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					1a. Why would the Walt Disney Company want to venture into
global markets with its theme parts?

1b. What troubles has the company had to overcome in
opening theme parks outside of its U.S. home base?

1c. What steps might Disney take to ensure better success
with a future Chinese theme park location?
Mickey Mouse has been a cherished
American icon since the 1930s. He has
become a beloved character to children
everywhere as his image has spread
around the globe. Mickey’s first “home,”
the Disneyland theme park, opened in Anaheim, California,
in 1955, with a second, larger park opening in Florida 16
years later. Americans and tourists from around the globe
have traveled in droves to California or Florida to experience
the “happiest place on earth.” What could be a more
natural growth for the popular Disney theme parks than to
follow Mickey around the globe with international parks?
Disneyland first opened on the international front in Tokyo,
Japan, in 1983. Ten years later The Walt Disney Company
brought the magic to Paris, France. Finally, in 2005, Disneyland
opened its gates in Hong Kong, China.
Global expansion is tricky for any business. There are
many challenges to overcome, such as economic, legal,
political, social, and cultural barriers. Disney may have
been an American icon, but that did not mean that simply
duplicating the American parks and placing these replicas
overseas would work. Among the many challenges faced
by Disney when entering a global market, perhaps the
most challenging has been handling cultural differences.
The second international theme park, Euro Disney,
opened outside of Paris in 1992 with much fanfare and
many well-publicized problems. During construction, many
well-known French citizens openly opposed the park.
French labor unions also organized protests. The main
theme of these objections was an aversion to allowing an
American icon and symbol of American culture to become
a focal point in France. Attendance for the first three years
remained well below expectations, causing Euro Disney
S.C.A. grave financial difficulties. Finally, in 1995, the
park experienced a turn around. Financial restructuring
helped the park began to be profitable. New attractions,
lower admissions prices, and a massive marketing campaign,
including a name change to Disneyland Paris, led
to increased attendance. Now the park is the number one
tourist attraction in Europe.
Having learned from its experience in France, The Walt
Disney Company entered its venture in Hong Kong with an
eye to embracing and honoring local culture. The company
had learned that while its stories and themes appear universal,
events, trends, cuisine, and more must vary country
by country. Theme parks, in particular, must embrace
local culture while expressing the Disney message. To this
end, Disney hired a feng shui consultant to assist with the
See for Yourself Videocase
layout of the entire Hong Kong park. The fourth floor has
been passed over at all hotels because of a cultural belief
that the number four is bad luck. One of the Hong Kong
Disneyland ballrooms measures 888 square meters, since
eight signifies wealth in Chinese culture. Even with this
attention to detail, Hong Kong Disneyland’s first years have
been rough. As in France, attendance has hovered consistently
below projections. Protesters have again brought up
various cultural or social objections to the park, including
that Disney serves shark fin soup in some restaurants. A
major complaint among guests is that the park is small and
offers little. In truth, the park is the smallest of the Disney
theme parks located throughout the world. Disney is taking
steps to address this and other complaints, and expansion
has already begun.
While some locals continue to protest Disney’s presence,
there are many benefits to allowing a global company
like Disney to enter foreign markets. Disney theme
parks attract both local and global tourists, which can be
a major stimulus to the local economy. For example, Hong
Kong expects that Hong Kong Disneyland will bring over
50,000 jobs to the city between 2005 and 2025. It has been
predicted that the park will bring $19 billion (U.S.) to the
local economy during the park’s first 40 years. It is likely
that with expansion and further refinement, Hong Kong
Disneyland will succeed with a turnaround as seen in
France, which now boasts over 12 million visitors annually.
These initial stumbles have not deterred The Walt Disney
Company from further global expansion. Though no official
announcements have been confirmed, the company
has long been in talks with China about opening another
park there, most likely in Shanghai. After its experiences in
Paris and Hong Kong, Disney might be better positioned to
navigate the rocky terrain of expansion into another global
market. Hopefully the company has learned that it cannot
rely only on Mickey, but that it must pay close attention to
cultural and social variances in different global markets.72
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