Miscues mar opening of Hong Kong Disney
By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY Thu Nov 10, 7:31 AM ET
Hong Kong Disneyland's debut was marred by public relations debacles that left Mickey Mouse looking like Cinderella's stepmother in this former British colony.
In the days surrounding the opening this fall of Hong Kong Disneyland, the entertainment giant enraged local pop stars, antagonized labor leaders and earned a rebuke from its own partner in the theme park, the Hong Kong government. Last month, a disgruntled, fired employee climbed atop Space Mountain and threatened to kill himself until he was talked down.
The nasty headlines have taken a toll. After surveying 500 Hong Kong consumers, Asian trade magazine Media
found that 24% had a negative view of Hong Kong Disneyland vs. 42% with a positive view.
Disney (DIS) says that some blips were inevitable in a project as big as the $1.8 billion theme park and that, overall, things have gone well since Disneyland opened Sept. 12. "For a project of this scale, things happen," says Hong Kong Disneyland spokeswoman Irene Chan. "Compared to other openings, this was very smooth."
Planting a U.S. cultural and corporate institution in Chinese soil was bound to be challenging. Last month, the territory's leader, Chief Executive Donald Tsang, urged Hong Kong residents to be patient with the newcomer: "We have to remember that Disneyland is a new organization (in Hong Kong)," Tsang said. "It may need time to understand the situation of Hong Kong and especially the culture of Hong Kongers and figure out how to make all its employees happy."