Success creates a sense of confidence. Just like with gambling, the more you win, the more you would want to play and the more you would risk; however, with greater risks come greater losses.
Disney is one of the companies that took a big risk investing in a foreign country due to confidence from previous successful projects such as their US Disney parks and also their theme park in Tokyo, Japan which was a great success.
The confidence of Disney was partly based on the number of Europeans visiting Disney parks in the US; however, it isn’t a main holiday destination. The prediction of attendance took Europe as a general mass of people rather than many individual countries – and culture was not taken into consideration when investment decisions were made.
The reason why Disney was confident about their investment in France was the fact that Disney films have previously done better in Europe than in the United States, therefore Western European audiences were already familiar with all the Disney characters.
The Walt Disney Company searched for sites in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and France. It chose Paris because of demographics and subsidies. About 17 million people live less than two hours from Paris and another 310 million can fly there in the same amount of time or less. With the expectation of the creation over 30,000 French jobs, the French government was eager to attract Disney, which is why offerings of more than $1 billion were made. Add to that the fact that Paris was (and still is) the most visited city in the world, as well as a transport hub for most of Western Europe.
Their strategy was very greedy in buying all the surrounding land so no one else could benefit from the project. This did not promote local support or surrounding business support, and since the actual location is not inside Paris, but Marne-la-Vallée, a small region about 20 miles east of Paris hundreds of millions of dollars had to be spent by the government to provide infrastructure such as railroad and highways directly linked to the park and to the Paris train system in order to make access to theme park as easy as possible for the people who were interested in visiting it.
Another problem that Disney did not put into consideration was the culture. The Walt Disney Company’s policy of serving no alcohol in its parks in California, Florida, and Tokyo was extended to France, which caused astonishment and rebellion in France where a glass of wine with lunch is a daily habit. It failed to recognise that alcohol is viewed as a regular beverage with meals and a part of daily life there. Not surprisingly, in May 1993, the Walt Disney Company changed its policy and allowed wine and beer in the Euro Disneyland theme park. The minister of culture even announced that he would boycott the opening. He called the whole project an unwelcome symbol of American clichés and a consumer society.
Also, on the opening of the theme park, French farmers drove their tractors to the entrance of the theme park and blocked it, which however wasn’t a protest aimed at Disney but at the US government, which had been demanding that French agricultural subsidies be cut.
All these acts of protest show that not the theme park itself has been the problem but the belief in cultural imperialism. This impression was made due to the way the American executives from the Walt Disney Company dealt with doubts or suggestions from the French side. “Its answer to doubts or suggestions invariably was: Do as we say, because we know best“. One French employee even noted “I don’t think that they realise what Europeans are like….that we ask questions and don’t all think or act the same way.”
Disney also made mistakes over breakfast and food norms because the initial thinking was that for Europeans breakfast was not considered as something important. So as a result restaurants were planned to seat only a small number of people who wanted breakfast, which turned out to be incorrect when large numbers of people showed up for substantial breakfasts.
“We were told that Europeans ‘don’t take breakfast,’ so we downsized the restaurants,” recalled one Disney executive. This resulted in Disney downsizing their restaurants before Euro Disneyland opened. Once it opened the restaurants were bombarded with breakfast eaters. In fact, they were “trying to serve 2,500 breakfasts in a 350-seat restaurant at some of the hotels”.
Further, people didn’t want the typical French breakfast of croissant and coffee, which Disney expected, but rather bacon and eggs. Lunch turned out to be another problem, because most Americans were comfortable walking around the parks with lunch in their hands, whereas the majority of the European guests appeared at the restaurants at 12:30 p.m. expecting to be seated for a leisurely lunch.
As if this was not complicated enough once the Europeans reached the front of the queue they were told they could not have wine or beer with their lunch. “As a result, the Europeans did not have a positive ‘Disney experience’ while eating their meals. In addition, it was difficult for Euro Disneyland’s managers to staff these one or two-hour rush hours.”
In conclusion Euro Disney made mistakes. It harmed the market of Walt Disney as well as the French market, even though it seems as though it is making a lot of headlines and success, it suffered a lot of consequences. Businesses especially as big as Walt Disney need to examine a couple of variables before investment