Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland
Although Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland are located in China, they do not report to The Walt Disney Company (China) Ltd., but directly report to the United States as part of the Parks division.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Cultural industries are concerned in part with the representation of the culture and history of a place (Urry, 1995). Before examining Hong Kong Disneyland, 1 will first review Hong Kong’s encounters with the West, which brought certain proximity for Hong Kong to be the first Disneyland city in China.
Hong Kong was largely created by Western colonialism in the aftermath of the Opium Wars. Hong Kong Island was officially acquired by the British Empire under the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842. It was the first so-called unequal treaty in China due to the 1939-1942 Opium War. In 1860, Britain further acquired Hong Kong Kowloon and Stonecutters Island under the Treaty of Beijing after the second Opium War. In 1898, the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory granted the British the right to lease Hong Kong New Territories for 99 years until June 30, 1997. This convention confirmed Britain’s full governance over the whole Hong Kong territory.
In 1984, China and Britain reached an agreement on Hong Kong. Based on this Sino-British Joint Declaration, the British agreed to return the New Territories they leased, as well as Hong Kong Island and Kowloon acquired by the Opium Wars, for both political and
Histories of Disney 19 moral reasons (Morris, 1997). China, on the other hand, agreed to retain Hong Kong’s social and economic systems, as well as its lifestyle, for a further 50 years until 2047 under the “basic law” based on then Chinese President Deng Xiaoping’s principle of “one country, two systems” to maintain prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. In other words, the basic law serves as the formal constitutional document that guarantees systematic continuity in Hong Kong of capitalist economies, the enjoyment of autonomy, and the practice of governance characterized by Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong (Hook, 2000). China regained Hong Kong on July 1, 1997, when the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, handed Hong Kong back to China. Over the 150 years of British governance, excluding a period of Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945, Hong Kong has undoubtedly become the most Westernized city in China.
Disney and the Hong Kong government reached an agreement in 1999 to build Hong Kong Disneyland, a pilot or a dress rehearsal for Shanghai Disneyland (Matusitz, 2011). With the shortest construction time of Disneyland yet, Hong Kong Disneyland, the fifth Disneyland in the world, opened to the public on September 12, 2005 for “wholesome family entertainment” (Slater, 1999).
Located on a landfill of Penny Bay on Hong Kong’s largest outlying island Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland is owned by a joint venture company, the Hong Kong International Theme Parks Limited, with two shareholders: The Walt Disney Company and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administration Region (HKSRG). An agreement between these two parties was signed on December 10, 1999. The construction on Hong Kong Disneyland began with a groundbreaking ceremony on January 12, 2003. HKSRG approached Disney for Hong Kong Disneyland to establish Hong Kong as “Asia’s World City,” not just China’s special administration region (Lo, 2005). Due to financial loss at Disneyland Paris, Disney minimized its risk at Hong Kong Disneyland through fewer money investments and a smaller physical size of the park. For the initial construction, HKSRG owned 57 percent and Disney 43 percent of Hong Kong Disneyland. After the later expansion projects invested by Disney, HKSRG’s ownership shifted to 53 percent, and Disney to 47 percent in the end of 2016, when eight themed lands and areas were built: Adventureland, Fantasyland, Grizzly Gulch, Main Street USA, Marvel’s Iron Man, Mystic Point, Tomorrowland, and Toy Story Land.
The opening of Hong Kong Disneyland was regarded as a big triumph for Disney. Disney rejected the Hong Kong government’s idea to broadly reflect Chinese culture by arguing the importance of a genuine
Disney experience, a formula proven successful at Tokyo Disneyland. Consequently, Hong Kong Disneyland bears all the hallmarks of the Anaheim original. However, icons reminding people of strong American nationalism were cautiously removed, and local cuisines and snacks, such as dim-sum and fish balls, were served. Language is another aspect of localization that better engages the local audience. Signs at Hong Kong Disneyland are written in both English and traditional Chinese and the employees are equipped with English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
Another surface localization effort is the incorporation of Chinese Feng Shui into the design of Hong Kong Disneyland to maximize energy and guest flow. For example, water plays an important role in good Chinese Feng Shui. As a result, lakes, ponds, and streams, as well as a big fountain, are placed at Hong Kong Disneyland to invite good fortune. Another example of Feng Shui is the use of Chinese prosperous numbers, such as 2,238 and 888. Decorating the Chinese restaurant at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel are 2,238 crystal lotuses, because the number sounds like the phrase “easily generates wealth” in Cantonese. The main ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel is 888 square meters because 888 is considered a number that brings triple wealth.