Monday, September 9, 2019

The Real Reason Why Disney Built Disneyland Paris in France Instead of Spain, Explained by Michael Eisner Himself

Forbes posted a long article titled "Michael Eisner Reveals The Magic Touch That Gave A Glow To Disneyland Paris", which include Michael Eisner comments about why Disney decided to build Disneyland Paris in France instead than in another European country - Spain - which was also considered, back at the end of the eighties. And now, after 27 years since DLP opening, we have al last the answer why and it's coming from Michael Eisner himself. Below, some excerpts from the Forbes article, there is more to read in the full article HERE.

"One of Disney’s objectives was to develop far more land than the space on which its theme parks would sit. It needed more land so that it could maintain standards throughout the entire resort from the parks to the surrounding hotels and even the roads and nature reserves. It has done this at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and to pull it off in France, Disney requested a vast plot of land almost a fifth the size of Paris. It got what it wanted but it came with a catch.

The French government agreed to sell a 5,510 acre plot of land to Disney provided that the majority of it was developed in accordance with its vision. To ensure that it benefits the local area, and isn’t rushed through, the government only sells land to Disney in stages once previous plots have been completed.

“We wanted to be close to the biggest population base, the crossroads of Europe,” says Eisner. “Although the UK has a welcoming business and creative climate, we didn’t consider England for Euro Disney for the reasons of location. We considered France and Spain. Most of the strong Disney management we inherited would have preferred to go to Spain because of the presumed similarities to Los Angeles and Florida. But that was a false assumption. Florida is warmer than Spain in the winter and has a history of Disney available tourism. For decades American travelers travelled past Orlando on their way to Southern Florida to places like Miami. People left Boston, New York, Toronto and Philadelphia etc and drove through Florida to Miami".

“Of course, Spain, which is a fantastic country and would have been a good choice, did not have the history of Disney type tourism. If we had gone to Barcelona or even Valencia, it would not have been that warm in winter as Florida and it wasn’t a convenient route across Europe. Paris, on the other hand is in the middle and the big question was about the weather.”

In winter the temperature in Paris can fall to below 30 degrees and it regularly snows so Disney ensured that its parks in Paris have more covered pathways and queue lines than their counterparts in the US. It came up with a particularly attractive solution for its Disneyland Paris park which has a turn-of-the-century themed Main Street running through its center. On either side of the street are elaborate arcades decorated with wrought-iron beams and oil lamps. They are turned on in winter making the arcades a welcome refuge from the weather outside though Eisner says they may not have been necessary.

“I grew up in Manhattan and knew how people operated in the winter. The subway was our friend. Nothing kept us inside. I knew that the weather would not preclude anyone in New York walking down Main Street in the winter if the park was there. More importantly, if you grew up in London or Paris, the underground and the metro was part of your life. But most of Disney management at that point was California-based and people on the west coast cannot imagine going anywhere without a car."

“My view was that, unless there is a blizzard, people in France do not let the weather keep them from going out. We knew, if France agree to extend the RER to our front gate as well as the TGV, Disneyland Paris would work. And in addition the tunnel to the UK was on the horizon. So the big question on the table was whether to build in Spain, because of the Disney California mentality, or France because of my New York mentality. I never wavered."

“Jacques Chirac, the then Mayor of Paris, Laurent Fabius the then prime minister, and François Mitterrand delivered on what we needed, mainly enough land and transportation. The President did say on opening day that Disney was “not his cup of tea,” although he asked for Disney tee shirts for his grandchildren. Chirac on the other hand was all in having spent some of his youth in the USA. But from the very first day it was a smash hit as far as the public was concerned.”

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