There was little effort to adapt to local culture other than to require the employees to speak English and French (Travel Weekly; 10/24/1994; Godwin, Nadine (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.02/disney.html).
When the park was built outside of Paris the same areas that are in the United States parks are in the Paris parks. There is a Main Street, Discovery area, Frontierland, Adventureland and other familiar areas. The problem became the fact that the areas are specific to the United States with little to no thought to the importance of the local culture and areas.
In addition to the areas being given the same themes and names, the shows remained the same. The shows included the "Buffalo Bill Wild West Show." Twice a night the show put cowboy atmosphere on stage and on the plates.
While this was and still is a very popular genre and theme in the United States it had very little to do with Paris history and the visitors who were from Europe were not impressed.
News coverage consistently told the public that the visitors were underwhelmed and that the local culture was being ignored and the sales continued to drop.
To add insult to injury all of the actors in the Paris Disneyland shows are Americans while the understudies are allowed to be French.
Some believed that the theme consistency was important so that children who traveled from America to France would have the consistency of the Disneyland that they were familiar with back home. This attitude outraged the locals who asked why children from thousands of miles away would be more important than the local children who might like a bit of local cultural flavor, or the adults who might like a Paris park to reflect Paris tastes (Travel Weekly; 10/24/1994; Godwin, Nadine (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.02/disney.html).
Some examples of the company insistence on staying with American themes at the Paris park include:
In the Cheyenne Hotel, employees wear the denims of the American West, and outside the Santa Fe, even the janitorial staff were wearing Western garb.
At the Newport Bay Club, male staffers wear blazers and ties, and the women's clothing used red, white and blue to achieve the yacht-club look.
In the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel, with a staircase inspired by "Gone With the Wind," the help were dressed as if to look after Scarlett.
Characters frequent the hotels as well as the park. They come to breakfast in the Disneyland Hotel, and at the Newport Bay, we saw "Captain Hook" assisting with checkout (Travel Weekly; 10/24/1994; Godwin, Nadine (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.02/disney.html)."
The themes also extend to the hotels. A New Yorker may feel right at home in the New Yorker Hotel at Paris Disneyland.
While this was being supported by the executives the locals were not pleased. With many more locals being nearby and possible participants in the Disneyland experience why would the company insist in catering to Americans thousands of miles away that may never get the opportunity to travel to Europe and if they did why would they want to see exactly what they could see at home?
People don't come to Europe to see America. They come to Europe to see the culture and traditions of Europe and all that it entails. It makes sense that they would prefer their Paris Disney spin-off to be vaguely familiar but with a French twist.
In spite of the issues that are being experienced in Europe with Disneyland the corporation has decided to further expand into other areas of the world (Weber, 2004).
For many countries, especially in the developing world, the ever-growing presence of the U.S. culture industry is a mixed blessing (Weber, 2004). On the one hand, the pervasiveness of Americana can be seen as a sign of progress (Weber, 2004). U.S. brands are symbols of wealth and modernity and freedom. Drinking coffee at Starbucks or taking the family to Disneyland signals the rise of a worldly middle class (Weber, 2004). On a more concrete level, Western companies often bring a measure of quality and service that are both a boon for local consumers and a prod for domestic firms to raise their standards (Weber, 2004)."
While many advantages are realized with American culture coming to other parts of the world there is also a downside. The growing popularity of United States products overseas does create a serious threat to the sense of identity for those who live locally in the areas.
For several decades now experts in Europe have turned angry arguments in the direction of Americanized cultures in Europe.
Euro Disney, now known as Disneyland Paris, was once famously denounced by the French theater director Ariane Mnouchkine as a "cultural Chernobyl." In the developing world, cultural imperialism has long been seen as the handmaiden of political domination, another way for strong countries to take advantage of the weak (Weber, 2004)."
The supporters of globalization do not believe that Disneyland's refusal to ignore local culture will help the world in the end. They have voiced their concerns that it will in fact hurt the local cultures and create anti-American sentiment.
No company conveys more powerfully the image of a conquering cultural army than Walt Disney. Its founder was a true-blue patriot who saw himself as a proselytizer for the values of the American heartland. The company's products and services - unlike, say, fast-food hamburgers or sugary soft drinks - are not merely symbolic of the American way of life, but contain as part of their essence a set of beliefs about good and evil and human aspiration. Disney, moreover, has throughout its history been extremely shrewd about building mutually reinforcing products across many different kinds of media, with theme parks and TV shows, movies and merchandise, all working together in service of the Disney way (Weber, 2004). "
In the first year of operation Disneyland Hong Kong fell extremely short in its anticipated number of visitors and revenues according to many reports.
Even though many American products are popular in other nations the actual culture of America is often not welcomed. This makes it extremely difficult to sell American business in many areas of the world.
Disney and other big global brands are driven not by grand plans to promote American values, but rather by incremental, pragmatic, financially oriented, market research-based business decisions - and even then, the companies struggle mightily to make their initiatives work. Success depends on some rather mundane factors: Have you selected good local partners? Do your executives understand local traditions and speak the language? Have you developed an organization that allows for strategic coordination across far-flung locations? Have you earned the goodwill of citizens groups and government officials (Weber, 2004)? "
The above elements are important and they are elements that Disney has been accused of ignoring. While it often pays lip service to the needs of the local residents and need to maintain their cultural identity it does not do so in actuality when it urges government to shut down any nearby parks or competitors that they believe are imposter look alikes trying to cash in on Disney popularity.
Japan seemed to be a logical choice of places to open a Disneyland to the Disney executives. Japan is the most wealthy nation of all the Asian areas and the Asian nations are ripe for American business revenue.
With its massive population and emerging economies, Asia is the promised land for American culture merchants. And Japan, by far the richest country in Asia, is the logical first stop (Weber, 2004)."
Disney expects to have 25 million visitors during its first year of business however, after seeing this disappointment that occurred in the Paris and the Hong Kong ventures the company decided not to completely own the rights to the Japanese version of the company.
Disney licensed construction and ownership of both Japanese parks to the Oriental Land Company. As a result, it earns only royalties and management fees. That's pure profit - Sutro analyst Miller estimates it at $200 million a year - but not the kind of windfall that would come with full or even partial ownership (Weber, 2004). "
The decision to do this is based in the fact that many American companies have seen that what they thought would be an easy market in the Asian nations have turned out to be tough markets after all.
Japan has been more open to the prospect of Disney perhaps because it has always been very open to adopting the Western culture. In addition the nation is currently suffering from a slump in its economy and the thought of millions of visitors coming the park is a promising thought.
Which explains why Disney's been looking farther west, to China. There could hardly be a more enticing market: a billion people, rapidly getting richer, who turn to foreign brands both for symbolic value and superior quality, and…