Sunday, May 3, 2009
Is Disney planning to build theme parks in other countries than China? Will we see one day a Disney park in India? Or in another country? We will talk about this, but before, here are the latest news about the Hong Kong negociations as it seems that the Hong Kong Disneyland problem may be resolved soon.
After months - if not years - of negociations with the HK government and the recent dramatic development with the WDC announcing that they will disbanded the team of HKDL Imagineers working on the awaited expansion projects, Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang met with Disney executives including Jay Rasulo and parks Chief Financial Officer Jim Hunt last Friday in Los Angeles. According to Reuters press agency a "Hong Kong Disneyland deal could happen soon".
Spokesman Patrick Wong said "We had very good discussions with the Disney management yesterday. We are happy with the progress achieved at the negotiations regarding Hong Kong Disneyland's expansion plans. There are still a number of issues to be sorted out but we hope that an agreement could be reached quite soon." And Disney spokeswoman Tasia Filippatos said on Saturday that Disney was "encouraged by the recent discussions with our partners regarding the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland and are optimistic we will be able to finalize a deal to move forward on exciting new plans for the park".
Reuters also reports that in Hong Kong "officials said the talks had broken fresh ground and details on Disney's expansion would be announced soon." And Rita Lau, Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development added "According to my understanding, on a number of important and significant points, everyone is beginning to have little breakthroughs".
Good news. Happy to learn that HKDL will probably have new lands and attractions in a near future. As always, everything is a question of money in these talks and, although Chinese negociators can be really tough, i suppose that they finally found an "agreement" with the WDC. And let's not forget that Hong Kong is part of China, so any HKDL agreement will probably have a good effect on the Shanghaî Disneyland project, always waiting for its final approval from Beijing Central Government.
All this may arrive at the right time, specially considering that Universal announced recently that they're planning to build a Universal Studios theme park in Beijing. Universal, too, is waiting for Beijing officials approval on their project. Which means that there is now TWO major theme park projects waiting for approval in China!
Let's go to India, now. If the question is "Is the Walt Disney Company planning to build a theme park in India?", the answer is "no". But if the question was "Are they thinking about India for a future Disney theme park?", then the answer is "yes, definitely, they're thinking about it".
Now, don't get me wrong, it doesn't mean that New Delhi or Bombay will have a new Magic Kingdom anytime soon. The WDC is just seriously "thinking" about it. Strictly on a "business" point of view, it's perfectly understandable. After all, more than one billion people are living in India and this great country is in full economic development. And considering that Disney don't have in mind to open a theme park in India before ten years, in the meantime India could be economically ready for a success of this future park.
But for me, the question is not "Are they going to build a MK in India or not" but more: "Is it really a good idea?". Let me tell you more about what i have in mind. When Disney decided some years ago to build HKDL they probably thought that the park would be an instant success. After all, Japanese are in love with Disneyland, so why not the Chinese? Then the park opened and the cultural shock arrived.
In France families may accept that children miss a day at school so they can go at DLP on week days to avoid the week-end crowds. But for Chinese it's purely unthinkable. One of the most important thing for Chinese people is the "security of the future". Which means that school success of their children is priority number one. Chinese and Japanese have totally different mental structures, that's where Disney did the mistake for HK. I think it's fair to say that Japanese are living more in the "present" and Chinese, traditionally, are more in the "future" - although i won't be surprised if China's incredible development will help young generations to live more and more in the "present".
Now, why am I talking about all that? Simply because of the cultural differences. The major mistake that almost EVERY U.S big corporation is always doing is to ignore the cultural differences between the U.S and other countries. And we can't even blame them, because it's not their fault. The "mind" of a corporation is made in such way that they simply can't understand that. I suppose that any of them would probably tell you that they're not enough stupid to don't see the differences between the U.S and India, the "caste" problems, and so on... and that's right. They DO see that. What they DON'T see is another plan, more subtle. If we take, as i do today, the example of India what will be difficult for them to understand is the "spirit" of India.
As Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo once said "India is the heart of the Earth". No other country in the world was - and still is - more spiritual than India. The inevitable - and perfectly welcome - economic development is changing this, but i think we must give some time to the country before landing with a pure occidental concept like Disneyland. In a country which have literally a pantheon of gods, Disneyland mythologies will be nothing. I agree that Indian people can be enough ludic to enjoy Disneyland but i'm not sure that DL mythologies have a lot of resonances for India's collective subconscious.
I have the greater respect for India civilisation, i think India's original vision of the world is stunning and i think that we probably have more to learn from them than they have from us. India have some of the greatest minds, artists and scientists in the world. I don't like too much the "caste" system, an heritage from medieval times, but i LOVE India. And i think that the WDC should understand the part of India which is "another planet" for us. And wait quite a while before building a Disney theme park over there. For the sake of India. That's my opinion - only mine.
Now, if they don't build a park in India, where else could they build one? There were many rumors about a project for Australia in Sydney, but sorry to disappoint my Australian readers, the WDC do NOT have plans to build a theme park down under. Not enough people living in the area to have the project economically viable. Then, other rumors talked about Singapore. Sorry, but you can also forget about Singapore. Not because Universal Singapore will open soon, but because Singapore is mainly a hub, and Disney think it's not enough economically viable to build a park and resort over there. Specially considering that Singapore is only at two hours flight from Hong Kong.
So, where else? Well, there IS another destination that Disney is looking at. It's South America. Don't expect any Magic Kingdom over there anytime soon, but they are definitely looking, thinking, about having a Disney theme park in South America in the future. And if you want my opinion, i think there WILL be one. Not in a near future, though, probably not before ten or fifteen years, but i am confident that one day there will be one.
And in which country of South America, you ask? In Brazil, my friends. In the area of Rio de Janeiro. This is the location that Disney have in mind to build a Disney theme park, some day. I suppose that my Carioca readers will find this news exciting, but once again you better be patient, because absolutely nothing is done yet.
I have to agree that Brazil and Rio de Janeiro which is one of the most visited place in South America - not to mention its gorgeous scenery - would be a perfect place indeed. Also, the "cultural shock" wouldn't be the same than it could be with India. So, one day, 80 or 90 years after Walt and his great Animators came to Rio in 1941 to find inspiration for "Saludos Amigos", Disney will probably be back, and this time it will be to build a Magic Kingdom. Those of you who thinking there is enough MK clones outside America shouldn't worry. Disney have learned the lesson and you will be really surprised how Shanghaî Disneyland will be a different and very enjoyable new kind of Magic Kingdom. As for Brazil, you better be patient Cariocas friends, but i think it will happen...in a not-so-near future.
Picture: copyright Disney