Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cultural Differences in Disneyland

I spent the weekend at Disneyland Paris (Europe’s trip through the Uncanny Valley). Disney’s a great brand, and part of what makes them great is their consistency. But I noticed a few things that just couldn’t quite clear the cultural barrier:
  1. Crowds walking down Main Street U.S.A…eating baguettes. Just seemed a little incongruous.
  2. Frenglish is the official language of Disneyland Paris. The recorded announcements are made in alternating French and English. Rides are a little more haphazard: The pilot droid on Star Tours spoke French while all the communication from the Rebel fleet was in English; Some of the pirates of the Caribbean spoke French, others spoke English (which is probably more realistic, anyway).
  3. Speaking of Pirates, they still chase women in Paris. The original ride featured several pirates chasing women. But this was later seen as attempted rape, and in 1997 the women were given plates of food to carry, suggesting that the pirates were actually just really hungry. But in France, the pirates are still chasing the chicks.
  4. There is a lot of Stitch paraphernalia. Tons. Way more than you’d think for a movie that’s not even in Disney’s top 10 grossing animated films. If you came with no knowledge of Mickey or Minnie you’d walk away thinking Stitch outranked Goofy and Donald. My wife’s theory is that Disney is unloading their ill-ordered Stitch surplus on the Europeans. Stitch is the new Hasselhoff.
  5. It’s A Small World is a very different ride overseas. First of all, Russia’s represented. (The original, built during the Cold War, doesn’t feature the Evil Empire.) There’s also a little Israeli boy, girl and sheep, which I don’t remember seeing in California or Florida. But the big surprise was to see America at the end of the ride. Native Americans, farmers, the New York skyline (complete with the World Trade Center), the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hollywood sign. And, of course, nothing says "America" more than a football player eating popcorn. Funny that I never considered America needed to be a part of the Small World ride. I guess I figured I was representing just by riding in the boat.
  6. In Paris, the Small World boats and canals are not being retrofitted to accommodate fat people.
  7. Frontierland seems to take up much more square acreage. It’s kind of an afterthought in the U.S. “Yeah, yeah. Cowboys and Indians. Let’s keep moving on the Matterhorn…” But I can see how a Wild West-themed area would be a little more interesting to Europeans. It was a little odd to have a stretch of the Haunted Mansion be an old west ghost town instead of a cemetery. But if the Europeans are that into it, that’s cool.
  8. Standing in line for the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the voice of an old timey rootin’ tootin’ cowboy says, “This here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!” The phrase seemed a little odd. Shouldn’t it be “wildest ride in the West?” But then I realized that phrase doesn’t mean anything in France. And it could possibly offend the Spanish and confuse the Germans.
  9. In Califonia, there's an animatronic Abraham Lincoln addresses the crowd. In Florida, they have the Hall of Presidents. In Disneyland Paris, they have the Hall of EU Presidents, featuring Jose Manuel Barroso. Okay, they don't. In fact, I had to use Google just to make that joke.  
  10. Three flags flew at the entrance of the park: France, the EU, and Disneyland. The Disneyland was in the center, and raised considerably higher. Talk about brand strength. (Or weaker national laws about flag waving than I’m used to.)
  11. Very, very European, this…


the medeiros family said...

love that dancing! lol What fun observations about Disneyland!

LeAnn said...

cracks me up
thanks for sharing--glad you all had a good time
p.s. ate some quite inferior chocolate this afternoon from a Naperville resaurant which will remain sad