Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Disney theme park in Israel ?

A Disney theme park in Israel? Considering the risks of conflict in the middle-east anyone would probably say "no way!" but this article by the Fast Company web site seems to indicate that some kind of Disney entertainment might be coming to Israel:

"Mickey Mouse may be going Middle Eastern: A Disney-affiliated investment firm has signed on to help develop a 20-acre entertainment complex in Haifa, Israel. Plans for the entertainment complex include a small amusement park, a multiplex theater, and a shopping mall.
Shamrock Holdings, founded by Disney family maverick Roy E. Disney as his family investment firm and still maintaining intimate ties with the Walt Disney Company, is a partner in the Haifa project. The other party Shamrock is working with is New Lineo Cinemas Israel. New Lineo operates two large multiplex/shopping mall complexes in suburban Tel Aviv.

A spokesperson for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts tells Fast Company that Disney has no plans to build a park in Haifa, Israel. However, local politicians, New Lineo and the Israeli press all confirm that the project is going ahead. At a press conference Monday, New Lineo Deputy CEO Avi Edery said: “The project, which is still in its development stages, reflects our goal of providing quality entertainment for the people of Israel.”

In an official statement, Haifa mayor Yona Yahav noted that, “This plan expresses confidence in our plans to turn Haifa Bay into a thriving business area. The plan began with the municipality's assistance in the building of Cinemall and the upgrade of the mall, previously known as the Lev Hamifratz Mall, and the building of the transport hub for the cable car, which carries passengers up to the Technion and Haifa University.”

Shamrock already has extensive holdings in Israel, including some which have landed the firm in political controversy. Shamrock acquired 25% of New Lineo in 2009; the movie theatre company is also reportedly trying to open similar shopping mall/multiplex hybrids in Europe.
That an amusement park is opening in Haifa, partially funded by a Disney-affiliated investment firm is beyond dispute. But the real question that amusement park geeks is asking is whether Disney is involved.

Globes, a reputable Israeli business daily, reports that the site will include a “Disney amusement park.” So does industry newswire Amusement Management. The Chinese Xinhua news agency, which has surprisingly extensive Israeli/Palestinian coverage, claims the amusement park will not be Disney-affiliated, echoing the statement of the Walt Disney Company.

The plot for the amusement park is small, at only 30,000 square meters. This will be smaller than the attached 50,000 meter multiplex/mall. But there are precedents of Disney opening micro-theme parks. In terms of size and location, the Israeli project seems like a larger scale version of the DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park in Florida. DisneyQuest is a mega-arcade that contains a variety of proprietary immersive virtual reality games and high-tech indoor rides. Disney also pioneered the Club Disney project in the 1990s which placed children's entertainment centers inside big box locations near suburban shopping malls..."

"While Israel has indigenous theme parks of its own such as the comically quaint Mini Israel, low air fares mean that Israeli travelers can easily visit European megaparks such as Disneyland Paris. Tense relations between Israel and its neighbors also mean that a large-scale theme park would not have a regional audience to draw on. Israel's population is less than that of Los Angeles County; even with the country's massive tourism trade, there are simply not enough numbers to support a local megapark.

But whether or not the finished project will have mouse ears, it seems that the late Roy Disney's private investment firm thinks Israel amusement parks will make them some shekels."

Text: copyright Fast Company


Omegadiz said...

I pray that nothing disney goes to the middle east. if a park gets bombed, thats bad press and the hamass mickey is still in peoples memory...

Anonymous said...

I love Israel and I love Disney!

Anonymous said...

Haifa is the soundest city in Israel for such a venture. The local population of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Baha'is are the closest example Israel has of religious co-existence. The Baha'i shrines and gardens(the Baha'i World Centre) is one of the highlights of Israel and is considered to be one of the modern Wonders of the World. I do hope any Disney venture in Israel is done tastefully with a sensitivity that befits the Holy Land.

madan rawat said...

I pray that nothing disney goes to the middle east.