September 13, 2005


Mickey Mouse AlienIn sweltering 90 degree weather, Hong Kong Disneyland, the fifth and tiniest Disney theme park, officially opened to the public on Monday. Michael Eisner made a speech from Main Street USA at the park, rhapsodizing about how the last time he stood on that spot it was beautiful Penny's Bay but now the bay has been filled in and covered with stores selling ceramic Snow White figurines and overpriced bags of cookies.

British children said the LA Disneyland was "better" and "had more rides" while Japanese tourists proclaimed, "This park is cheap. I like it!."

The Hong Kong government threw in US$3.5 billion on the park, and they're sweating bullets hoping it will pay off since, as the Asia Times reports, this is one of the most unfair deals Disney has ever struck with a local government - Disney is investing about 10% of the project's cost and is earning almost 50% of its profits, plus an enormous guaranteed royalty every year whether the park makes money or not.

The HKSAR has the world's highest disparity between rich and poor, its poverty rates have been growing steadily for years, it recently abolished estate taxes and cut benefit payments to the elderly (with a "devastating" impacy according to a government report), it has no minimum wage, and it seems to be experimenting with trickle-down economics to fix what's broken.

Does it really need to foot the bill for Disney to open a new park while Disney CEO Robert Iger is talking about trying to build a Disneyland in Shanghai (thus slitting the throat of Disneyland Hong Kong which is supposed to generate huge profits from Mainland visitors)? The success of Disneyland Hong Kong will be leverage for Disney to negotiate terms for a Mainland Disneyland, and for getting the Disney Channel back on PRC television, where it's currently banned. Expect Hong Kong residents to keep asking why the HKSAR is spending its money on Disney's corporate goals.

September 13, 2005 at 08:57 AM in News | Permalink


I don't understand the logic behind HK Disney since like you said, there are talks for a Shanghai Disney. This Disney is relatively smaller considering the losses Eisner and gang amounted when Euro Disney first opened in France.

Their current plan is to smart small and depending on customer demand they will expand. The thought all along was to cater to the mainland audiences who from a generation past don't mind standing an hour for the teacup ride or the Pirates of the Carribean whereas the local HKer has little to no patience comparing the park to their local Ocean Park which has better rides. An article in the NY Times suggested that Disney needed to be careful to cultural sensitivities being that Asians may not want to get on rides that are too fast. -- I guess its ok to have some person wait then to get the thrill of their life on Space Mountain then..

My guess is that HK Disney will be the litmus test to see what the demand is for another Disney Park where people from farther provinces may be able to gather up their life savings and trek through China so that they can take a picture with Goofy. Its a shame since inevitably HKers who have fickle taste will be tired of HK Disney if Shanghai Dis comes to fruition leaving a once beauftiful patch of land (which are dissapearing rapidly in HK to begin with) with an amusement park which hasn't changed in over 50 years.

Posted by: fishcado | Sep 13, 2005 10:04:31 AM

Whati heard from my grandma(who reads the Sing Tao Newspaper 24-7) is that HK Disney is a great hit!....
But after reading this, it seems that it's not so great as I expected. So I'm planning not to go there the next time I visit HK!

Posted by: Danielle | Sep 15, 2005 3:52:29 PM

Post a comment