Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why this small news about Shanghaî Disneyland may be more important than it seems

Yesterday, thanks to my Google news alert, i didn't missed what seems to be at first sight a small news about the future Shanghaî Disneyland.

The title was: "Oriental Land Says It May Cooperate With Disney on Shanghai Theme Park" and the news just said: "Oriental Land Co., operator of the Tokyo Disney Resort, said it may cooperate with Walt Disney Co. on a planned Shanghai theme park. “There’s a possibility we may work together with Disney on Shanghai,” Akiyoshi Yokota, executive director, said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Chiba prefecture, a Tokyo suburb. No details on cooperation were decided, he said. Oriental Land has been talking about the planned theme park and exchanging information with Disney, Yokota said, without elaborating. Disney last year won Chinese government approval for a park in Shanghai that may be completed by 2014. The Japanese theme park operator, aiming to post a record profit for the second straight year, is looking to expand its business outside Japan while trying to attract tourists from China and other countries, as domestic customers spend less amid falling wages."

When i read that news i thought: "Hmmm, that's interesting...in fact it would be a clever move from Disney to have Shanghaî Disneyland managed by Oriental Land". As you may ask why, here is why: the understanding of other countries culture is something which is always hard for big American corporations. They think they can understand but in fact they don't. Let's take the example of Hong Kong Disneyland. The project was decided and built under Eisner era and there is no doubt that they knew how different chinese and american culture can be, but because the parks in Japan are so successful they probably thought it will be the same in China. That was the big mistake and it's only when HKDL opened that they finally understood how different Japanese and Chinese can be. For sure they're both living in Asia and have things in common, but the mental structure of a Japanese is totally different than the one of a Chinese. It's subtle, and anyone who understood the roots of the Chinese thought could have told Disney they were going to be surprised, but it's definitely too subtle for any big American corporation which generally don't like too much to acknowledge their own limits.

And that's why having Oriental Land taking care of Shanghaî Disneyland management could be a very clever move from Disney. As i've said Japanese and Chinese are different but they do have in common the Asian vision of the world, not to mention Buddhism culture, etc... In two words, the Japanese guys of Oriental Land will probably understand better - and be in better "cultural" position - to deal with the Chinese than any American.

There is another reason why it could be great that Oriental Land takes the job: the maintenance problem. Anyone who have been at TDL or TDS will tell you how amazing the maintenance is. The parks looks brand new all the time. Japanese have a desire of daily perfection and i wish they'll have the same at DLP! There is no doubt - if Oriental Land is in charge of SDL management - that they will push for the same quality standards than the one they have at TDL and TDS.

Oriental Land now have a long experience of Disney parks management, and they do it very well. The only question which remain is: will the Chineses accept easily to work under Japanese orders? A corporate answer could be that "Chinese people will be happy to work in one of the biggest entertainment company in the world" but, although it might be true, it also sounds like wishful thinking. Chineses also have bad memories about Japanese and although WW2 is now over since 65 years they hardly accept Japanese domination. In this affair all will be a matter of subtlety, and we'll see if this will be the case... or not.

6 comments:

DisWedWay said...

Greetings Alain, I agree with you that OLC's maintenance standards and budget for it, are "Prodigiouse" and the parks always look better than the last time you visited. If something wears out they replace it with something that looks the same but lasts longer. They also have a great merchandising ability and product line that relate to park sponsered events that are only in Japan. They have learned will from Disney and could be a great partner in Shanghai Disneyland as well as Japan.

wdwprince said...

The Chinese own a majority stake in HK Disneyland. The government of Hong Kong owns a 57 percent stake in the company. Disney owns the remaining 43. So HK Disneyland is owned by the Chinese.
What is not being mentioned in the article in regard to low attendance at HK Disneyland is the lack of attractions in the park. I was in Hong Kong last year. Disneyland has no buzz there. The most exciting attraction is Space Mountain. Jungle Cruise is next. And thats about it for thrilling attractions. The park is thought of as just for toddlers. No where else do the Disney parks suffer that image.
That is the main problem. It is a grossly underdeveloped park with very few attractions. It doesn't compare to Tokyo Disney in size or interest. Hong Kong's largest theme park, Ocean Park is much more popular and much more interesting than HK Disney. In my opinion, the largest problem for drawing crowds is the lack of development of the park. And yes, from what I gather the Chinese are not obsessed with American culture.

Ximagineer said...

Though you make several good points, I don't think it is primarily a cultural reason. Quite frankly, OLC manages their parks better than Disney manages the US ones. Cleaner, better maintained, corporate sponsored - OLC does it right! And having been burned before on Paris and Hong Kong, Disney is looking to minimize risk at all costs.

I welcome OLC's involvement!

Anonymous said...

Just to point out that Hongkongers, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese are very different.

robert metzler said...

dear alian why olc want to charge sdl? if they have room they have more park and hotel at disneyland shanghai resort ?

Chris said...

I agree about a few of the comments, especially that HKDL didn't have many attractions (and still doesn't)...it was made when Disney still thought that just having the Disney name on a park meant that it would have people clamoring to get in constantly.

Sure, the first few weeks it might, but once people realized how much wasn't there, and the fact that MANY Hong Kong residents are wealthy....wealthy enough to make a flight to Tokyo Disney if they really want to see how a Disney resort should work...

As for OLC managing a mainland Chinese park, yeah, it will be interesting. On the surface it looks like a good idea, but it depends on how Chinese/Japanese relations are these days.