Tokyo Disneyland

Opened on April 15, 1983, Tokyo Disneyland is a Japanese imagination of the Americanized “real Disneyland” (Brannen, 1992; Raz, 1999). Disney’s local partner, Oriental Land Co., Ltd., which owned 100 percent of Tokyo Disneyland, advised Disney that the local audience preferred real Disneyland to a Japanese version of Disneyland. In other words, for Tokyo Disneyland, foreignness was an advantage, not a threat. To meet the local audience’s expectations, Tokyo Disneyland, although owned and operated by the Japanese, has been constructed as an American original.

Such an original American identity is reflected in the park’s dedication plaque:

“To all of you who come to this happy place, welcome. Here you will discover enchanted lands of Fantasy and Adventure, Yesterday and Tomorrow. May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of joy, laughter, inspiration, and imagination to the peoples of the world. And may this magical kingdom be an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and friendship between the great nations of Japan and the United States of America.”

The first sentence of the dedication is a standard opening originated from the first Disneyland in the United States. The second denotes the themed lands of Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland featured at the original Disneyland in Anaheim. The third discloses what Disney signifies: joy, laughter, inspiration, and imagination. The last sentence literally states the keywords of Americanized Disneyland the Japanese preferred: magical kingdom and United States, an epithet for Disney.

Disneyland Paris

Drawing on the popularity of Tokyo Disneyland, Disney applied the Japanese model to open Euro Disney (later named Disneyland Paris) as Americanized Disneyland on April 12, 1992. The park’s dedication strongly encodes its American origin while emphasizing its connection with Europe:

“To all who come to this happy place, welcome. Once upon a time... a master storyteller, Walt Disney, inspired by Europe’s best loved tales, used his own special gifts to share them with the world. He envisioned a Magic Kingdom where these stories would come to life, and called it Disneyland. Now his dream returns to the lands that inspired it. Euro Disneyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart... with a hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration for all the world.”

The first and the last sentences of this dedication are identical with those from the first Disneyland in the United States. The second to the fourth highlight the connection between Disneyland and Europe.

The general sentiment among the Europeans, however, was different from that of the Japanese. Euro Disney was criticized as a “cultural Chernobyl” that excluded local preferences, caused workers to protest against Disney’s dress code, and led to years of financial losses (Matusitz, 2010). To improve the park’s business performance, Disney gradually infused French references, such as the replacement of the first American general manager with a French-born executive and the offering of French wine at Disneyland Paris although alcohol was originally a taboo at sanitized Disneyland.