Monday, January 28, 2008

Hong Kong Phooey

73 comments:

Some said...

B-b-b-b-but it's only been open two years!

Hong Kong Disneyland is a disaster. It's a cheap and flimsy Disneyland knock-off. They list fountain areas as attractions for crying out loud. Disney sure did pull the wool over the Hong Kong Government's eyes.

Tokyo DisneySea had a dearth of attractions but it was still a park worth going to on opening day.

The proof is in the numbers. HKDL is a bomb.

April said...

Isn't part of the reason that the Hong Kong Disneyland has fewer attractions because it a smaller property?

Anonymous said...

This is a cheap shot and not up to your usual standard of analysis. It's a new park, and they are wisely taking it in stages.

Anonymous said...

They do have the Tarzan Treehouse and it's a small world is opening this year.

BT said...

Quite striking and tragic/funny. Not sure I'd really call that an imagineering problem though. How in the world could management think this Disneyland themed "Family Entertainment Center" would be successful?

So when are you going to do a story on the SSE ending tragedy? Oh and the music and narration tragedy...

BT

Anonymous said...

there actually is the treehouse, along with the rafts required to get over to the island. In addition, there is the Golden Mickeys and the Lion King, both terrific attractions. Small park? yes. a lot less to do? yes. But still fun? yes.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are trying to say but this analysis makes it seem as if you want it to be a carbon copy clone of Disneyland. I think we have had quite enough cloning.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree. You're just whining, now. You are usually a bigger person than this. This blog has always needed more on the side of coming up with positive solutions to the obstacles instead of just complaining about perceived problems.
Or are you saying that DLR needs those missing things on their side of the list (if they can even have them at HKDL, why can't DLR have them, too)?

P.F. Chang said...

Wow, post two images and get accussed of whining. Amazing, the power of images.

The bigger issue is that Hong Kong Disneyland has been a huge under-performer. Addressing the 'why' might start with the dearth of attractions.

Ya think?

Digital Jedi said...

You guys just love posting images with no text, and letting everyone jump to their own conclusions, don't you? Come on, I know you gotta enjoy it just a little. Especially when everyone starts banging each other in the head for leaping without looking. ;)

What I love is how everytime you do post something, every anonymous on the block thinks THIS ONE was a cheap shot and that this blog should talk about another subject then the one is says it's going to cover. I think I'll go over to TheForce.net and tell the administration to stop talking about Star Wars and make it a Scooby-Doo site. We've had enough of this staying on topic, damn it.

Mr Banks said...

Digital Jedi! You're back! You've been missed!!!

Daddy Brady said...

All of these are true, it's all in how you look at it. The "analysis" as presented is a bit of a cheap shot, but it's factually accurate. HKDL isn't necessarily a disaster, but neither is it remotely a success. Like California Adventure, it will likely end up costing (much) more to fix it than had it been done right to begin with. The loss of the public's goodwill and the whiff of failure can take years to overcome.

I can't speak personally on the park, but I have heard and read trip reports on both sides of this debate. "Taking it in stages" is being charitable. When I saw the plans in the EPCOT China Pavillion before the park opened, I thought, "That's it?" I doubt I was alone. But nothing I have heard suggests it is "cheap and flimsy" either, so be fair. Flames like "disaster" and "bomb" trivialize the discussion.

The "why" of this is the sad refrain of the late-Eisner era. Of nine Disney-owned parks, three are seriously under performing because they were built small and cheap. Eisner learned the wrong lessons from EuroDisney, and failed to see the opportunities that were presented through the example of DisneySEA.

Like WDS Paris and DCA, HKDL can be fixed, but it will take time and massive infusions of cash. In the case of HKDL, that will likely mean Disney cash rather than more Hong Kong SAR money. These parks will continue to tax the company and the other parks for several years to come. The open question (and it is still a questions) is whether the Iger-era Disney has learned the lessons.

Chris said...

It didn't start with DCA or DSP, IMO...the lack of attraactions when the park opened started with MGM Studios and again at Animal Kingdom...

But this is worse...much worse...because unlike those other underbuilt parks (when they opened), there is no main park that has a full day of attractions to draw the crowds. It isn't a light-weight second gate, it's a light-weight first gate.

So instead of people going to DLR, getting a park hopper for DCA just to check it out for a few bucks, they have to pay a high price for the only park around, with only a few attractions.

Some said...

"Flames like 'disaster' and 'bomb' trivialize the discussion."

Yes, because the crying Chinese boy and the checklist below him didn't already trivialize this discussion about a trivial park.


While I understand that HKDL is a two-year-old park, even allowing for that, it's still an underwhelming park.

I don't like clones. The old man used to say that there will never be another Disneyland. But okay, they wanted to build another Disneyland in Hong Kong. Fine, whatever.

But if that was their plan, why not clone all those Fantasyland dark rides. Why is the only dark ride in Fantasyland Winnie the Pooh? I can't imagine that Toad, Pan, Snow White, and Pinnochio are all that expensive to build today, and I'm sure the Chinese audience would get a kick out of them.

Small World is the next big attraction. Great, but it seems like every attraction they decided to clone for Hong Kong was the least expensive and/or complex version. The place is small, what a valid criticism considering the size of the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo.

I'd say Hong Kong got gypped. Sure, if I lived in China and HKDL was my only outlet to get my Disneyland fix, I'd be an annual passholder, sure. But I'd be complaining the whole time, just like I do about the one in Anaheim :)

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why Disney is dealing with the Red Chinese government in the first place. I find the symbol of American prosperity, ingenuity, and free enterprise (Disneyland) in a country like China offensive and hypocritical.

I don't like the Stabucks-ation of the Disney Theme Parks. It makes them seem less special. I'd like to see more foreign tourists visit the Disney Parks in America. Build them up before you go global.

It seems that the only ones that do it right are the Japanese because they love American culture, and respect the Disney brand a great deal. That's why the OLC pumps so much money into its parks.

The French saw Disney as an American interloper in their midst and refused to go. DLP is beautiful and richly detailed, but the French don't appreciate that. They want their iron rides.

My point is that there are some cultures/governments Disney shouldn't be associated with. I would much rather they built HKDL in Australia - there's plenty of land and its people are more free than the Red Chinese.

And now they want to build a Disney Park in Shanghai? Please.

mr wiggins said...

>Why is the only dark ride in Fantasyland Winnie the Pooh? I can't imagine that Toad, Pan, Snow White, and Pinnochio are all that expensive to build today, and I'm sure the Chinese audience would get a kick out of them.<

Where is there any evidence that Michael and his Minions ever gave a damn about the audience? As showmen they're strictly by-the-numbers guys, utterly (and proudly!) disconnected from such proletarian sappiness as the smiles on children's faces, much less the creative dreams of chili-eating midwesteners sans MBA. HKDL is a product of the same culture of pseudo-entertainment that gave us DCA, Pressler and Stainton -- a culture that is alive and quite well, thank you (see Rosulo, Grier, et al.).

Daddy Brady said...

Chris and Some: points taken.

So we have a diagnosis of the syndrome: another blog refers to it as the mistaken belief that "if we build it they will come", that the Disney name is enough to compensate for a small, under-built park.

What, then, is the treatment? Yes, Disney sits on a mountain of cash right now, but with three parks to fix and six other (owned) parks to be maintained, and a finite pool of time and talent in WDI, where do you begin? How do you prioritize? The one or two E- or D-ticket a year strategy (cloned or original) isn't going to cut it, but Rome wasn't built in a day, and no park can be fixed inside of a year.

So, what would you do? If one is Re-Imagineering, where would you begin?

Anonymous said...

Wow, who cares? Seriously. This blog has shown no support for China as a country. Just because you follow a corporate entity like a sports team doesn't mean we all have to relate or support this message.

I think the people of Hong Kong has bigger issues than not having a damn kiddie ride in an overpriced and under developed theme park.

Why does Hong Kong Disneyland need all of the same rides? Why do they need an equal amount? This blog, and Disney have bought into the franchise mentality a little bit too much. The fact that the author thought this was thought-provoking enough to make a post about shows that they have unresolved feelings about this subject.

The reason this post is perceived as "whining" is because its a criticism that offers little. Imagine if scientific journals or film reviews were just a giant chart? This data is useless without context.

Next time you feel like posting this garbage without doing some critical thinking, stop. The internet has enough junk "clogging the tubes".

Sanity said...

Um.....ooooooooh-kay......

Iger-riffic said...

Disney Host: Hi, we're taking a survey and would like your input.

Guest: Sure!

Disney Host: Is there anything we could be doing better here?

Guest: Well, for one, I wish there were more attractions at the park.

Disney Host: Good lord, what a freakin' whiner you are! Have a good day.

mr. wiggins said...

>...Rome wasn't built in a day, and no park can be fixed inside of a year.<

Yup.

'Specially when them what's fixin' 'em is them what busted 'em in the first place. ;)

1983horizons1 said...

"The reason this post is perceived as "whining" is because its a criticism that offers little. Imagine if scientific journals or film reviews were just a giant chart? This data is useless without context"



Anonymous brings up a valid point.
Showing us a graph makes you no different than the Disney company, who bases everything that they do off of data.

I agree with what you may be trying to say with these pictures, but I think the post was poorly executed. Perhaps explain your own thoughts on the matter so we know exactly what you're trying to say by posting these pictures.

I for one, know that I wouldn't have enjoyed visiting Disneyland during its opening years. Why can't we look forward at what this Hong Kong park could become rather than what it currently is? There's only one way to go, and that's up.

mr wiggins said...

>I for one, know that I wouldn't have enjoyed visiting Disneyland during its opening years.<

Seriously doubtful, unless you could have visited a 1955 Park in a body equipped with 2007 cultural experiences and sensibilities.

My first visit was in September, 1955, at age 7. From 1956 to 1969 I visited 3 to 4 times a year, every year. (And double that in the '70s and 80's.)

Disneyland in 1955 was beyond awesome for those of us who inhabited 1955. It worked its magic on everyone, adults as much or more than kids: as vivid as my memories of the Park are remembrances of adults -- relatives and family friends -- babbling on like awestruck kids for days after a visit, still high on the magic.

And the newness never dulled -- 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, year after year brought new adventures. As fast as audiences grew up and as hip as they got, the Park stayed ahead our expectations. Throughout the 50's and 60's it simply blew us away. It was style, it was taste, it was surprise, it was invention. It was, quite literally, the greatest show on Earth.

Ask anyone who was there.

"I did better than take a child. I accompanied one of the great theatrical and creative minds of our time, Charles Laughton. I've never had such a day full of zest and high good humor. Mr. Laughton is no easy mark; he has a gimlet eye and searching mind. Yet he saw, and I found in Disneyland, vast reserves of imagination before untapped in our country."
-- Ray Bradbury

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine worked for WDI on the Tokyo Seas park. She left after that when they were planning HKDL. She told me it was being planned as a half-day park. From the looks of the list, that's exactly what it is!

Some said...

"I for one, know that I wouldn't have enjoyed visiting Disneyland during its opening years."

Are you kidding me? To be alive in 1955 and watch Disneyland transform from this eccentric little experiment by a crazy man to a cultural icon, I can't even imagine it.

The sheer amount of new attractions installed in those first ten years, hell, even the first three years, were incredible. You really don't see anything these days on the scale of The Matterhorn, Submarine Voyage, and the Monorail projects all being built at the same time.

I still point to that expansion as the pivotal moment that proved once and for all that Disneyland wasn't just this flash in the pan kiddie park that was going to go broke in a couple of years. It was a work of art.

Klark Kent 007 said...

Well, this is what happens when you outsource the Happiest Place on Earth!

Anonymous said...

The "comparison" chart isn't a true comparison, just like all of the "comparisons" of DL with DCA. The chart includes 52 years against 2 years of development. Of course they won't compare - and (again) HK is getting things that DL doesn't have, yet.
Also, the comparison of what life was like in 1955 can't compare to 2008 - there seems to be much discussion around concerning what life is like now, by trying to keep up with an overly stimulated youth population and bringing the technologies into the parks (PSP, tracking bracelets...).
Maybe the real question should be why HKDL was even built and if HK even really wanted it, and if enough research was put into the culture. A more fair comparison might be with TDL, which obviously surpasses it, too, but at least have a side by side chart with them, at 2 years old.
Also, look at the long term, and what is already planned and coming.

So, how about some solutions?

(I wonder if that crying boy is even really Chinese)

Digital Jedi said...

1983horizons1 said
>>>"I for one, know that I wouldn't have enjoyed visiting Disneyland during its opening years."<<<

Ordinarily, if two or more people have already commented on something, I don't feel the need to interject. But this time, I have to say something too. I mean, come on. What would you possible have had to compare Disneyland to in the 1950s? Maybe compared to its 2008 counterparts. But that's like trying to compare modern day Disney World to 2258 Disney Planet. What you need to compare Hong Kong to, is what exists in the here and now.

Why is it, everyone here seems to get more offended by wordless pictures, then they do when someone says "Eisner is an idiot"? You wouldn't possibly be reading too much into things, would you?

Let me throw in my perspective, if I may. Here's what I see. I see a boy crying. I see a park with a small amount of rides. I figure the kid is crying because he's disappointed with the park he expected to have more. Wow, that sure is whiny.

Anonymous said:
>>>The reason this post is perceived as "whining" is because its a criticism that offers little. Imagine if scientific journals or film reviews were just a giant chart? This data is useless without context.<<<

What context is that exactly? And how scientific does "you ain't got enough rides" need to be, to be valid? The place is spartan. It's not rocket surgery. Don't take it personally. (And if your one of those anonymouses that is somehow responsible for HKDL, here's an idea, throw in a ride or two. Some nice ones. The Chinese will thank and pay you for it.)

Digital Jedi said...

Anonymous said:
>>>I really don't understand why Disney is dealing with the Red Chinese government in the first place. I find the symbol of American prosperity, ingenuity, and free enterprise (Disneyland) in a country like China offensive and hypocritical.<<<

Or, you could, you know, think of it as a way to inspire another country to think along the same lines we seem to cherish. Everyone seems to hate the "red" [insert random country here], but never wants to influence them to think differently, even if subtly, even if peacefully.

The Other Anonymous said:
>>>Wow, who cares? Seriously. This blog has shown no support for China as a country. Just because you follow a corporate entity like a sports team doesn't mean we all have to relate or support this message.<<<

You know, I was going to let it go, but it's nagging at me. I have no idea what this paragraph means.

Merlin Jones said...

I've always though of Peter Pan as being the seminal Disneyland attraction.

The ability to fly over London and Neverland is a transporting exprience, so much so that it's still popular all these years later, even though its been bypassed by newer technology long ago.

It's the fly-over fantasy - - and the symbolism. Pixie dust, happy thoughts, the spirit of eternal youth soaring in a pirate ship...

Hong Kong is the first Magic Kingdom style park to be opened WITHOUT Peter Pan... without that basic Disneyland trademark experience of the sort that that inspires nostalgia and return visits.

Instead Hong Kong's cynical creators saw only franchises and opened a mirthless Pooh ride-by... in place of three or four fanciful Fantasyland classics. Those had been in Disneyland - and all the others from day one.

...and who can believe the silly spin that the Chinese don't know Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland? Hong Kong was a British colony for how long?

Surely the Chinese are disappointed to find no fancy Haunted Mansion or Pirates, but they deserved to see the simple pleasures of flying over Neverland too. They were short-sheeted all around.

1983horizons1 said...

Ooh, sorry, my previous comment was more extreme than intended. I meant it in a sense of retrospect. Disneyland didn't have any more to do on opening day than HK Disneyland does. To this day, WDW's Magic Kingdom still has half of the attractions Disneyland has.

I also forgot to take into consideration that the first generation to experience Disneyland had never seen anything like it. Being used to today's Disney parks, it's hard not to compare it to the theme parks of today and see how much the original Disneyland was lacking. It always slips my mind how innovative it actually was at the time.

That being said, I would still rather visit today's Hong Kong Disneyland than the (Anaheim) Disneyland of the past. I know a lot of people won't agree with me on this one, but it's just personal preference.

(Insert the rest of my original post here)

BravoMan said...

Well, the sentiments expressed here so strongly speak to the power of the emotional bonds which the Disney phenomenon creates.

I would second the notion that Toad, Pan, Snow White, and Pinnochio must be far less expensive to replicate than Small World or Pirates. Don't these attractions essentially employ off-the-shelf dark-ride track technology improved with imaginative ride vehicles (suspended in the case of Pan) and splendid Disney artwork, scenery, mechanical figures, careful costuming and lighting? It does seem that several of these proven favorites, or similar dark-ride-plus attractions on different themes (Mulan?) would have extended the Disney Day longer and less-expensively than the cavernous halls needed for the singular Small World experience, however admittedly wonderful and universally appealing that ride is.

Wouldn’t it be instructive to see notes (with participant attribution) from some of the meetings where these seemingly obtuse contra-Walt-like decisions are taken?

I do disagree with the objection to importing Disney to "Red" China. Disney conveys images of freedom, individuality and happiness which cannot but burnish the image of a sometimes attack-dog America. And a large mainland China park attracting hundreds of thousands of Chinese would to some degree help improve the currently skewed trade balance between our countries. Bought anything NOT “Made in China” recently?

Further, China is already egregiously creating faux Disney castles and characters. A deal with Beijing for a “real” Disney park might motivate a government crack-down on the theft of intellectual/artistic property.

China’s own sad but hysterical attempts at costumed characters and blatant Disney rip-offs can be seen here:

Characters Removing their Heads and Costume Pieces in public
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u94PTC-Gd1U

Blatant Disney Architecture and Character Rip-Offs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-JULFxB0sk

Enjoy!

mr wiggins said...

>I also forgot to take into consideration that the first generation to experience Disneyland had never seen anything like it. Being used to today's Disney parks, it's hard not to compare it to the theme parks of today and see how much the original Disneyland was lacking. It always slips my mind how innovative it actually was at the time.

That being said, I would still rather visit today's Hong Kong Disneyland than the (Anaheim) Disneyland of the past. I know a lot of people won't agree with me on this one, but it's just personal preference.<


No problem, I understand what you're saying.

The thing of it is, Disneyland 55's size isn't what we took home with our dreams. Its fit-and-finish and the slickness of its technology isn't what filled our eyes with wonder. It was how the whole place worked as a story. How moments of magic balanced moments of mundane. How the parts summed to create an organic, self-reinforcing, immersive whole.

The sad thing about HKDL isn't just the lack of rides. It's the lack of rides rich with story, heart and wonder -- magic to balance the mundane.

Look at the HKDL list again. Don't count the rides. Close your eyes and experience the rides.

Run the entire HKDL score through your head -- and see if the melody stays with your heart enough to make you want to come back again and again.

;)

BravoMan said...

Mea culpa!

I carelessly failed to verify this link, recently listed in a post:

"Characters Removing their Heads and Costume Pieces in Public"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u94PTC-Gd1U

The video is no longer available. YouTube explains: "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation." This seems weird since controversial "terms of use" items like Tom Cruise's ballistic Scientology rant, and pirated scenes taken of current Broadway showswith hidden cameras, are readily available on YouTube.

I don't know what "terms of violation" would apply to the clearly non-commercial Chinese material. The video I had watched several times was jiggily amateur footage taken in a Beijing theme park.

Groups of costumed characters in crudely designed animal masks walked along among the guests carrying or swinging the costume heads. Their body suits were very little padded, so they looked mostly like long johns with tails attached. It was apparently a very hot day in the Chinese park, so some of the "cast members" had peeled off the arms and upper bodies of the leotard-like costumes and let them hang from their mid-sections. Patrons passed by gaping but not especially taken aback.

1983horizons1 said...

mr wiggins said, "Run the entire HKDL score through your head -- and see if the melody stays with your heart enough to make you want to come back again and again."

Aha! Thanks for that eye-opener. Now I undertsand what you're saying. I guess I'm starting to take some of Disney's magic for granted, not realizing that they were capable of building a mediocre park (and a soundtrackless one at that).

Although in all fairness, Disneyland didn't open with much of a soundtrack itself, Fantasyland aside. It was those attractions that were built after the park got on its feet that are the really memorable ones. Pirates, Haunted Mansion and it's a small world come to mind.

Maybe they're going to follow in Disneyland's footsteps and build the memorable attractions once once HK DL reaches it's heyday.

Unfortunatley, Disney has forgotten the reason DL attracted so many people to begin with was because it was unique. HK DL isn't going to attract many people simply for being a Disney park. The park has probably reached its heyday, and its attendance figures aren't budging. If Disney were to build Pirates, the mansion and small world, they best get started - quickly.

mr wiggins said...

>Although in all fairness, Disneyland didn't open with much of a soundtrack itself, Fantasyland aside. It was those attractions that were built after the park got on its feet that are the really memorable ones.<

DL was a worldwide smash hit years before Small World, Pirates and Haunted Mansion. Take a look at the Park's offerings in its first two years, much less its first five -- again, not as a list, but as a balanced immersive experience. ;)

>The park has probably reached its heyday, and its attendance figures aren't budging.<

The real thing that hasn't budged is the decades-long creative constipation of Disney management. Had the current Flying Monkeys of ME been in charge of the Studio in the 1950's, we wouldn't be having this conversation -- or this blog. ;)

Digital Jedi said...

The thing to take into consideration with classic Disneyland, is Walt and his crew were putting their best foot forward right from the start. Later additions came to the park with the same spirit of putting your best foot forward.

Now ask yourself if Hong Kong Disneyland did the same.

It's okay to want to add something better later on. But you can still start out sparingly due to budgetary restraints, for testing purposes or what have you, and still offer your best. This isn't like Classic Disneyland's case. Classic Disneyland started out with a standard that surpassed all others and was later improved upon. One has to ask, what standards did Hong Kong Disneyland start out with?

Spokker said...

I don't know about you guys but I am booking my flight to Hong Kong as we speak to see the Liki Tikis.

BUT WHEN DISNEYLAND OPENED IN 1955 THERE WEREN'T EVEN ANY DRINKING FOUNTAINS SO I'D SAY HONG KONG DISNEYLAND HAS THE UPPER HAND HERE!

Seriously though, for anyone who hasn't, you should check out Hong Kong Disneyland's official web site and look at the interactive park map. It's the funniest stuff I've ever seen.

Two years in operation and they already had to build outside the berm. Jeez.

It's a Mall world after all said...

How many of you have ever been to China? Did you know that there are about 60 other amusement parks located in that country. In comparison HKDL is a rip off. If you ever do go to China check out the Happy Valley amusement parks. Obviously the people responsible for HKDL never have.

Braden Miskin said...

Now let's compare the amount of rides Hong Kong has and the rides at Disneyland in 1955.

Spokker said...

"Now let's compare the amount of rides Hong Kong has and the rides at Disneyland in 1955."

Let's compare how many Disneylands existed in 1955 compared to 2008. Let's compare the state of the Walt Disney Company in 1955 and 2008. Let's compare how well Walt's idea for a theme park was received in 1954 and 2008.

Let's compare what modern Disney theme parks look like when they are built by The Walt Disney Co. and The Oriental Land Company.

That last one should be good.

GOOOOOOOOO LIKI TIKIS

Digital Jedi said...

Braden Miskin said:
>>>Now let's compare the amount of rides Hong Kong has and the rides at Disneyland in 1955.<<<

But as was already stated, it's not a fair comparison. It's like comparing 1950 apples to 2020 apples. What you would compare is the level of quality. Not the amount of rides.

xander said...

"I don't like the Stabucks-ation of the Disney Theme Parks. It makes them seem less special. I'd like to see more foreign tourists visit the Disney Parks in America. Build them up before you go global.

The French saw Disney as an American interloper in their midst and refused to go. DLP is beautiful and richly detailed, but the French don't appreciate that. They want their iron rides."


Just a couple of points to this... Have to been to WDW lately? There are an enormous number of foreign visitors to that park lately. It is the number one vactation destination in the world. And the weak American dollar of late has only made it more affordable for those from abroad to come over and visit it.

Also, DLP is now the number one tourist destination in Europe, and a good portion of those visiting are French. There were missteps made in the early stages of that park, but is has now caught on - quality won out.

If Disney can be a symbol of hope to people who need it any part of the world, so much the better, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I for one, don't think I'd pay $45 USD for a half day HK Disney Theme Park. Disney should have a new division called UNvisioneers, where only tracing and carbon paper are the tools of the trade.

The biggest issue about China is we(Americans)first and foremost,
keep going overseas for profit and it is killing the USD in ALL aspects. Has anyone picked up any Disney Park merch and NOT seen made in China stamped into the bottoms? Off the topic slightly? Yeah...probably, but it's a real problem that only CEOs see positive results out of.

-A Concerned patron of Disneyland Recession

Kbene said...

All this talk about "giving them a few years to build more rides"... hey, people are being asked to pay their hard-earned cash right NOW. They deserve to be entertained and amazed NOW. Only Disney Dweebs making excuses could ever picture disappointed Hong Kong park goers heading home saying to each other: "Well, Disneyland had more rides added to it later so maybe some day our park will be good, too. We have to give Disney a chance; after all, they only have fifty years of experience building and running theme parks!"

mr wiggins said...

>Only Disney Dweebs making excuses could ever picture disappointed Hong Kong park goers heading home saying to each other: "Well, Disneyland had more rides added to it later so maybe some day our park will be good, too. We have to give Disney a chance; after all, they only have fifty years of experience building and running theme parks!"<

Minor technical nitpick: you are confusing Dweebs with DoMs (Defenders of Mediocrity).
:)

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness this blog wasnt around when Disneyland Paris/Tokyo opened. :/

Youngdesigner said...

I am commenting on this blog because I am shocked by the lack of knowledge that the Walt Disney company has on hiring Industrial Designers. I am graduating next December and I want to design environments. I want to create magical spaces that people can escape in. It is hard for me to find the right contacts and connections. I have heard that the new minds of Pixar reads these blogs. PLEASE GIVE ME A CHANCE. Even if I can pitch a concept just for a chance to work as a designer would be fantastic.

gaffiss@auburn.edu

Spokker said...

"Thank goodness this blog wasnt around when Disneyland Paris/Tokyo opened. :/"

Yeah, it would say, "Damn, that's a big f'ing castle."

The ally arcades or whatever they're called on Paris' Main St. are more impressive than Hong Kong Disneyland.

Anonymous said...

It's still probably more fun than the fake disneyland in beijing

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-JULFxB0sk

Lou said...

Klark Kent 007 said...
Well, this is what happens when you outsource the Happiest Place on Earth!


Have you been to Tokyo Disney Sea?! Sure, it may not be as big as Disney Parks in the U.S. or have nearly as many rides, but it is a very, very cool park...they have a couple of rides there that I wish they'd bring to WDW!

Anonymous said...

City Hall is an attraction? I'm booking my trip TODAY! Then I'm off to see the ever-popular Liki-Tikis and maybe, If I have time- the UFO zone!!!

teevtee said...

I'm not sure I can really argue this one since HKDL certainly DOES need more, MANY more attractions, however have you been there?

I was there September of 2005 and I can tell you that what is there is wonderfully done. In other words it is simply a quantity issue, NOT a quality issue.

In fact I could see a very strong argument being made that Disney did the exact right thing on this one or at a bare minimum chose the lesser of two evils.

Given the limited budget they could of created something like DCA (or MUCH worse yet, Disney Studios Paris). That is a park that had a number of attractions but those attractions were by and large not good and the atmosphere sucked. Or they could have gone with the Animal Kingdom model... which is to say build a really great foundation which they knew would have to be filled in later. They chose the later and it was a wise decision.

Yes, I know that in a perfect world (ie: TDS) they would have been able to do BOTH a great foundation AND fill it with wonderful attractions... no argument here. But it it totally wrong to lump HKDL in with something like Disney Studios Paris.

HKDL is an incredibly nice looking park, the natural setting is truly stunning and it is perhaps the most impressive setting of ANY Disney park. What they have built has been of universally high quality as well. I would take fewer, but higher quality attractions any day over lesser but more plentiful attractions.

Additionally they have plans to add both Pirates and Mansion (two addition they really do need).

I have had several trips to Tokyo Disney Sea and HKDL certainly cannot match up... but at the same time it is a far cry from any sort of disaster and in a decade will likely be quite an amazing destination.

Anonymous said...

HKDL doesn't need to be "fixed" it just needs to be plussed. big time. but it's young and Disney was smart to take it slow in the big bad Chinese market.

either way, it's pretty striking just HOW many attractions it lacks. Not just one or two, but many big ones liek big thunder and splash.

teevtee said...

It's not so much Thunder or Splash that bug me but rather the absolute quintessential Disney rides such as Pirates, Mansion and Peter Pan. The park that REALLY needs Splash is DLP but that is another story.

Anyway... I know it has been said and it could be construed (but is not intended to be) as an excuse but other DIsney parks have opened in similar small states, most notably Animal Kingdom and Disney MGM... both of which have grown into fine parks.

I think what they have done with HKDL is likely wise. It is a totally unknown market and they are going slowly. I would much prefer it to imply be a full fledged park... and it is shocking that they are missing those classic attractions... and yet it is probably a smart move.

The main thing I wanted to get across however is that what they have done, from the setting to the existing rides, to the basic foundation of the park are all very good, absolutely of the same quality one would want and expect from DIsney. This is NOT Disney Studio's Paris and it is not even DIsney MGM, a park that had no real expansion plan. This is a great foundation on which I truly hope they continue to build. Moreover it is really not any kind of inditement of WDI because WDI did not come up with or approve the budget. They were given a small amount of money and a big task and under those situations they actually succeeded very well. The damnation, if there is any to be given, needs to go on upper management for being so cautious and or cheap to begin with.

Lee said...

> "I don't like the Stabucks-ation of the Disney Theme Parks. It makes them seem less special. I'd like to see more foreign tourists visit the Disney Parks in America. Build them up before you go global.

I am not sure what you mean about "building up" the parks in the US before going global. You can go to WDW for ten days and still not see and do everything --- I know, I've done it. :)

As for the "Stabucks-ation" of the parks, I think your comparison is somewhat exaggerated. Bringing these attractions to a global audience will help extend the Disney brand, making it more accessible and opening doors for Disney's other business units. I don't think they are close to over-saturation just yet - we'll have to see what they do with this rumoured destination unit.

Zach said...

teevtee, I think you've got a good point, but I'm not sure that the comparison works so well. While it may have been valuable for MGM and AK to start small, they didn't have the burden of a Magic Kingdom park. They were original ideas that couldn't be directly compared to something else. In HK's case, there were already 4 similar style parks around the world, so the public has something that they can immediately compare them to. I think that in this case, building small really hurt because expectations for what the park should be were not met.

teevtee said...

Zach:

I understand your point but remember, these expectations were mainly those of Disney fans who are already familiar with the Magic Kingdom style parks. The Chinese for the most part are not familiar with them... there fore there was not some huge sense of a let down.

I have been to every Disney park and I can honestly and easily say that HKDL is FAR from the worst even in it's current state. Disney Studios Paris is garbage, I mean literally and embarrassment and a true problem. I prefer HKDL to DCA and possibly to MGM... DSH or whatever as well. What they have built is truly high quality... they just need a lot more.

Now I am in no way defending this... I would MUCH prefer that HKDL opened with a full roster of attractions... especially the core rides... but I also understand why they did not do that. As compared to the alternative of building lame rides or adding carnival games I MUCH prefer what they did... high quality just less of it.

In time HKDL will likely surpass the MK and possibly TDL in terms of quality... I doubt it will ever approach DL and it is too early to say how it could stack up against DLP.

Robert said...

American Idol at a Disney park? If you're going to ignore the SSE disaster, might you at least put a story up about this little addition?

Moochie said...

I never have enough time to read all the posts and comments, so I for one LOVED this post. Thanks!

My 2 cents: HKDL is a glorified Disney Store. I'm sure it will evolve and that they'll improve on it, blah, blah, blah. But why did they even build it?

Also - Merlin Jones friggin rules. Skipping Pete Pan for Winnie the Pooh is the real life example. Marketing and Consumer Products are running the show. I believe Imagineering for the most part is doing their best, but as long as the marketing arm of the company is in charge - I don't know if things can ever really change...

Anonymous said...

It's just plain too bad that no one at the WDC is concerned with doing something that would "blow the world away". Disneyland 1955 did that conceptually. The motive now is all wrong. It's all about doing the least you can get away with to call it a "Disney" park, instead of doing the best you can to exceed the expectations of the guest. Disney should get spanked for it and invest till its up to par.

Spielberg did not make Jurassic Park with 6 Dinosaurs hoping to add the rest later. He blew the world away not knowing how many it would take, just sure he had to give it all he could and let the vision take care of itself. HKDL was a passionless, business driven design built by very talented people that loved what they did. End of story.

Anonymous said...

I said it before, I'll say it again. Walt said it best..."you can't top pigs with pigs."
Is it really much more complicated than that?

Chris said...

American Idol at a Disney park? If you're going to ignore the SSE disaster, might you at least put a story up about this little addition?

I'm going to guess that they wanted to actually wait until SSE officially reopened before criticizing...I've heard of several smaller changes made now which make it a bit more tolerable

TheHeadGoon said...

HKDL has serious problems, but I don't think they with Imagineering. The problem is HongKong International Theme Parks Ltd (Aka Communist China). True, DLRP and TDL opened small and grew, just as we expected they would. HKDL, being majority owned and operated by the Communist Chinese Government, leaves everything to doubt. Much of Disney's advice to expand the park has gone ignored, which is little surprise.

Disney fell victim to the notion that they had to do something to get access to China's 'billion consumers'. The business partnership they have with China is exactly what you would expect when dealing with communists. It's crappy, and not likely to improve. Disney made a bad business decision, and they will suffer for it.

From an Imagineering perspective, it would have been interesting to see what could have made HKDL unique. DLRP and TDL have many little nuances that make those parks special in their own way. A Mulan attraction would have been a great start, but I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

Its seams to me that everyone is dancing around is this comparison of Disneyland's 1st years to HKDL. You Can't make that comparison well because in Disneyland's 1st years, there was NO other experience like it in the world. Disney purposed to make something unlike Anyone had ever seen before. Even if there were not alot of attractions at 1st, what was created left a sense of AWE (just as DisneySea does today). But they didn't just leave it, they moved "full-steam" with additions each one of which was more exciting than the last. HKDL started out with more than 20 other THEME-PARKS in existence and it made NO attempt to surpass ANY of them. NO Sense of AWE is created and no attempt seems to be n the works to do anything other than simply "add existing rides". This again is akin to the cloning we're all so tired of. It doesn't take a lot of rides to Start off well as long as what you Build is INCREDIBLE and you don't stop just to admire your work (keep going). I think what the chart shows is that Not only does HKDL lack many of the Disneyland rides we deem so neccessary to making a true "Disneyland" experience (i.e. if your going to clone it-clone it right) but the rides they didn't clone from Dinseyland were cloned from somewhere else and a clone in a clone is a clone.
NO new rides= no AWE
Few Rides= less emmersion time
cloning rides = no AWE.

When Disneyland was built there were rides out there. He refused to clone them. It started with few rides but Disney Mandated a degree of quality that made EACH worth it. And even though EACH ONE was new Disney didn't stop building. As was said earlier-Disney always stayed AHEAD of the public's expectations. Granted HKDL has some saving graces in rides like winnie-the-pooh in that the technology used surpasses that seen in either U.S. park but the awe is dampened by the fact that its STILL a CLONE.
Imagineering's fight should continue to be about QUALITY and ORIGINALITY.

teevtee said...

To address the above post...

First a quick correction, the HKDL version of the Pooh ride is NOT a technological leap in any way, it is very, very similar (one could in fact call it a clone) to the WDW version. I think you may be thinking of the TDL version of Pooh which in fact is VASTLY superior to any other version and arguably to any other dark ride period. It could not be considered a clone in any way other than using some basic source material. The overall ride experience is MASSIVELY different and superior. In fact one of the great disappointments with Disney in my mind is that they have not brought this incredible ride technology to the U.S. in any fashion whatsoever.

Moving on... I do not see any relevancy to the clone argument in the case of HKDL. It is thousands and thousands of miles away from any other Disney park. The MASSIVE majority of visitors have not only never been to a DIsney park, they have never even seen a photograph of one. These rides are new to them, not clones. To fans such as those of us on this blog they certainly are clones... but to the audience actually experiencing them they are fresh and new.

Furthermore Walt himself was willing to "clone" much of Disneyland in order to get WDW up and running. Disney later did a direct clone of parts of the MK and DL to create TDL and of course the same thing happened a decade later with DLP. In fact the attempts Disney made to not clone itself largely met with resistance and displeasure. The MK opened without Pirates in a very intentional attempt to not repeat itself... and yet those early visitors to WDW DEMANDED one be built there. They WANTED the clone, they wanted to experience what Disney had become famous for. When EPCOT opened it tired mightily to not be like any previous Disney park... and yet eventually (and fairly quickly) had to cave in. Soon characters were seen in the parks and more traditional Disney like rides popped up. The point is that people want these experiences and there is nothing wrong with that.

The cloning argument really only holds water between DL and WDW. 30 years back the east and west coasts seems much farther away from each other than they do now. Today both parks may find themselves competing for the same audience and therefore unique attractions truly make sense between these two.

TDS is a WONDERFUL park, and yet it has a clone of both Indy from DL and the Indy coaster from DLP. It has a host of more or less off the shelf kiddie carnival rides and even it's 20K ride is really just a newer tech version of the original WDW 20K attraction, itself a clone of the Sub Voyage dating back to 1959. It has a clone of the Tower of Terror from MGM and Storm Rider in many ways is simply a next gen version of Star Tours. There is PLENTY of "cloning" going on and yet the park is INCREDIBLE.

The bottom line here is that it is simply about creating wonderful, inventive, exciting, engaging, inspiring and just plain fun environments and experiences. If those come from other properties then fine.

In the case of HKDL they have taken some past attractions and have executed them well. Space Mountain is the second best one out there, Jungle Cruise is quite unique, Buzz Lightyear is better than the other versions and so on. What is there is good... they just need a lot more.

But do not confuse lack of quantity with lack of quality.

Lastly... a comment on the whole communist government thing. You ever been to Hong Kong? I cannot imagine a more commercial, consumer driven place on earth, and the government has not prevented Disney from doing one thing. They don't get off that easy... in fact the government has done nothing but encouraged Disney to build more... and fast.

Anonymous said...

I just came back from HK a few weeks ago...while HKDL is small with one thrill ride (their Space Mtn is one of the best worldwide), there is still enough to do for a full day. Let's give time for HKDL to redeem itself as it grows. The setting on Lantau Island is quite picturesque with the palm trees and mountains in the distance.

I went with a very international group comprised of Americans, Canadians, HKers, and Japanese. Everyone enjoyed themselves, even with those with limited English or Cantonese proficiency. The park may not be MK, Epcot, TDS, or the original DL, but it's not nearly as bad as it's perceived here by probably a lot of people who've never been to the park. There needs to be more attractions, but let's remember how mediocre MGM was when it opened in 89 and that AK is just getting its act together now. I will say this--it is unbelievable that classic attractions like Peter Pan and Small World were not built at opening.

On another note, there needs to be a distinction between hugely capitalist Hong Kong and mainland China. You can not lump HK with mainland China, even if the HK govt is associated to an extent with Beijing.

Anonymous said...

You immature childish spoiled brats need to grow up. I think you all have too much time on your hands to do nothing but complain that Disneyland or Hong Kong Disneland isn't as good as it should be.
Why don't all of you take a trip to some of the poorer countries with all your time and money and get a life!

Spokker said...

"Why don't all of you take a trip to some of the poorer countries with all your time and money and get a life!"

Haha, that old argument. Yes, never do anything ever because people in other countries are starving.

Give me a break. I think many of us can support humanitarian efforts AND find the time to complain about Disney parks. You don't know what we do and what we volunteer for or what causes we donate to.

Your comment has been seen, and dismissed, many times before on many different mediums.

theatreman said...

I think teevtee made an excellent summary on this issue. It seems clear that originally Walt was a barrier between his Imagineers (The Art) and Roy Disney (The Money).

Today, clearly attendance figures and budgets evidently bear detrimentally on decisions regarding new attractions and new parks. Walt's approach, "Wouldn’t' it be nifty if over there we created..." is pretty much forgotten.

The point that our East and West coasts are ever closer is valid: distinctions between our two American parks need to increase. I cannot conceive of Walt agreeing to SOARIN' in a Florida park with a duplicate of a California film!! That is the nadir of imagination. DHK is another matter: the crossover audience from Hong Kong to the USA and vise versa is infinitesimal, so redundancy is not so bad.

“Keeping an eye on the bottom line" too closely, Mr. Iger may reap immediate profits (2008 onward) while degrading all the properties and their appeal, leading eventually to an almost irreversible decline in profits.

The questions I would pose are, "How much money MUST be made each year?" and “MUST revenues in EVERY park increase in EVERY year?”

Art - and at its best a Disney park is a work of art - can't be mined, commodified and abused, squeezed for every dollar, and yet retain its integrity. Art must be respected, protected, given freedom and significant sustenance, and allowed to prosper.

Long-term profits will not come from cheap-and-hasty "fixes" but from a continuing culture of imagination, "magic" and excellence which does not dance to the tune of the bottom line.

Ritardo "Gar the Conqueror" said...

I thought they were growing the park slowly, lets just see. Anyways I wont ever go. I always prefer DisneyLand CA.

Digital Jedi said...

Anonymous said:
>>>You immature childish spoiled brats need to grow up. I think you all have too much time on your hands to do nothing but complain that Disneyland or Hong Kong Disneland isn't as good as it should be.
Why don't all of you take a trip to some of the poorer countries with all your time and money and get a life!
<<<

Honestly, what did you hope to accomplish with that statement? I mean really, what was going through your mind when you typed that? Was it "I'll show them"?

How incredibly mature and poignant did you think that comment was going to be? First of all, what "money" would that be? This is a free blog, if you didn't notice, to both the author and the commentators. Is it the money I spent going to Disney World. Gee, I didn't know the little bit of cash I scraped up every two years needed to be donated to charity instead of giving my family a vacation they so richly deserve.

Also, what "time" are you speaking of. Because I just finished feeding my daughter and took a moment to check this blog while I ate. Hardly enough time to go join the Peace Corps and elicit world change.

No, no thank you. I'm just a poor fellow myself, relatively speaking. And I happen to make enough to keep an Internet connection and talk about what I think about Walt Disney. Tell you what, maybe next time you want to make some positive change in the world, you can go do it on a site devoted to making change in the world. Not a site devoted to making change in Disney Imagineering. Or you can head on over to www.worldpeace.org and tell them to stop whining about the earth and go visit Disneyland, since this appears to be opposite day for you.

Disneylord said...

I won't argue that Hong Kong Disney would more than disappoint us, but I think it's a pretty big stretch for them to embrace certain features characteristic of our cultural growth and development, which they have had no prior exposure. I think Frontierland might be the one thing that could be done although as a stretch--hoping that at some point they may have seen spaghetti westerns. I mean, it's just different over there... you have to look at the whole idea through different eyes. It's not just a mere preservation and translocation of what we love about Disneyland. By the way, Japan is different, they embraced Americana and American pop culture early in their country's modern development.