11.09.2006

Universal and the Future of Theme Parks


by Alexa Atonuk

Think Universal Pictures. What do you imagine? A film studio, perhaps, owned by General Electric, which also owns the network NBC? (Very good, fellow classmates, you’ve been doing your reading….) Or perhaps you are a movie connoisseur, and you know Universal Pictures for the onslaught of movies the studio has produced over the years. These include the recent movies Man of the Year and The Black Dahlia, and the less-recent Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park, among many, many, others, dating back more than 85 years.

However, I think of neither GE nor blockbuster movies when I think of Universal. I am immediately reminded of Universal Studios, a theme park in Orlando, Florida (which, in my personal opinion is underrated, due to all the undeserving attention received by Disney World, in comparison a mostly unentertaining place for those of us over the age of seven or so).
However, the most interesting thing about Universal Studios is not how enjoyable it is (and it is), but its very existence. Really, how many other movie studios, other than Disney, do you know that have their own theme parks? I guess it is not surprising, however, considering movie studios have also diversified into TV networks and cable channels, print media, music industries, DVD and video players, cable, computers, even electronic hardware and software.
What worries me about this, though, is that one could consider theme parks such as Universal, owned by movie studios, as a form of propaganda for that studio. I’ll use an example from my own life to illustrate this. Today, when I try to recall my favorite movies when I was younger, I think not only of movies made by Universal, but movies that exist as rides at Universal Studios. Men in Black, Back to the Future, Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, The Mummy: all on a list of my favorites, and all my preferred rides at Universal Studios. I think that these selections probably weren’t arbitrary, and were probably reinforced or even inspired by the exciting rides at Universal.

Yet one understands the “propaganda” risks when one buys a ticket to enter Universal Studios, right? It is inherent in the name of the park that one will encounter Universal-themed attractions and products throughout. Yet the little kids who visit Universal Studios (and probably Disney World as well) don’t understand that they are being bought. All they want is a Shrek plush toy, or a Jurassic Park souvenir cup, or a Jimmy Neutron t-shirt. But Universal knows. It has an easy market in the flocks of children who visit its park, and it tries to milk it for all its worth. If you ever visit Universal Studios, just stop and stand still for a few minutes in-between rides. You will probably notice a guy walking by hawking Spiderman shirts, another with a stand selling The Hulk-themed food and candy, and another selling E.T. jewelry (seriously), all perfect profit builders for Universal.

So what do I envision when I look at the future of these theme parks? In my nightmares there is a “Fox Studios Park,” because, like GE, News Corp. owns Fox and Fox Searchlight, both successful studios. I imagine rows and rows of Bill O’Reilly dolls, that utter such phrases as, “I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out, and I wouldn't have rescued them,” and “I don't have any respect by and large for the Iraqi people at all. I have no respect for them. I think that they're a prehistoric group, “and "We cannot intervene in the Muslim world ever again. What we can do is bomb the living daylights out of them.”

Sounds exciting, no?

(Yes, those are actual quotes from Bill O'Reilly. If you'd like to see the sources, you can check here and here.)





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1 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is that an actual Bill O'Reily quote? My God.... The man is truly an insensitive, hard-headed piece of crap.

It's not surprising though.. but really...

OutFoxed was such a good movie, if you've seen it.

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