Essentials Planning What’s the Difference?

Disney and Universal, What’s the Difference?

Did you know that Disney and Universal are two separate parks?

*Photo credit: Universal, Disney

Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are two separate parks. It’s not uncommon to associate Universal with Disney, it happens all the time. For those new to the parks, the distinction might not be very clear. This mixup could make planning very confusing, so hopefully this article will help clear a few things up. We don’t want you buying tickets to Disney only thinking you can get into Universal too! To help explain, this article will list some of the most frequently asked questions and answer them. Take a look!

Do I need to buy separate tickets for each? And if so, how many tickets do I need?

Seeing as I mentioned this above, I figured it might be best to start with this one. Yes. You do need to buy separate tickets for Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. As for the number of tickets you need to get, it depends on which parks you’re going to.

Walt Disney World has 4 Parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

orlando-walt-disney-world-resort-map

Universal Orlando Resort has 2 Parks: Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Map_FL_UniversalOrlando_Resortwide-566ae0eb3df78ce1615a0b97

For both of them, you need to buy separate tickets for each of the parks or a park-hopper ticket that lets you access multiple. Different tickets for Children (3-9) and Adults (9 and over) are available for both parks.

Follow-up question, does my MagicBand work in both parks?

No. MagicBands can only be used on Disney Property. In fact, Universal uses completely different tickets to Disney. Universal still uses paper tickets and turnstiles while Disney has switched to plastic tickets and scanners. Disney’s tickets look more like a credit card, whereas Universal’s tickets are small slips of paper.

Which park can I find Harry Potter at? Which park can I find Mickey at?

Visiting-Harry-Potter-World-Plan-Orlando-Florida-980x653*Photo credit: tillthemoneyrunsout.com

The next thing that people  get confused about is where to find their favorite characters. While it’s true that Mickey Mouse can be found in all four Disney parks, you won’t find him anywhere in Universal. Likewise, Harry Potter is now present in both of the Universal parks, but you won’t find the Wizarding World in any of the four Disney parks.

Follow-up question, what characters/movies are present in each park?

Here’s a brief, simple list of the most prominent movies and characters you will see:

Walt Disney World:

  • Mickey Mouse
  • Disney Princesses (Cinderella, Elsa, Anna, etc.)
  • Star Wars
  • Pixar (Toy Story, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., etc.)

Universal Orlando Resort:

  • Despicable Me (Minions)
  • The Simpsons
  • King Kong
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Marvel

Hold on, isn’t Marvel owned by Disney? Why are they in Universal and not Disney?

22-Marvel Super Hero Island*Photo credit: wdwinfo.com

Short Answer: Universal built Marvel Superhero Island before Disney bought Marvel, so Disney’s letting them keep it.

Long Answer: (Warning, boring stuff about Business and Agreements up ahead) Disney and Universal made an agreement over Marvel Superhero Island when Disney bought Marvel. Disney saw it as unfair to make Universal remove it just because it suddenly became Disney property, so both sides reached an agreement with their own terms. On Universal’s side, Marvel Superhero Island already depicted the comic versions of the characters, they were allowed to keep this so long as they did not showcase the live action counterparts of these characters that we see in the movies today. This is why if you go to meet one of The Avengers there, they’ll look like the comics instead of the movies. On Disney’s side, the agreement meant that they could not have the same Marvel characters featured in any of their parks. There are loopholes with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange because they’re not featured at Universal, so those characters can be present in the Disney parks. Disney also sells little to no Marvel merchandise unless it’s for the movies mentioned previously, this is no doubt part of the agreement as well since Universal currently sells merchandise over at Marvel Superhero Island. You’ll see that there is much more Marvel content over at Disneyland in California, luckily for them they don’t have the same rules, so they can use the superheroes as much as they want.

So, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios Florida aren’t the same thing?

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*Photo credit: Disney Parks

No, they’re two separate parks, one in Disney World and the other in Universal Orlando. The two parks have very similar themes, both being centered around the concept of a “working studio lot” where characters from your favorite movie and tv series lived. This similar theming was done on purpose, as Disney’s Hollywood Studios was built as a competitor to Universal Studios Florida. But hey, you can decide which one you prefer!

To Recap…

  • Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort are two different resorts owned by two different companies and they are competitors of each other
  • You need to buy separate tickets for both, a Disney ticket does not work in Universal and vice versa
  • Harry Potter is found in Universal Orlando, not Disney World
  • Star Wars is found in Disney World, not Universal Orlando
  • Marvel is in Universal but it’s complicated

I hope this was able to clear up any confusion about the two parks, hopefully this should make your planning a lot easier! Please feel free to contact me if you have any more questions that weren’t answered by this article.

Thanks for reading! Today’s further reading is MyMagic+ 101: A Useful Tool For Your Next Trip. Click the link if you want more information about MagicBands, which were mentioned earlier on.

Everyone's Guide To Disney is an advice and planning blog for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Jada, who has been visiting Disney for now 12 years (and counting) writes from her personal experience, and hopes to help others have the best Disney trip they possibly could.

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