Disneyland's management destroys a happy fantasy

My two daughters, aged 11 and 14, who have been Disney fans since they were at kindergarten, were distraught on reading recent stories in the South China Morning Post about Hong Kong Disneyland's pay disputes with its costume workers.

Mickey, Minnie and Donald Duck are their idols. The night before we took them to Disneyland, they couldn't sleep, staying up until late talking to their Disney toys about visiting them the next day at their new home. To them, Disneyland is a place of happy fantasy. You can imagine how disturbed they were to learn that the characters they have long adored are, in fact, underpaid and overworked people choking in their costumes.

Shame on you, Disney, for creating such fantasy in the hearts and minds of innocent youngsters, and then allowing publicly paraded pay disputes to demolish their dreams.


I am no expert in theme-park management but I have been running a successful retail and catering business in Hong Kong for the past eight years. I have also been to a lot of theme parks, including Hong Kong Disneyland, and have witnessed its fall from talk of the town to 'clown jewel of HK', as a letter writer aptly described it (letters, May 14). So here are my suggestions to Disneyland on how to get out of its hole:

1)Your prices are unfriendly and out of touch with reality. Reduce them to $220 for adults, $130 for children and $90 for seniors, irrespective of the day of the week. I know of no other business in Hong Kong that charges different prices on weekends.

2)Launch another Salute to Hong Kong Residents programme - not to thank us, this time, but to apologise for the shame you've brought to your hosts. Following your offer of free tickets to taxi drivers (which I hear has not been well received), immediately extend a similar offer to the aged, handicapped, orphaned and underprivileged. You need all the goodwill you can generate.

3)Introduce an annual pass at $1,100 for adults and $650 for children. Believe me, make it more expensive and it will become a white elephant.

4)Expand rapidly, adding at least two new attractions a year so that, by the time the Shanghai park opens, the gap in size doesn't make Hong Kong's park obsolete.

5)Less is more. This one you really have to work hard on. Stay well away from the media spotlight for the next year. Perceptions of Disney executives as arrogant and condescending overshadow the warmth and friendliness of the brand. Let the brand sell itself. I'm a loyal fan of Nike, McDonald's and Coke, but I assure you I have no idea who run these companies in Hong Kong, nor do I care.

There it is! My five-point plan for your salvation, with my compliments. Wake up and make us proud again to have you in town.


I recently got into an unusual argument with my former classmates. They work for local companies, while I work for a US multinational. My friends believe that most American expats are like those at Disneyland we read about: arrogant, scheming, self-righteous and often downright insulting. My US bosses would have been proud of me as I argued eloquently that they are anything but. In fact, I admire their experience, their efforts to integrate, and the way they value the views of local staff.

I suppose Disney has, through its ineptness, managed to extend its influence in Hong Kong in more ways than it could have imagined. Sigh. Wasn't it supposed to bring us joy, magic and a sense of pride?

SUSAN CHAN, North Point