seems intent on ruining the beautiful phone designs with ugly, cheap looking cases.

You may say that this is a minor problem in a world of big problems. You would be right. Then again these are the things that are so easily rectified. Why put so much effort into design, if everyone ends up covering their phones with ugly cases anyway?

Despite my phone case problems, I have to bow my head to Apple. My iPhone patiently recorded 10 days of fun and games with visiting kids and their parent. The iMovie app allowed me to quickly create a 15 minute movie of the visit, including both still photos and video clips.

Mind you, we are talking basic grandma tech skills here, nothing more was needed. Even the minor trial and error phases could have been avoided by reading the instructions, which is so not me.

So just get the phone cases right Apple – and the phone price while you are at it.  Compared to the amusement parks, you are still a BCG star in my book.