Disneyland is a park that is regarded as the happiest place on earth. The concept for Disneyland began with Disney Walt when he took his two daughters to visit Griffith Park in Los Angeles. He envisioned a place that both children and adults would go to and have fun. Thus, the idea of a magical land called Disneyland was born in America. It opened its doors to visitors in 1955. The park represents the American culture and it is a recognizable brand abroad.
There are two Disney lands in America; one is located in Los Angeles California and the other in Orlando Florida. Disneyland is also found in Hong Kong China. The focus of the paper will be on the differences between the cultures of Disneyland in the United States and China. The differences that will be looked into include, culture, food, architecture, food, interior decorations, products and railroad. The American and Chinese cultures are different and so are the two Disney lands in various ways.
Main Street, USA.
The Main Street is one of the four themed lands in Disneyland. The land is an inspiration of an old town in America. The difference between Hong Kong’s Main Street and American’s are that there is no restaurant at the entrance. It was not built because of budget constraints. The Hong Kong main street borrows its influence mainly from European immigrants. The Plaza Inn mimics a Chinese eatery.
The other restaurant is the called the Market House Bakery that is influenced by Vietnamese culture and created by a pastry chef from Vietnam. The biggest difference between Hong Kong Disneyland and American Disney lands is that it is made mostly from wood and not stone. The main street also does not have horse drawn streetcars. The streetcars are represented in concept art found at the park (Feng Shui at Hong Kong Disney 1).
Food in the Hong Kong’s Disneyland restaurants caters for the local people by proving local cuisines because the Chinese are fond of their local food. Unlike the Disney lands in America that serve predominantly American food such as the hamburger. The Chinese like their spicy foods and the restaurants have catered for that need well. There are also restaurants serving American food but they have cut down on the number of foods like hotdogs in order to serve Chinese dishes like noodles and dim sum (Grover, Wong and Leung 1).
Number of visitors
Hong Kong Disney has the least number of daily visitors compared to other Disney lands. The low number is attributed to the small size of the park. Visitors who visited the park complain of its small size and overcrowding. The park could not accommodate 30, 000 visitors when it opened in 2005 and many had to wait for a minimum of forty-five minutes to be served at the eateries.
Some people had to wait for about two hours to get a ride and the experience left many disgruntled and thus lost customers. For example, one disappointed visitor said, “I won’t come again, even if I’m paid to” (Zeithaml, Bitner and Gremler, 661). The other problems experienced at the Hong Kong Disneyland is ticketing as many visitors to the park had been turned away as the park was already full. The problem mainly occurred during the public holidays.
The ticketing and capacity problems are teething problems that the management tried to resolve by revising their ticketing policies (Schuman 1). The American Disney lands have more visitor attractions compared to Hong Kong Disneyland that is smallest of all the Disney lands. The lack of many attractions may also be a contributing factor to the unsatisfactory number of visitors.
The Chinese and American cultures are very different. The management at the Hong Kong Disneyland land at first did not appreciate the difference and operated the parks as if they are in America. They failed to take into account the Chinese cultural traditions and consumption habits.
The Chinese people may be open to the American culture but they value their culture so much that Hong Kong Disneyland must embrace the local culture to stay relevant. The movies shown in Disneyland such as The Secret of the Magic Gourd and Mulan have included Chinese elements in order to win audiences. On the other hand, the Disney lands in America represent the local culture and many people understand or are familiar with the Disney characters because of exposure through the Disney channel.
Therefore, they are more accepting of Disneyland because the stories relate to their culture and history. However in China Disneyland is a new phenomenon and effort has to be put to make the locals familiar with the Disney characters so that they can appreciate Disney world and not see it as an American form of invasion on their culture (Jingwei 1).
The Chinese people believe in Feng Shui and Chi. Feng Shui refers to wind and water. The Chinese tradition in building is to put the elements in harmony so that they can bring the people good luck. In line with the Chinese culture, Hong Kong Disneyland contracted Chinese masters in feng shui to incorporate it in the park.
Feng shui involves five earthly elements and they must be balanced in order to bring good luck. The five elements are properly positioned in Hong Kong Disneyland. For example, at the entrance, there is a rolling fire projection but in other areas, fire is forbidden. Moreover, the gate of the main entrance on Lantau Island was positioned in a north/south direction to bring good luck.
The entrance also has big entry portals to enhance feng shui. The park really went into great lengths to incorporate feng shui and its location in Penny’s bay was important for good luck as it is surrounded by the sea and hills, which are very important elements in the environment according to the Chinese(Feng Shui at Hong Kong Disney 1).
The other notable feature at in Hong Kong Disneyland is a bend constructed near the Disney’s resort so that it can prevent energy from flowing into the South China Sea according to chi. Chi is a belief in positive and negative energy and it works hand in hand with feng shui. The Chinese value rocks because they bring stability in feng shui hence the park has many large rocks throughout the Hong Kong Disneyland. The hotels in the Disneyland have huge rocks located at their entrance for feng shui.
The rocks also prevent good luck from escaping and flowing away from the park hence brings good luck to the people. The other element that the Chinese believe brings luck is water. The Hong Kong Disneyland has many water features because water is very important in feng shui. The park ahs many streams, lakes and ponds scattered throughout to bring good fortune wealth and luck. At the entrance of the park is a huge fountain that greets visitors into the park to bring them god luck.
The Disney Hollywood and Hong Kong Disneyland hotel are constructed in special locations that have water and positioned in a southwest direction to make use of feng shi and bring forth prosperity. Besides there is a waterfront in front of Disneyland and it pours its water into the ocean and its position is good feng shui (Feng Shui at Hong Kong Disney 1).
On the contrary, the architecture at the Disney lands in Florida and Los Angeles is constructed to represent the different periods in American history without bearing in mind any cultural believes in the designs of the parks.
The parks are different from that in Hong Kong because they do not represent other cultures such as the Europeans or African Americans. The park does not show case the achievements made the minority races in America. The many minorities who visit Disneyland have find nothing they can identify with hence they are disappointed.
The parks do not show the values of the people but focuses on the financial success only (Fischer 1). The above cannot be said of Hong Kong Disneyland because the park incorporates the values of the people and the architecture of the park makes them feel comfortable because their important beliefs are represented in the designs. Thus, even though Disneyland is American the local people can see elements of their culture they can identify with and be proud of their own culture.
The interior decorations at the park are carefully done in line with chi and feng shui. The Disneyland hotel has 2,238 crystal lotuses for its decoration. The number of the lotuses is picked because it sounds like a phrase that says, “easily generate wealth” (Disney secrets 1).
The major ballroom in Hong Kong Disneyland is 888 square meters. The number 888 is a very important in Chinese because it means wealthy. The favourite color is red and many buildings in the park utilize it especially those in main street USA. The decorations in Plaza Inn are reproduced from the landscapes in the mulan Disney animated film for the Chinese market.
The exterior of Plaza Inn is American in resemblance but inside it is Chinese from the paintings to paper lanterns. Another important fact to note about Hong Kong Disney is that elevators and buildings do not have the fourth floor because number four is associated with death. “The association with death occurs because number four sounds like Chinese word for death” (Jackson 147).
However, in American the Disney lands interior decorations in the stores look like the shopping malls of 1950s. The exterior design is modern and hence very attractive to visitors who escape into an ancient world but at the same time enjoy the castle (Fischer 1).
There are many products sold in Disney lands in the different countries. In the US all types of merchandize is sold such amusement, prestige, fun and joy other products include as costumes for the Disney characters, clothes, drinks, roller coasters and shows among others. However, in Hong Kong Disney land one cannot sell anything because some products are a taboo. For instance, clocks cannot be sold in the park because in Chinese giving clock is similar in sound to saying attending a funeral.
It seems that the Chinese are particularly afraid of death and anything surrounding it hence anything that suggests death is highly avoided. Another interesting thing to note about the Hong Kong Disney culture is that green hats are not stocked in the park’s stores. A green hat in Chinese usually means that the wearer is a cheating spouse and specifically being unfaithful to the wife or a poor goofy (Jackson 147). Thus if a trader stocks green hats the Chinese visitors will give them a wide berth.
The Hong Kong Disneyland railroad is similar to the Disneyland in Los Angeles. The parks have locomotives and trains that move visitors. The difference between Hong Kong and the two Disney lands in the United States is that the railroad in the USA stops at four stations but in Hong Kong it stop sonly at two stops that is Fantasyland and Main Street USA.
The rails road in Hong Kong goes around the park in a grand circle tour and travels for about 1500 meters unlike in the USA where the railroad travels clockwise through the four stations in eighteen minutes (Disneyland 1).
The Disney lands in American and china are different in cultural terms. The differences in culture posed a major problem for Hong Kong Disneyland because it did not understand the culture of the people and many saw it a foreign intrusion.
However, the cultural differences can be bridged by learning the culture of the local people and incorporating it in the park so that the people can feel comfortable to visit the park. The park should also improve by constructing more attractions sites to cater for a wider clientele and build loyal customers who will help to keep the park open and profitable because that is the core goal of any business and Hong Kong Disneyland is no different.
Disneyland railroad. 2009. 25. Nov.2011
Disney Secrets – Hong Kong Disneyland Secrets and Facts. 2009. 25. Nov.2011
Fischer, Reece. The creation of Disney World. 2004. 25. Nov. 2011.
Grover, Ronald, Stephanie Wong and Wendy Leung. Disney gets a second chance in China. 25. Nov.2011
Jackson, Kathy Merlock. Disneyland and Culture: Essays on the Parks and Their Influence. California: McFarland, 2010.
Jingwei, Zhang. Shanghai Disneyland: The Integration and Competition of Sino-U.S. Soft Power. 15 Jan. 2011. 25. Nov.2011
Schuman, Michael. Disney’s Hon Kong Headache. 8 May. 2011. 25. Nov.2011.
Zeithaml, V. A., Bitner, M. J., & Gremler, D. D. (2009). Services Marketing. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.