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  • [Question] Why was HKDL built small?

    I've read and heard bits and pieces here and there on why Hong Kong Disneyland was built as a small park, but was hoping that someone could give me a more definitive answer. The one main line I've heard is basically that EuroDisney (Disneyland Paris) struggled immensely for years after opening and as a result when it came time for the next international park Eisner felt that it should be built small, like a boutique theme park. Granted that's a pretty quick and dirty version of what many seem to say, but I feel like there's gotta be more to it than that. Can anyone enlighten me? The overall size of the original park is small, there'a huge lack of rides/attractions... and why would they ever build a Magic Kingdom style park without the classic dark rides in Fantasyland? Blows my mind.

  • #2
    Re: Why was HKDL built small?

    Interesting question. I don't know the answers but I'd guess that physically they had to reclaim land (which wouldn't be cheap), so they wouldn't be making a particularly huge resort from the get-go.

    In terms of the park itself, well I don't know why they cut back on the number of attractions. Maybe it was something to do with having to negotiate with LegCo over what will be built (as was the case for the new expansion lands). Perhaps the bean counters recommend that they didn't put their eggs all in one basket straight away? (And as you mentioned, fingers were burnt and lessons learned in Paris).

    I'm just guessing at that, btw.
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    "We're not trying to entertain the critics ... I'll take my chances with the public." -
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    • #3
      Re: Why was HKDL built small?

      ORDDU: Paul Presler had a lot to do with this bad decision. He always believed that Disneyland in Anaheim had too many attractions. Perhaps he thought he could make up for that--plus save money--by reducing the number of attractions for HKDL. As has been pointed out, though, Mr. Eisner approved this.

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      • #4
        Re: Why was HKDL built small?

        Originally posted by Witches of Morva View Post
        ORDDU: Paul Presler had a lot to do with this bad decision. He always believed that Disneyland in Anaheim had too many attractions. Perhaps he thought he could make up for that--plus save money--by reducing the number of attractions for HKDL. As has been pointed out, though, Mr. Eisner approved this.
        What lame logic..... Our number one park has too many attractions!!!!! Maybe that's why it's popular LOLOL duuuuh! Doesn't surprise me either!
        These are some of my favorite TRs I have posted

        DL 55th BDAY trip report
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        WdW trip report with WWoHP
        NYE 2011 trip report
        Mice Chat 7th anniversary
        Leap year 24 hour report
        New DCA trip report
        NYE 2012
        HKDL trip report

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        • #5
          Re: Why was HKDL built small?

          It was Michael Eisner and Jay Rasulo if you ask me.

          They thought the Disney brand alone was enough to attract people into the parks, regardless of the number of attractions/rides inside each park, and they built not just HKDL that way, but Disney's Animal Kingdom (1998), DCA (2001) and WDS (2002) that way, too. (Only TDS escaped because it is entirely funded by OCL.)

          The result is that Bob Iger has since had to invest heavily in all of them.

          HKDL we know about the three new lands and soon Iron Man Experience;
          DAK has received Expedition Everest and soon Avatarland;
          DCA has had a huge makeover including Carsland and Little Mermaid;
          WDS has got Tower of Terror and Toy Story Playland and will soon get Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity.

          Good riddance Michael Eisner. I hope Jay Rasulo finds the exit door at WDC soon.
          Jul 1992: Disneyland Paris
          Apr 2006: Hong Kong Disneyland
          Jul 2010: Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure
          Mar 2011: Hong Kong Disneyland
          Jul 2013: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
          Sep 2013: Hong Kong Disneyland
          Jul 2014: Disney California Adventure

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          • #6
            Re: Why was HKDL built small?

            I think ASA has a fine point about how Disney got conservative after Europe.

            Start small and expand. It didn't work perfect.

            As far as HK, I don't think Disney wanted to go in with guns blazing. It was very risky. Paris is not far from the England who has a lot of WDW visitors and of course decent amounts of guests from other Western European countries. HK was closest to Japans huge number of DLR and to a lesser extent WDW guests but Japan had its own park.

            HK and being part of china probably caused a lot of concern the culture wouldn't be up for it.
            Be Cool Stay in School!
            Next year I'm trying for a summer internship at Stark Industries.

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            • #7
              Re: Why was HKDL built small?

              It is very hard not to just say that The Walt Disney Company tried to swindle the Government of Hong Kong. When the Disneyland Asia project was being shopped around in the mid-to-late 1990s many assumed that Disney's true target was Shanghai. When Hong Kong took on the project there were concerns that Disney was still eyeing Shanghai and there was fear that Hong Kong Disneyland would be forgotten if Shanghai Disneyland ever moved forward. To those worried about Shanghai, they would likely say Disney built the park small so that it would not compete with the hoped for future park.

              At this same time Disney had also adopted a very different approach to new theme parks in the wake of the problems with Euro Disney as well as the meteoric rise of Paul Pressler. This is important even to this day because it marked the completion of a radical shift in how the theme parks were viewed financially. In the past, each resort (well, Disneyland and Walt Disney World) was measured as a whole. The antique store in New Orleans Square barely breaking even was fine because the Emporium made enough in sales. It was important that Disneyland was profitable, not every individual component. In the new and current view, it is important that every square foot be profitable, much the way the success of a mall is measured. Attractions, with the large initial expense, become a suspect proposition in this climate as they had stopped directly generating revenue in 1982.

              Through their research, Disney had come to find that most guests would be happy if they had about 8.5 experiences (attractions, parades, shows, etc) per day at a park. The response was to minimize non-revenue generating aspects of the parks (attractions) while maximizing revenue generating aspects (retail and dining). This was accomplished by building just enough attractions for people to hit that 8.5 experiences per day, assuming that people just do about everything in the park. This strategy was employed previously with Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Park. As a side note, Tokyo DisneySEA was treated differently as Disney was set to make more money on that park being as big as possible since the Oriental Land Company must hire Walt Disney Imagineering for design work.

              While the first three parks built under this build small strategy quickly showed themselves as flawed, there were other, different factors with each that likely helped prevent killing the strategy as a whole. Despite this, a big part of why it is hard not to say that Disney tried to pull a fast one is how the actual financial arrangements between the Government of Hong Kong and The Walt Disney Company worked out, basically being split with land and infrastructure being the Government's responsibility and the park being Disney's. As Hathaway Browne mentioned, land reclamation and the associated infrastructure is an expensive endeavor. All told, the Government paid for about 90% of the initial construction but took less than 60% of an ownership stake in the project. The Government ultimately did feel cheated and did hold Disney responsible for fixing the park. The recent series of expansions that wrapped up with the opening of Mystic Point were therefore 100% paid for by The Walt Disney Company (Disney's ownership stake also slightly increased but remains less than 50%).

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              • #8
                Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                Originally posted by swampymarsh View Post
                HK and being part of china probably caused a lot of concern the culture wouldn't be up for it.
                Hong Kong had only very recently become part of the People's Republic of China when Hong Kong Disneyland was announced.

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                • #9
                  Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                  Originally posted by swampymarsh View Post
                  HK and being part of china probably caused a lot of concern the culture wouldn't be up for it.
                  "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was shown in cinemas in Hong Kong in January 1941, while Hong Kong was still under Japanese occupation. Do not say Hong Kong people know nothing about Disney culture.

                  There was a Mickey Mouse Club for young children back in the 70s/80s. Standard Chartered also had children's accounts in the 1980s with Donald Duck on the cover of the passbooks.
                  Jul 1992: Disneyland Paris
                  Apr 2006: Hong Kong Disneyland
                  Jul 2010: Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure
                  Mar 2011: Hong Kong Disneyland
                  Jul 2013: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
                  Sep 2013: Hong Kong Disneyland
                  Jul 2014: Disney California Adventure

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                  • #10
                    Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                    Originally posted by lazyboy97O View Post
                    Hong Kong had only very recently become part of the People's Republic of China when Hong Kong Disneyland was announced.
                    Originally posted by Asa View Post
                    "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was shown in cinemas in Hong Kong in January 1941, while Hong Kong was still under Japanese occupation. Do not say Hong Kong people know nothing about Disney culture.

                    There was a Mickey Mouse Club for young children back in the 70s/80s. Standard Chartered also had children's accounts in the 1980s with Donald Duck on the cover of the passbooks.

                    You both support my point.

                    HK wasn't built just to serve the colony of Hong Kong, but the region around it. They weren't sure of how china would receive it.
                    Be Cool Stay in School!
                    Next year I'm trying for a summer internship at Stark Industries.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                      Originally posted by swampymarsh View Post
                      You both support my point.

                      HK wasn't built just to serve the colony of Hong Kong, but the region around it. They weren't sure of how china would receive it.
                      If Disney was really hoping that Disneyland Asia was going to be built in Shanghai and not Hong Kong reception in China must not have been too big of an issue.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                        Originally posted by swampymarsh View Post
                        I think ASA has a fine point about how Disney got conservative after Europe.

                        Start small and expand. It didn't work perfect.
                        I was thinking about this before I even started this thread and it made me think... "go big or go home."
                        It seems to me that starting small and slowly adding on is NOT the way to go in theme park business. Too great of a chance of people reacting with "this park doesn't have much to offer."

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                        • #13
                          Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                          Lazyboy thank you for your detailed input, I appreciate it!

                          And thank you to everyone else for your thoughts and opinions

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                          • #14
                            Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                            Originally posted by Mondo Mouse View Post
                            Lazyboy thank you for your detailed input, I appreciate it!

                            And thank you to everyone else for your thoughts and opinions
                            You're welcome. I really hope in the next 5-10 years somebody does a behind-the-scenes tell all book about Hong Kong Disneyland from the very beginnings of Disney shopping Disneyland Asia to just about now where the park is profitable. It would be a fascinating read.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Why was HKDL built small?

                              Originally posted by lazyboy97O View Post
                              You're welcome. I really hope in the next 5-10 years somebody does a behind-the-scenes tell all book about Hong Kong Disneyland from the very beginnings of Disney shopping Disneyland Asia to just about now where the park is profitable. It would be a fascinating read.
                              I completely agree.

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