Marketing Planet

Disney opens itself to cultural differences and adapts its latest park to the local culture

On September 12th, the Disney Company has widened their «magical empire» towards China, by opening a new theme park in Hong Kong’s suburbs. More than 10 years after Disney opened its European park near Paris, “Euro Disney†, in the full American style, Disney, this time tried its best to incorporate local culture. The time since «Go West» seems to have cleared a path for «Go East».

Eurodisney: the American Way

In fact, different experiences have shown the importance of some adaptation to local tastes and culture. For instance, when the European park opened in 1992 in France, restaurants weren’t serving wine. This has been a huge misunderstanding on French culture and has lead to quite some discussions.
Yet, in many respects, the new park in China looks as older ones from America. In fact the classic Disney thoroughfare of 50 years ago has been re-created for everyone’s pleasure. Nevertheless, hamburgers have been substituted by noodles and there is only one fast-food restaurant for seven Chinese ones. Also, the “American standard toilet†has been replaced by a more local type of toilet, considered more suitable.

Disney and Feng Shu

To avoid any other cultural problems, Disney even contacted a Feng Shu master who helped the company to create a specific environment that answers to the Chinese “way of living. As a result, the Feng Shu master has not only decided of the opening date (a specific favourable date), but also advised them to reposition cask registers, to change the aisle to help the vital energy’s (chi) good circulation, and to adjust the number of hotels floors in order to close all second - and fifth floors to public. According to the Feng Shu, the number “2†represents illness, and “5†misfortune.

Even Disney’s stars will undergo some major modifications: Mickey will have a red and gold Chinese suit to wear, and Mulan will have her own pavilion designed like a Chinese temple. Other details such as the building of a fountain and reducing the numbers of clocks in the park have been taken into consideration as to enhance the park’s success.

The American way revisited

Seeing these adaptations, Disney seems to have learned that they can’t simply impose the American culture on another continent. However, some say that they might have taken this policy of cultural adaptation a little too far with the intention to serve shark soup at banquet, something that the environmentalists didn’t appreciate.

Having created this all “new brand world†Disney hopes to satisfy their Chinese clients, even if spitting in the park remains prohibited. The stakes for Disney in succeeding in China are huge. Besides the big population who is not yet a “Disney customer†and who represents a big market for their accessories and DVD’s, Disney also need to succeed the park. Euro Disney is since quite some time under discussion for the profitability and the general management of Disney seems rather in search of stability.

The question that still lies open is to know whether Mickey mouse will soon have slanting eyes. [1]

Financial highlights on Disney

T/O on 2004 went up with about 13% to 30.752 Million Dollars (2003: 27.061 M$). The park revenues seem to represent 7.750M$ and the sales of consumer products 2.511. The main part still comes from the Media Networks: 11.778M$ (2003: 10.941M$).


[1Sources for this article: “yahoo insolite†, and “ASIA Time magazineâ€