As theme park enthusiasts, we get asked several questions by friends, family, and travelers planning a trip to Disney World or Universal Studios. Among them, one of the most common is, “Does Disney own Universal Studios?”
The quick and short answer to this recurring query is an emphatic No! Universal Studios is not part of Disney. It is an entirely separate company and theme park altogether.
But there is more to understanding why this misconception exists and how these theme parks differ in appeal, scale, and attractions.
Is Universal Studios part of Disney – Why the confusion?
So, we’ve clarified that Disney does not own Universal Studios. But why the confusion?
Here are three possible reasons;
- Disney and Universal have theme parks in Florida, California, China, and Japan. Although, the ones in China and Japan are in different cities.
- One of the parks at Walt Disney World Resort Orlando is Hollywood Studios, which is easy to confuse with Universal Studios, especially since both have rides based on movies.
- Universal Studios and Disney World in Orlando are only 9-12 miles apart (depending on where in the theme parks you depart and arrive). You can travel from Disney to Universal in roughly 15 minutes by car. This proximity adds to the confusion and often makes first-time visitors wonder does Disney own Universal.
Who owns Universal Studios?
Now that we know Universal Studios is not a part of Disney, who really owns it?
Universal Destinations & Experiences is the company responsible for running all the Universal Studios around the globe. It is commonly known as Universal Studios Theme Parks.
The said company is under the umbrella of NBCUniversal, which in turn is a fully-owned subsidiary of Comcast.
The parks that come under the parent company include;
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Universal Studios Orlando Resort
- Universal Studios Japan
- Universal Studios Singapore
- Universal Studios Beijing Resort
- Universal Creative
History of Universal Studios
Since the origins of Disney is so widely known, even to the common public, compared to that of Universal, it could be a reason why many wonder, does Disney own Universal.
Agreeably, the history of Universal is less dreamy and more corporate in nature.
The company started way back in 1945 as Universal International and Decca Records. However, the organization opened the first Universal Studios in 1990 under the ownership of Matsushita Electric and MCA.
The following decades saw Universal change hands, from Seagram in 1995 and Vivendi Universal in 2004 to GE, who in 2011 formed NBCUniversal.
Comcast, the present owner of Universal, had a majority stake in the company in 2011 but went ahead and bought it entirely in 2013.
Disney World Vs. Universal Studios
Is Universal Studios part of Disney World? No, but they do have a few commonalities.
Both Disney World and Universal Studios are theme parks with resorts.
While we will discuss their attractions and features below, it’s good to note that both Disney and Universal have different parks in Orlando.
Disney World in Florida comprises;
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Disney Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
- Disney Blizzard Beach Water Park
- Disney Springs
Universal Studios Orlando consists of the following;
- Universal Studios Florida
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- Universal’s Volcano Bay
- Universal CityWalk
- Epic Universe (expected to open in Summer 2025)
Which is better – Disney or Universal?
Whenever vacation is around the corner, everyone in the family starts hinting where they would like to go – Disney or Universal.
Since Universal is not part of Disney, and even though they are close by, it’s best to focus on one theme park experience than trying to squeeze in both.
The same holds for anyone visiting Orlando. If you are short on time, experience either Disney or Universal in totality rather than rushing through both.
So, is Disney better or Universal? I honestly don’t know.
For me, it depends on my mood really, but both theme parks present diverse experiences. As a family, we like both. Still, read on to pick which interests you more.
When it comes to comparing the size of the theme parks, Disney wins hands down. It might be why people ask, “Is Universal Studios part of Disney?”
When it first opened, Disney World covered 43 square miles (27,520 acres), which has since increased to 47 square miles (30,080 acres).
It seems enormous, right? It is, but the area includes four theme parks, 25 hotels and resorts, golf courses, and over 7500 acres of undeveloped wetlands for conservation. The theme parks in Disney cover roughly 1100 acres.
When we look at Universal, it’s much smaller in size, with its three theme parks spread over 840 acres.
However, it’s interesting to note that Universal Studios, when it first opened, was only about 100 acres big. Moreover, the theme park has some big expansion plans for the near future.
We are especially excited about all the rides and attractions that the new section, Epic Universe is rumored to have.
Writing broadly, the themes at both Disney and Universal revolve around movies.
However, Disney had a more distinct collection spanning decades and franchises. At Disney World, you’ll come across rides, shows, themed food, and an astronomical range of souvenirs based on cartoon characters like Mickey & Friends, Disney princesses, and movie franchises such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
At the same time, the rides at Universal Studios take inspiration from various new and old films like Jaws, Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Men in Black, and Transformers.
Rides and Attractions
You can easily distinguish between Disney and Universal based on their rides and attractions.
When our kids were much younger, we preferred Disney. Their rides are more kid-friendly, covering different age groups.
Additionally, Disney World has a variety of shows and entertainment options, like character meets and parades. Although there are rollercoasters at Disney World, they are few in number.
Rides at Universal Studios focus primarily on the company’s proprietary movies. So, when older kids and roller coaster-loving family members want to go to a theme park, we always recommend Universal Studios, which also has some fantastic stunt shows.
That’s not to say Universal Studios does not cater to younger theme park goers; they most certainly do.
Unquestionably, everyone has their favorite attractions, whether at Disney World or Universal Studios.
Here are some rides and attractions that are either a must to experience or ones we love to go on repeatedly.
Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, Florida
Magic Kingdom: The most magical place of all, you must set aside an entire day to truly appreciate everything on offer.
- Tron Lightcycle
- Jungle Cruise
- Mad Tea Party
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Hollywood Studios: A dream come true for Star Wars fans, Hollywood Studios also has some of the best character meet possibilities.
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Star Wars Launch Bay – Meet Chewbacca / Darth Vader
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
Disney Springs: There’s plenty of shopping and indoor as well as outdoor entertainment for children and adults to enjoy at Disney Springs.
- Marketplace Train Express
- Vintage Amphicar Tours
- House of Blues
- Disney Springs Kids Club
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: It’s all about new adventures, fascinating encounters, and educational attractions at Animal Kingdom.
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Disney Animals – Tigers, Bats, Elephants, Rhinos, Komodo Dragons, and more
- Maharaja Jungle Trek
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Kali Rover Rapids
Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park: Pack your swimming trunks for this one!
- Snow Stormers
- Teamboat Springs
- Summit Plummet
- Cross Country Creek
- Slush Gusher
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park: Head to Typhoon Lagoon for seriously thrilling water slides.
- Miss Adventure Falls
- Gangplank Falls
- Humunga Kowabunga
- Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool
- Storm Slides
EPCOT: EPCOT is your chance to travel around the world and into the future, learn about cultures, and have a fantastic time.
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Test Track
- DuckTales World Showcase Adventure
- Frozen Ever After
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida
Universal Studios Florida: From Transformers to Harry Potter, Universal Studios promises one thrill ride after another.
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
- Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
- Fast And Furious: Supercharged
- Men In Black Alien Attack
- Transformers: The Ride-3D
Islands of Adventure: Expect a mix of rip-roaring, movie-themed rides, shows, and shopping.
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
- Jurassic Park River Adventure
- Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
Universal’s Volcano Bay: Universal’s very own water park, Volcano Bay, is the perfect place to spend an exciting day with the family.
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Waturi Beach
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- Kopiko Wai Winding River
- Punga Racers
Universal CityWalk: Eat, shop, and relax at Universal’s epicenter of activities.
- Hollywood Drive-in Golf
- Rising Star: Karaoke
- Universal Studios Store
- Hard Rock Cafe: Live Music
- The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
Disney is once again the leader when it comes to theme park visitors.
As per AECOM – TEA Theme Index 2022, the top 25 theme parks worldwide welcomed a whopping 198.7 million visitors. Out of the total, 68.8m attended theme parks in Florida.
Magic Kingdom was the undisputed worldwide topper, with over 17.13m in attendance. Animal Kingdom and EPCOT at Disney World had 9.02m and 10.00m, respectively, while Hollywood Studios reported close to 10.9m visitors.
On the other hand, 10.75m theme park lovers visited Universal Studios Florida. Simultaneously, Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando saw a footfall of 11.02m.
Universal Studios Vs. Hollywood Studios
Since Universal Studios is similar in theme to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, let’s briefly compare them.
Opening: Hollywood Studios was the first to open in 1989. Universal Studios Florida followed soon, welcoming its first visitors in 1990.
Tickets: Tickets at Universal Studios cost roughly $100+ per adult. On the other hand, Hollywood Studios will set you back $125+.
Features: Both theme parks have similar paid features to skip lines. You can opt for the Express Pass at Universal Studios, while Disney has Genie+ and Lightening Lane options.
Attractions: Universal Studios Orlando has 31 rides across its two main theme parks. In comparison, Disney World’s Hollywood Studios offers about 35 events, which include rides, stage shows, fireworks, and character experiences.
Is Harry Potter in Disney or Universal?
Okay, so we get asked does Disney own Universal all the time. Typically, the following question revolves around “the boy who lived.”
As one of the world’s most popular book and movie franchises, it is no surprise when people ask us if Harry Potter is in Disney or Universal.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a part of Universal Studios.
At the Universal Orlando Resort, the attraction spreads over two theme parks.
The Islands of Adventure has Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade. At the same time, Universal Studios Florida is where you’ll find Diagon Alley with the famous Gringotts ride and Weasleys Wizard Wheezes.
Does Universal own Harry Potter?
Things in the movie and theme park business can be tricky sometimes. So, as we discussed above, Harry Potter is in Universal Studios and not Disney.
However, Universal does not “own” Harry Potter. Warner Bros. and J K Rowling have control over the franchise’s rights.
Universal has a licensing right to Harry Potter, which means part of the profits goes to both WB and J K Rowling.
Will Disney ever own Universal?
I firmly believe in the saying “never say never,” but the chances of Disney owning Universal are pretty slim.
There have been rumors over decades of one company buying the other. However, Comcast, at present, is a hugely profitable organization, almost as big as Disney.
Moreover, they have seen a tremendous rise in the popularity of their theme parks. Universal Japan, for example, saw an increase of 125% in visitors from 2021 to 2022.
So, the future may see these mega theme-park owners coming together for collaborations. For now, though, the answer to if Disney owns Universal, will it buy it soon, or the other way around is the same; No!