Posted Friday, February 10, 2006 9:02 AM | Contributed by Jeff
Five months after Walt Disney Co. opened its Hong Kong theme park in a bid to tap the booming Chinese market, the cultural divide that separates Mickey and the Chinese is still a major challenge. It is one that the company is trying hard to bridge, though with mixed results.
Read more from The Wall Street Journal.
Sounds like a typical situation out of RCT3.
But what did Disney expect? They have to be aware of the fact that they are trying to push a very american/western product, which even in the west is as much loathed as it is loved, into a market that is completely unknown to them. A market that recognizes the Disney icons as just another "Hello Kitty"-franchise
At least they try to cover the market as soon as possible. Maybe the mouse did arrive too early in China, maybe it will never catch on. China could as well be a frontier for Disney where they have to adapt in ways that will ultimately reflect back on its core market.
I tend to think that Disney has this (attention: cliche ahead) blue eyed naivity, that makes them believe that foreign markets are a void who just beg to be filled with their ideas/products.
While most of Disneys stories and myths are rooted in western/european fairy tales and rely on western style of narration, China has a whole different mythology and way of story telling. And it could be that the chinese mindset is just not as willing to accept the disney-romanticism as the japanese did.
Its strange to us, but apparently in japanese culture there is a deep romantic longing for western fairy tales and mystified places. Just spend a day at places like the "proto-disney-castle" Neuschwanstein, or (not Disney yet) this remote spot in the Swiss Alps where "Heidi" was supposed to live and you think you are in japan, as there are busloads of japanese tourists visiting every day.
Combine this with the enthusiasm for american pop-culture and it was no surprise that Tokyo Disneyland became such a success. Even while numerous japanese amusement parks are suffering from weak attendance, and Universal Japan was more or less a flash in the pan, the Disney parks remain incredibly popular.
Now, France: I would not say the park is a failure. 12 million visitor per year would hardly justify this expression. But Disney had to adapt as well. As in China some changes are minor but have a huge effect (serving alcohol, etc).
Its not that europeans don´t like to visit the park. Everybody, even the hardest cynic, leaves impressed (as long as they just visit the main park). But there is just not the need to return. Its a bit like "been there, done that" and somehow european travellers might think that a visit to a Disney park is must for a USA trip, but certainly nothing to spend your time on while visiting Paris or other tourist destinations. (Discussing the failure of the Disney Studio Park next door is another topic.)
Another thing that comes to mind is the change in our perception of story telling and movie making. Right now it seems that Asia is influencing the west more with imaginative films, altered styles of narration, images and style than ever before. What used to be underground a few years ago has now arrived in the mainstream. And as long as it is not just a fad, it will stay with us and will certainly reflect on the way Disney has to position itself in the future.
Thats why I think it is very interesting to watch how Disney will be accepted in China in the coming years.
I hope my thoughts were not too confusing in the way they were written.
12 millions visitors a year may sound a lot... but when the park is crushed by debts, too low visitors spending and lack of any new attractions (since 1995, year that Space Mountain opened in the main park... there was only one new attraction... a rehab of the 3-D cinema in Honey, I shrunk the Audience). They opened a half bake, ugly second gate and with both parks attendance combined... do the same numbers as in 2000-2001! (12 millions visitors).
What's killing the park is opening with 7 resorts. That was waaaaayyy too many rooms for one park and with Paris so close with the RER (suburb train) and its many hotels... forget it. Lack of attractions also hurt the park. The lack of attractions was "fixed" in 1993/1994, when a post show opened for Star Tours, the Pinfari "lookalike" Temple of Peril and a few minor rides opened. All that contributed to stock worth next to nothing and outrageous debts.
You must be logged in to post