CASE 21 The Not-So-Wonderful World of
EuroDisney*—Things Are Better Now at
Disneyland Resort Paris
In April 1992, EuroDisney SCA opened its doors to European visitors. Located by the river Marne some 20 miles east of Paris, it was
designed to be the biggest and most lavish theme park that Walt
Disney Company (Disney) had built to date—bigger than Disneyland in Anaheim, California; Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida;
and Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.
Much to Disney management’s surprise, Europeans failed to
“go goofy” over Mickey, unlike their Japanese counterparts. Between 1990 and early 1992, some 14 million people had visited
Tokyo Disneyland, with three-quarters being repeat ...view middle of the document...
thought it had the strongest bid based on its yearlong, temperate,
and sunny Mediterranean climate, but insufﬁcient acreage of land
was available for development around Barcelona.
In the end, the French government’s generous incentives,
together with impressive data on regional demographics, swayed
Disney management to choose the Paris location. It was calculated
that some 310 million people in Europe live within two hours’ air
travel of EuroDisney, and 17 million could reach the park within two
hours by car—better demographics than at any other Disney site.
Pessimistic talk about the dismal winter weather of northern France
was countered with references to the success of Tokyo Disneyland,
where resolute visitors brave cold winds and snow to enjoy their
piece of Americana. Furthermore, it was argued, Paris is Europe’s
most-popular city destination among tourists of all nationalities.
Spills and Thrills
Disney had projected that the new
theme park would attract 11 million visitors and generate over
$100 million in operating earnings during the ﬁrst year of operation. By summer 1994, EuroDisney had lost more than $900 million since opening. Attendance reached only 9.2 million in 1992,
and visitors spent 12 percent less on purchases than the estimated
$33 per head.
If tourists were not ﬂocking to taste the thrills of the new EuroDisney, where were they going for their summer vacations in 1992?
Ironically enough, an unforeseen combination of transatlantic airfare wars and currency movements resulted in a trip to Disneyworld
in Orlando being cheaper than a trip to Paris, with guaranteed good
weather and beautiful Florida beaches within easy reach.
EuroDisney management took steps to rectify immediate problems in 1992 by cutting rates at two hotels up to 25 percent, introducing some cheaper meals at restaurants, and launching a Paris
ad blitz that proclaimed “California is only 20 miles from Paris.”
An American Icon One of the most worrying aspects of
EuroDisney’s ﬁrst year was that French visitors stayed away; they
had been expected to make up 50 percent of the attendance ﬁgures. A park services consulting ﬁrm framed the problem in these
words: “The French see EuroDisney as American imperialism—
plastics at its worst.” The well-known, sentimental Japanese attachment to Disney characters contrasted starkly with the unexpected
and widespread French scorn for American fairy-tale characters.
French culture has its own lovable cartoon characters such as Astérix, the helmeted, pint-sized Gallic warrior, who has a theme park
located near EuroDisney.
Hostility among the French people to the whole “Disney idea”
had surfaced early in the planning of the new project. Paris theater
director Ariane Mnouchkine became famous for her description of
EuroDisney as “a cultural Chernobyl.” In fall 1989, during a visit
to Paris, French Communists pelted Michael Eisner with eggs. The
joke going around at the time was, “For EuroDisney to adapt properly to France,...