A “cultural Chernobyl”, or how Euro Disney almost did not exist due to a small obstacle: the French


In the nineties Disney opened itself to the world with its theme parks. The success of its California and Orlando resorts gave them the confidence to seek new horizons and Japan reaffirmed them, with the success of Tokyo Disneyland. It is then that the company looks at possible new locations for its new destination, and set its sights on the European continent.

The finalists were Barcelona and Paris, but the French capital ultimately won. According to the numbers that the Americans threw at that time many Europeans could usewith around 65 million people who could arrive by car in less than 4 hours, and another 300 million who could arrive by plane in less than two.

There is a concept amusement park in Japan "Spain".  And a VTuber who eats churros who has saved him from decline

France also had a special glamor for Americans, so “conquering” the country was a great success for the company. Negotiations began with the French government, which in the first instance joined the idea by proposing real estate aid and benefits for the construction. Budget and plans were approved, but problems would not take long to arrive.

Cultural barriers

The negotiations did not take long to go awry and There were two main factors for the dispute. The first was purely cultural. The Americans wanted to apply their dynamics and work ethic to a totally different environment. The French work culture is not so corporatist, less in a relaxed and familiar environment like his brand image. But Disney’s laws were strict, forcing every employee to have “the Disney smile”, prohibiting alcohol in the park and even prohibiting hairstyles, something that was also illegal in the country.

Euro Disney 2

On the other hand, there were the political overtones that all this had. Some members of the government felt very bad about wanting to bring a Disney park. It was a unmistakable symbol of American imperialism and, effectively, a form of “conquest” of the country with something that had nothing to do with French values ​​and identity. A member of the government even called him “a cultural Chernobyl“. To top it off, the name itself was also a problem, Euro Disney could suit Americans, but in Europe the term “euro” has an arid, political and economic connotation. It is not associated with leisure and fun.

Despite the disputes, the project would continue with its construction. It was about reaching a middle ground on some things, Disney would retain some elements but also adapt, creating new specific attractions more in line with European tastes and aesthetics. This further increased the budget on what was already a very expensive project, but they were confident that it would end up being worth it. He April 12, 1992 Euro Disney was inaugurated. That’s when all the problems they hadn’t considered now surfaced.

Most were planning and logistical problems. People didn’t go when they predicted. Monday was the usual day compared to Friday, and Disney planned it just the opposite. Visitors also did not spend as much time as the company wanted. Overnight stays were a great source of income for them, but they had spent millions on a hotel complex only for the vast majority to visit the park only during the day. And those who stayed also had problems. In one of the biggest confusions that the company had, they thought that the French “did not eat much breakfast”, So hotel kitchens were overflowing as visitors stood in long lines waiting for a large buffet.

euro disney

To this we must add that the problems mentioned above persisted, the image of Euro Disney was not the best within the country. It went against their culture and their ethics. In a move that was televised, the inauguration was tainted in its first days by farmers tractors They positioned themselves at the doors preventing the passagein a sign of protest.

An attraction to save them all

The park was not cool. The big investment was not recovering now here nearWhat’s more, to its very high budget of 4 billion dollars, 175 million loans had to be added two years after opening the park. For Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, having to close it was not out of the plans. To make matters worse, things internally were not going very well either. The European staff still did not mesh very well with American corporatist policies, and many left the job shortly after starting it.

There was one last plan they thought might help: give France its Space Mountain. It was the star attraction in the other Disney parks, and it was the attraction for many when visiting them, so here ought work too.

Space Mountain 1995

But this Space Mountain had to be truly special to save Euro Disney from decline. His plans were ambitious and, best of all, culturally more related. The aesthetics steampunk It matched better with other places in the park and with European artistic currents, the theme: “From the Earth to the Moon” made direct reference to the origins of cinema in France. Its technology was cutting-edge and its experience was more exciting than the other attractions.including several investments, something that the others did not have.

And it turned out well. ‘Space Mountain: De La Terre A La Lune’ was the claim and success they needed (many 90s kids will surely remember those mythical advertisements in TV). And along the way they made changes that they believed were necessary, from the inclusion of alcohol, changes in hotels and breakfasts to more complex changes in work dynamics, everything helped. Ultimately, it was decided to change the name. Since the reputation was very tarnished, a rebranding itself would finish doing the job: Disneyland Paris was then born.

The 'Project

Since then, Disneyland Paris has had its ups and downs, the popular Space Mountain had to change and there were once again periods of very low attendance, but the park has adapted with the times to remain one of the most attractive tourist spots in the country. Euro Disney thus remains in the company’s history as one of the greatest challenges it has had to overcome.

Images: Euro Disney Archives, Disney Backstage

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