Given the success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, it's only fitting that Disney is rolling out its big guns for the head-to-head theme park battle this summer. And when it comes to big guns, you don't get much bigger than Star Wars. The Orlando Sentinel has a story that explains how Disney hopes to combat the Potter craze with its launch of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue.
"Our guests have an affinity for Disney characters. But Star Wars folks are particularly fond of their characters," said Rilous Carter, the Disney vice president in charge of Disney's Hollywood Studios.
If Disney can replicate even a fraction of the merchandise success that Universal has had with Harry Potter, executives will be thrilled. Disney licenses the rights to Star Wars from Lucasfilm, while Universal licenses Potter from Warner Bros. and author J.K. Rowling.
Further comments from an industry analyst underscore the extent to which this theme park rivalry will soon become a battle of the entertainment franchise titans:
Ray Braun, a principal with Entertainment Culture Advisors in Beverly Hills, Calif., said Star Wars may be the only individual intellectual property that can match Potter's success in a theme park.
"Those are the top two. They're just such fully realized stories, because of the six films for Star Wars and the eight films for Harry Potter and the way they've been sustained over time," Braun said. "That sort of storytelling continuation makes for an excellent product for our industry."
One final note: It seems that the Tatooine Traders store at Star Tours Disneyland has been doing quite well even without an active ride to attraction potential customers.
Disney says Star Wars has proven to be a strong seller in the past. "Tatooine Traders," the gift ship through which Star Tours riders must exit, is typically the No. 2 retail location in Hollywood Studios, trailing only a larger gift shop at the entrance to the theme park. And Disney says the store has exceeded internal sales projections since Star Tours closed in August, buoyed by the popularity of "build-your-own" light sabers, the top-selling souvenir.
Be sure to click through and read the Orlando Sentinel's full report on Disney and Universal's competition and the Star Wars/Harry Potter proxy fight that will soon result from it.