Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on November 9, 2007
Execs from Disney and the Hong Kong government are admitting the obvious: Hong Kong Disneyland, the joint venture they launched in 2005, isn’t exactly a smashing success. Yesterday Disney’s CFO said that the House of Mouse is giving up on the idea of earning any royalties from the park over the next few years. Tom Staggs also told reporters that Disney expects to put more money into the park.
The Hong Kong government – which has already put more than $3 billion into the theme park project - is considering investing more, too. The Standard, the free English-language tabloid, the other day quoted Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce Frederick Ma saying “I don’t want to hear visitors saying they are seeing the same things they saw last year and lose interest in Disneyland.”
Not to say I told you so, but if you’re interested, check out this story I did two years ago. This place has been star-crossed from Day One. Actually, even before Day One: HK Disneyland suffered embarrassing PR setbacks in the weeks before its official launch on Sept. 12, 2005, with critics slamming the park’s small size, its dearth of attractions, its bad food. You name it, they hated it. The big problem: In an effort to save money, Disney and Hong Kong decided that they were going to open a park that was vastly smaller than the parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris or Tokyo. In the story I wrote after taking two of my kids to the park (Headline: “Disney’s Not-So-Magic Kingdom”) I warned that Disney was fooling itself if it thought that Hong Kong and Chinese visitors would be satisfied with the mini-park that they had created.
Disney executives and officials from Hong Kong don’t want to admit this, but the fact is, Hong Kong Disneyland is small. It’s just 306 acres and has just three “lands” — Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Adventureland. The park is only in Phase One, we’ve been told, and there’s plenty of reclaimed land at the site to accommodate more. But that’s not going to stop visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland from feeling a bit underwhelmed.
A few days later, I heard from an incensed Disney exec who berated me for paying too much attention to unkind criticism in the local press. Too bad this exec and other Disney officials didn’t pay more attention themselves. If they had, Disney, the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong taxpayers – who are the ones footing the bill for these mistakes – would have all been better off.