Friday, 11 July 2014

Hong Kong Disneyland vs Universal Studios Singapore

When it comes to Asia Pacific Theme Parks, few can match the popularity and quality of Universal Studios Singapore (USS) and Hong Kong Disneyland. Both are tied to world renown movie studios and boast a wide array of family friendly attractions. USS, being younger of the 2, is located within a Casino Resort called Resorts World Sentosa, which includes a waterpark, casino, convention centre and 5 resort hotels, while Hong Kong Disney is part of its own resort with a recreational lake and 2 hotels.

This cheat sheet shows the summary of comparison between Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Singapore. To find out more about the individual attractions and the final winner, please continue to explore this post!

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Roller Coasters:

Indoor Roller Coasters: Space Mountain vs Revenge of the Mummy

Even though Space Mountain is more iconic, this is victory for USS. Revenge of the Mummy just has so much more, from the animatronic Imhotep to the fire scene at the second half of the ride. Although Space Mountain have some special effects, it is mainly basic lighting and music only. 

Also, Revenge of the Mummy goes backwards, has both a launch and a drop, and is 25kph faster than Space Mountain. What more can you ask for?

Current Tally: 0:1

Family Roller Coasters: Big Grizzly Mountain vs Enchanted Airways

This is an easy win for Disney. Enchanted Airways is just a standard layout Vekoma Family Coaster that you can find at many other theme parks. By contrast, Big Grizzly Mountain is an impeccably themed and landscaped ride with both drops and a launch, and even a moment in the ride where the chain lift breaks! (you have to ride it to find out)

Current Tally: 1:1

Vekoma Standoff: RC Racers vs Battlestar Galactica

I know this is not a fair match up, but neither park has any roller coaster to compete against. Battlestar Galactica will take this point quite comfortably as it is actually 2 rides in 1. Also, a full circuit roller coaster like Battlestar is almost always more exciting and unpredictable than a shuttle coaster that only sends you back and forth a short section of track. Since BSG is 2 seperate rides, USS will get 2 points!

Current Tally: 1:3

Please take note that Universal Studios has 2 additional roller coasters: Puss in Boot's Giant Journey and Canopy Flyer, so this adds 2 extra points for USS.

Current Tally: 1:5

Water Rides

Adventure Cruise: Jungle Cruise vs Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure

This one can go to either. However, for me, I just think that the robotic animal figures by Disney are more realistic than that of Universal. Also, Jungle Cruise does have more elaborate special effects like geysers and an erupting volcano, whereas Jurassic Park only uses water. 

Another noteworthy feature of Jungle Cruise is that if offers experiences in 3 languages: English, Cantonese and Chinese, so it is really all inclusive.

Current Tally: 2:5

Kids Water Ride: Its a Small World vs Madagascar: A Crate Adventure

Its a small world is basically songs and some decoration. It is very relaxing and good for kids. However, Madagascar just offers so much more in a single ride. It has the adventure and action section at the end (not to mention the cascading wall of water), as well as a storyline. Not to mention, will you rather listen to the upbeat music of "I want to move it move it" or "Its a small world after all"

Current Tally: 2:6


3D Shows: Mickey's Philmarmagic vs Shrek 4D

This is quite an obvious win for Disney. For one, the seats in Shrek 4D are very inconsistent, sometimes moving really violently while other times not even in sync with the storyline. Also, Philharmagic's screen projection appears to be of higher quality, not to mention that the projection is widescreen (unlike Shrek which is standard 4:3). This means an overall more immersive experience at Philharmagic

Current Talley: 3:6

Amphitheater Show: Festival of the Lion King vs Waterworld

This is a close call, but I will give the point to Waterworld simply because a stunt show is so much more exciting than a musical type show. Not to mention the talent of the actors required to put this attraction together. The Hong Kong version of Festival of the Lion King has an added drawback that the show repeats lines in English then Cantonese, and this dual language echo really damages the pace of the show.

Current Tally: 3:7

Stage Show: Golden Mickeys vs Monster Rock

Golden Mickeys will take the title here. The show is more grand with more actors and more elaborate costumes, not the mention the familiar Disney melodies that are played throughout the whole show. There are some interesting elements to Monster Rock, but they just cannot match the grandeur and elegance of the Disney production.

Current Tally: 4:7

Interactive Show: Stitch Encounters vs Donkey Live

This is another easy win for Disney. Stitch really has a much better sense of humour and more flexibility in interacting with guests than Donkey, who pretty much follows a script. Also, I like it that Stitch focuses mainly on verbal communication which is less demanding on the guests than the dancing and "simon says" game of Donkey Live. 

Stitch Encounters is also a 3 language attraction.

Current Tally: 5:7

Universal Studios Singapore actually has a walk through show called Lights, Camera, Action that Disney does not offer, so it gains a walkover point here.

Current Tally: 5:8

Dark Rides:

Thrilling Dark Rides: Mystic Manor vs Transformers: The Ride

Both rides are really great with many interesting features. However, I think that Transformers just has the level of immersion and excitement that Mystic Manor cannot hope to match, especially the combination of 3D and perfectly synced vehicle motions. Not to mention that Transformers is a cartoon that many kids and even adults love, but Mystic Manor is pretty much a standalone.

Current Tally: 5:9

Family Dark Rides: Winnie the Pooh vs Sesame Street and Spaghetti Space Chase

I will give this to Winnie the Pooh for several reasons. For one, the loading platform is static unlike the moving platform of Sesame Street so it is much safer for guests. Also, the ride is much longer and there is a wide variety of scenes unlike Sesame Street which is made of basically a space scene and a the scene of Sesame Street itself.

Current Tally: 6:9

Disney also as a shooting dark ride called Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and USS has nothing similar, so this is another point to Disney

Current Tally: 7:9

Family/Kiddy Rides:

Antique Cars: Autopia vs Treasure Hunters

This is another easy win for Disney. Autopia has a much larger capacity not to mention 4 completely different tracks. The ride is also much longer. Treasure Hunters has some cool props but I think it just lacks the appeal factor for kids, not to mention the scarab beetles that may freak some kids out.

Current Tally: 8:9

Universal has a total of 4 small kiddy rides, King Julien Party go Round, Accelerator, Dino-Soarin and Magic Potion Spin. Disney has a 5 in total, with Orbitron, Dumbo, Cinderella's Carousel, Mad Hatter Teacups and Toy Storey Parachute Jump. Also, Disney has 1 additional kids playground Tarzan's Treehouse and kids play zones at Grizzly Glutch and Toy Story Land in which USS has no equivalent, so this scores 2 extra points for Disney.

Current Tally: 10:9

Signature attractions:

Parade: Flights of Fantasy vs Hollywood Dreams

Both Parades are great, but I will award the point to Disney for 2 simple reasons. One, the parade is everyday, which means guests are able to experience no matter which day they visit the park, unlike at USS where the parade is only on weekends. Secondly, I do not like the fact the floats in Hollywood Dreams parade can spray so much water. It is really quite distracting for guests and it makes it harder to take photos or interact with performers.

The parade street for Disney is also wider does allowing for more flexible acts among the performers while leaving space for non-viewers to walk behind the spectators.

Current Tally: 11:9

Fireworks: Disney in the Stars vs Hollywood Lake Spectacular

Once again, Universal's insistence that this attraction only be featured on Saturdays is a major drawback. However, the real Disney advantage is the near-perfect synchronization to music, the length of the show at almost 12 minutes, and the effective use of climax at the end of the show that really brings audiences to a high. The Universal version is quite basic and not much better than the countdown parties at the local community clubs.

Current Tally: 12:9

Disney also has a night parade called "Paint the Night", and I must say it is leaps and bounds better than any parade I have watched before. The lightning effects are amazing and the atmosphere is really full of energy. USS does not even have anything that comes close!

Current Tally: 13:9


The following sections are each worth 2 points. For dining, I will personally give it to USS simply for the variety and quality of food it offers. You will not find Indian Food, for instance, at HKD but it can be found in Oasis Spice Cafe of USS. Basically, everything offered at Disney, you can find at USS and more. The signature dining experience has got to be the New York Pizza Parlour, and you will not believe how large and crispy the pizzas are. Another noteworthy experience is fireworks dining at KT's grill, a truly one of a kind experience.

Much of Disney's food is basically simply rice and meats cut in shapes of Disney characters and adorned with Disney logos, and they are also about 20% more expensive than at USS. The table service restaurants are comparable in quality to those of USS, though as with Disney, more expensive.

Current Tally: 13:11


Disney is renown for its story telling and immersive themed lands, and Hong Kong Disneyland does not disappoint at all. Although smaller than its US contemporaries, the transitions between lands are still elaborately and convincingly done, and once you are in 1 themed land there is almost no hint of the other sections. The attention to detail is really impeccable, as you will expect from Disney. In fact, the new themed lands of Toy Storey, Mystic Manor and Grizzly Glutch are even better than the original lands!

Universal has a similar level of detail and story-telling, but there is no real sense of escapism as a visitor can easily see the other themed lands from one section of the park and even the other attractions at Sentosa Island so you will feel that you have been transported into another world. 

Current Tally: 15:11

Park Staff:

Disney Cast members in the US are amazing. However, the same cannot be said in Hong Kong. Most of the staff there are not really as friendly as we expect from Disney and it is hard to see cast members enjoying their work (unlike in US parks). In particular, I was quite appalled by the ride operators at Winnie the Pooh and Buzz Lightyears. For the latter, when they need to check the height requirement of a child, all 3 cast members will flock to the measuring station while the ride just keeps on running. For one, this is a safety issue as there should be someone at the control panel at all times. For two, this causes a backlog in the queue as no one will be boarding the ride.

By contrast, the USS staff are generally knowledgeable and I can see the passion in many of them. Even the more senior team members are very enthusiastic and really feel like they are 10 or 20 years younger. I just feel more welcomed at USS than at HKD.

Final Tally: 15:13

Overall Winner:

While I extend my congratulations to the park, I must also admit that this is a really close matchup. In fact, whichever park you prefer will really depend on which cartoons you are a fan of and also your current age. Of course, we must not forget that the 2 parks are in 2 completely countries, so they are actually not really in direct competition and have different target markets. Oh yes, don't forget to check out Hong Kong Disneyland's newest attraction: Iron Man Experience!

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