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SMH Article 28/04/05 Disney employs local character


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Disneyland employs local character April 28, 2005 Hong Kong: When building the new entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland, Walt Disney executives decided to shift the angle of the front gate by 12 degrees. They did so after consulting a feng shui specialist, who said the change would ensure prosperity for the park. Disney also put a bend in the walkway from the train station to the gate, to make sure the flow of positive energy, or chi, did not slip past the entrance and out to the South China Sea. Heeding the advice of a feng shui consultant is one of many steps executives have taken at the park to reflect the local culture - and make sure they do not repeat some mistakes of the past. The financial stakes are high: international growth is a critical part of Disney's expansion efforts. The World Tourism Organisation expects mainland China to become one of the world's largest tourist destinations in the next 15 years. Plans for Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney's 11th theme park and a replica of the original Disneyland, began in 1999 for the undeveloped island of Lantau, a 30-minute train ride from downtown Hong Kong. Built on Penny's Bay and flanked by mountains, the park is a venture with the Hong Kong Government and the first of the parks that Disney wants to build in China, including one in Shanghai. There are various nods to cultural differences at Hong Kong Disneyland. One of the park's main ballrooms measures 888 square metres, because eight is thought to be a number of fortune, said Wing Chao, the master planner of architecture and design at Walt Disney Imagineering. In Chinese, the number four is considered bad luck, so there are no fourth-floor buttons in the lifts at the Hollywood Hotel or other hotels in the park. Cash registers are close to corners or along walls, where such placement is believed to increase prosperity. It is easy to understand why the company would take such pains. Disneyland Paris got off to a bad start by not offering wine when it opened and offering French food when guests wanted American fare. Though its finances have been restructured it is still $US2 billion ($2.5 billion) in debt. The New York Times

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