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.