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HK Disneyland Takes Another Hit

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.

Reader Comments


November 9, 2007 6:27 PM

Wonder how much competition will be coming from the Dubai Land theme park when it opens? The scale of that just seems amazing.


November 10, 2007 3:18 AM

Disney has underestimated the Chinese customers with its smaller park. Mistakes that the Chinese will not easily forget. Next time, I go to Hk, I won't even bother to consider going there.


November 10, 2007 9:09 AM

Hong Kong disney is a fine establishment. there is but one problem to the place: no visitors.

The size isn't the problem. There are simply not enough people in the region. Do a poll, virtually everyone who wants to go has already been there.

Neal Horwitz

November 10, 2007 10:34 PM

Easy does it, Bruce, especially the "I- told-you-so attitude. It'll come together, eventually..No one is still screaming about Disneyland Paris, large or small, and how many years were they castigated by the French.. Let's see now, Ocean Park has been here, what, 30 years? And for how many years has it been nothing more than a half baked and somewhat cheesy place for amahs to take the toddlers. And talk about bad food?? Only since Disneyland opened has some (long awaited) competition forced Ocean Park to ratchet it up a few notches, and they've done so admirably well, with a gweilo or two heading the charge, which no one in Gov't seems to want to mention..
We also took our two kids when it opened, and underwhelmed me as well. Took them there again last month, near Halloween, and had a great time in the late afternoon and evening-the Huanted House was great-did it twice. They're tweens now, and had a great time of it for about 3 hours. Stayed for dinner too, more than I've ever done at Ocean Park. Howz them apples?
So, whilst I'm not their defenders, and nmo question they've bumbled much worse than they should have, give it a rest for a bit and come back in 2 or 3 years with another prediction..


November 12, 2007 9:49 PM

Disney is fooling itself. I have been to the HK Disney park and got a really bad feeling. It can not be compared to the one in Tokyo. I will definitely not recommend my friend to go when they visit HK (and I am already doing it).


November 13, 2007 8:53 AM

I went to the HK park for a few days in January 2006 and I really liked it.

It is small but perfectly formed, yes it needs a few more big rides but they have the space to build them in the future. It's a work in progress.

The smaller scale meant there was none of the filler (for example, the Dumbo ride re-badged as Aladdin Carpet ride in the two Paris parks!)

As for the bad food, the correspondent can't have sampled the food in the US parks. The HK food was head and shoulders above the California and Paris parks which I've visited in the past.

to neal horwitz

June 1, 2008 1:54 PM

and they've done so admirably well, with a gweilo or two heading the charge, which no one in Gov't seems to want to mention..

oh yes, the great white saviour to save the savages. it's crazy what white men think of themselves, are you delusional?


August 8, 2008 11:09 PM

The Chinese want to learn from Disney and create their own version. They could care less in the long run about Disney, as long as they suck the concept dry and provide a revenue generating superstar replacement, Disney with Chinese values.

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