Down Under Disney

The Australian Guide to Disney Parks

Down Under Disney

Theme Park Comparison: Disney vs Australia

I often get asked why I bother spending so much money overseas at Disney Parks, when we have perfectly good theme parks here in Australia.

It’s a fair question. We do have some perfectly good theme parks (especially the big four on the Gold Coast) and I really enjoy visiting them at any opportunity. But I guess it’s a bit like saying: Why go to The Louvre instead of the National Gallery of Victoria? I mean, there’s plenty of great art but not the greatest art!

So just how do Australia’s Theme Parks stack up against the wonderful worlds of Disney? To make a clear and effective comparison I’m going to focus this discussion on Disneyland Park in California (Not including California Adventure) and the Gold Coast’s Warner Brothers Movie World.

General Stats

Before we get into the nitty gritty here’s some general statistics of each park.

Movie WorldDisneyland
LocationGold Coast, QueenslandAnaheim, California
Year Opened19911955
Area25 Acres (415 Acres Total)85 Acres (500 Acres Total)
Number of Attractions:
Rides, Shows and Exhibits
24 53
Price of One Day TicketAU$95US$129
Standard Operating Hours9:30am-5:00pm8:00am-10:00pm

It’s all in the Details

Atmosphere and Immersion is something that is becoming more and more integral for theme parks and Disney has always done this well. In fact Walt Disney invented the concept when he built Disneyland:

“I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the park. I want them to feel they’re in another world.”

— Walt Disney

Based on this philosophy, an insane amount of effort has been put into the details of the various lands and rides in all Disney Parks from day one. You just have to look at Carsland or Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge to appreciate this. From the lamp posts, to the ride queues and the rubbish bins; everything has its place and completely immerses you in these worlds.

File:Galaxyedgedl.jpg
Despite its critics Galaxy’s Edge genuinely takes you to a Galaxy Far Far Away. Image: CrispyCream27.

So integral are these details to the atmosphere of the park that there are countless Instagram accounts devoted to such details, one or two even focus solely on the benches of Disney Parks.

Movie World, to its credit, is probably the closest thing you can get to the overall level of theming of a Disney Park in Australia, with plenty of good theming throughout. However, the attention to detail often falls short.

The best example of this is the “all-weather” un-themed, shade sail roof they placed over the top of the Main Street. I’m all for protection from the harsh Australian sun but this structure makes me feel that I am at a theme park in Queensland rather than a classic movie backlot.

File:In Warner Bros Movie World - panoramio (1).jpg
It may sound petty but this white, un-themed shade cloth and TV ruins Movie Worlds Main Street for me. Image Caoyadong

This may all sound petty but it is the sum of all the little details of a Disney Park that makes such a difference to the overall atmosphere and experience.

Entertainment

Central to the atmosphere and immersion of a theme park is its entertainment.

No one does entertainment like Disney.

Movie World contains some excellent entertainment. There are plenty of character meet and greets with Warner Brothers properties, parades, street shows and a feature stunt show. But, if you don’t enjoy rides, is your price of admission worth the amount of entertainment on offer?

Type of EntertainmentMovie WorldDisneyland Park (CA)
Stage Shows: Theatre Shows,
Stunt Shows, Parades etc.
2 4
Street Entertainment: Music and Skits 7 10
Nighttime Spectaculars 0 2

The short answer is no. You could probably do all of Movie World’s entertainment (including character experiences) in max 3 hours. Relative to its size that’s not bad. However, considering that you can easily spend at least a day enjoying the world class entertainment at Disneyland, there’s no contest.

File:Motorbike driving through fire at Hollywood Stunt Driver.jpg
The Hollywood Stunt Driver Show is good quality but it’s the only “real” show available at Movie World. Image: Yasser Alghofily

For more info on entertainment at the Disneyland Resort click here.

Rides

Rides are what make or break a theme park for many people. Are they thrilling enough? Family friendly? Well themed? Safe? We know Disney creates rides that fit this bill perfectly and often within the same ride (Think Big Thunder and Splash Mountain) so how does Australia compete?

With 6 roller coasters and a number of other great, well themed attractions, Movie World has earned its name as Australia’s premiere theme park. More importantly, some of these rides really do compete with those at Disneyland.

File:Wild West Falls Adventure Ride.jpg
A cross between Splash Mountain and Big Thunder, Wild West Falls is a ride that would quite comfortably hold up in a Disney park. Image: s13n1

Below is a list of Movie World Rides that could compare to the quality of the Disneyland Resort.

RideThemingThrill RatingFamily FriendlyDisneyland Comparison
DC Rivals Hyper Coaster6/1010/10NoNo Comparison
Wild West Falls9/107/10YesSplash Mountain/Big Thunder
Superman Escape8/109/10NoIncredicoaster
Justice League Ride9/106/10YesBuzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Scooby Doo Coaster7/107/10YesHaunted Mansion/Goofy’s Sky School
Road Runner Coaster6/105/10YesGadget’s Go Coaster

Yes these rides compete with the ones over at the Disneyland, in certain areas, but many of them still fall short. Take the DC Rivals Hyper Coaster. Easily the best coaster in Australia and better than all coasters at the Disneyland Resort. However, the theming is really poor and its thrill factor will be too high for many.

DC Rivals Hyper Coaster is easily the best rollercoaster in Australia. Image: Benjamin Powell.

For a Disneyland ride, theming is a priority from the time you enter the queue and leave the attraction, making it not only a ride but an entire experience. In addition most of these rides are able to be ridden by the entire family, meaning more people are enjoying their time at the parks together.

The Indiana Jones Adventure is truly more than just a ride.

Duration of rides is also an area Movie World can improve. You could easily spend an hour lining up for a ride like the Superman Escape, only for it to last all of 1 minute. In comparison, while you still may be lining up for the best part of an hour at Disneyland, the pay off is greater, with many of its coasters lasting 3 minutes and other rides up to 15 minutes.

In short, while elements of Movie World rides are fantastic, Disney provides a greater attraction experience on the whole.

The Power of Nostalgia

How do you draw people into a theme park? Well, owning half of the world’s entertainment property is always a good start. Disney Classics, Pixar, Princesses, Marvel and Star Wars are just so massive, that it’s hard for the likes of Movie World’s Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo and DC to compete. That’s not to say that Movie World doesn’t do its best with the properties it owns but the nostalgic pull is greater at Disneyland. Why Movie World hasn’t made the most of its Harry Potter license yet, is beyond me.

Despite owning the world, it’s not simply the money making cash cows of Star Wars and Marvel that draws people in but the history of the Park itself. From Walt’s direct involvement in its construction, to the world class ingenuity of its imagineers, Disneyland has engrained itself into childhood memories of so many throughout the world. What kid didn’t dream of meeting Mickey or riding on Dumbo, after watching Saturday Disney? The same (unfortunately) can’t be said for our Theme Parks.

Being an opening day attraction, Dumbo makes me feel like I’m riding a bit of history…as well as a flying elephant.

Food

In Australia, theme park food is up there with the worst in the country. It is poor quality, super expensive and always ends up coming back with a vengeance. In spite of this, you still end up buying it because the picture of the triple cheeseburger looked so good and you thought it would be different this time.

This isn’t the case for Disneyland. While there are instances where the food here can be pretty awful (and still expensive), there are countless options for you to avoid theme park dining regret.

Full Service Restaurants: Disney Parks have a number of quality full service restaurants that,  while quite pricey, are very well themed. You can dine in the Beast’s Ballroom at Magic Kingdom or in a Bayou in New Orleans. Not to mention the option to dine with characters, effectively killing two birds with one stone. There are just no comparisons for these types of restaurants at Australian Parks.

No theme park in Australia (and probably the world) has restaurants and experiences like Disney.

Quick Service Restaurants: Disney Parks also feature a massive range of sit down, quick service restaurants, with a number of different cuisines to choose from. While most of these dining options are what you might expect of theme park food, there are many that are of a high standard.

Even Quicker Service Restaurants: For lunch on the go, these super quick kiosks and carts sell anything from massive smoked turkey legs and giant pickles, to fruit, popcorn and churros.

The Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese Cone from the Cozy cone in Carsland: Where every food is cone shaped.

Overall, food is definitely an area in which Australia’s theme parks could improve and also one of the key reasons I enjoy visits to the Disney Parks.

And don’t forget, everything tastes better when its Mickey shaped!

Operations

Disney is the world leader in theme park operations by a mile. That’s not to say that Movie World operations are awful by any stretch but that Disneyland is just really that good.

Park Hours: Let’s start with operating hours. Your average day at Movie World will see the park open at 9:30am and close at 5:00pm, while Disneyland is open from 8:00am-10:00pm on Weekdays and 8:00am-Midnight on Weekends and peak periods.

With Disneyland open well into the night, the atmosphere only gets better.

That’s a massive difference but what’s a few extra hours worth? For me it means spending the day at the park until 3:00, going back to my hotel for a snooze and then heading back for some brilliant nighttime adventures. In other words, extended hours means you can go slow. I always feel so rushed at Movie World and never feel like I get enough done. Simply extending the park ours to 8:00pm would fix this problem.

Cast Members: No slight on the Movie World employees, they’re great but again Disney Cast Members are just better. From a Janitor making Mickey pictures with leaves to the enthusiastic ride attendants who can answer any question you ask, the standards are just impeccable.

The commitment of Disney Cast Members to your overall experience is incredible.

FastPass: I’ve covered Disneyland’s FastPass System a lot in the past so this one will just be to reiterate how good it is. Yes Movie World has its own version and it costs $99 (That’s more than the price of a ticket). When Disney’s version is free it just seems a bit excessive, especially for families.

I could go on about Disney’s operations management for days but I may lose readership so I’ll leave it there.

I Really Do Like Aussie Theme Parks

It may not seem like it but I promise I really do like Aussie Parks and I will continue to go as often as possible. However, I hope this post sheds some light on my obsession with Disney Parks and why I am so willing to drop big money on them.

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