The BLOGFlume—A Sticky Situation
Hong Kong Disneyland prepares for its grand opening and a debut at the Magic Kingdom.
Written by Russell Meyer
New York Times 9/8/05
Disney’s newest theme park, Hong Kong Disneyland, is scheduled to open on Monday, but they have been giving special guests and others a glimpse into the newest take on Walt Disney’s vision. On Sunday, the park hosted a charity event, which served as a trial run for Hong Kong newest tourist attraction. A near-capacity 30,000 guests turned out for the event, and it was nearly a disaster. The primary reason for the trial run was to test the capacity of the park, and how guests would take to a park which is smaller than the original Disneyland, and significantly smaller than its sister parks in Orlando, Tokyo, and Paris. Part of the park’s smaller size is because the park is not yet complete- sound familiar? (ie: Animal Kingdom, California Adventure, or Disney Studios Paris) The park is expected to grow larger in phases as different lands of the park are completed. However, as with the other recent additions of the Disney theme park empire, Hong Kong Disneyland is not only just short on space, but it is also short on attractions. Space Mountain is the only roller coaster, and the other attractions lack the zing that one expects from a theme park. Jungle Cruise, Philharmagic, Buzz Lightyear, Mad Hatter’s Teacups, Dumbo, Dumbo Clone (Orbitron), and Winnie the Pooh complete the list of attractions. Yes, there are some shows and other assorted things to do, but as with any new park, people want to ride, and with only 8, that’s right EIGHT, rides, that means with 30,000 people in the park, there’s probably about 3,000 people waiting in each line at any given time. It seems that the Chinese guests were submitted to a feature common to most Disney parks, and one that many Americans have just learned to deal with, LINES. Disney considers this a strategy for success, and if your goal is to piss off as many people as possible, I don’t think they’ll have much of a problem. Disney probably won’t have much of a problem making money in the first year or two of operation. However, those who come in the first year may be willing to wait the 2 hours or so to get on a ride, but may not be willing to fork over the dough to come back to ride a new ride once they eventually expand the park over the next few years. This concept may have worked in locations where there’s already a Disney park anchoring the attendance of the resort, but at a completely new location, I think Disney may be swimming upstream. Disney really should have opened a “mature” park, and not allow the park to mature in front of guests’ eyes. Hong Kong Disneyland should have been the best effort, but instead China is treated to the declining standards of a theme park company that is probably stretched too thin.
While one Disney park on the other side of the world is already in need of expansion before it officially opens it gates, the largest Disney park just got bigger. Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has opened a new children’s play area called Pooh’s Playful Spot. The area is supposed to take kids on a journey back to the 100-Acre Wood, to hang out with some of the favorite Pooh characters. At first glance, the area looks very nice, and the theming is very well done. However, it is apparently rather small, and looks out of place between the intricate and bold thematic elements of Tomorrowland and the whimsical and outrageous elements of Fantasyland. The playground stands on the location which once was the site for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction. Whereas 20,000 Leagues offered a clever transition from science and technology to the world of fantasy, Pooh’s Playful Spot displays the sharp contrast between the worlds of tomorrow and fantasy. Looking at various pictures of the new attraction, I see a lot of similarities to the Brother Bear Trail play area at Disney’s California Adventure, and I was not terribly impressed with that attraction. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, but I don’t want to pay a big chunk of my annual income for a family vacation for my kids to hang out at a glorified McDonald’s Playland. It’s good to have a spot for the kids to be able to run around in and interact with their favorite characters, but at least give the kids something they cannot get at the local playground or fast food restaurant.
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