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The Venture of Euro Disney
Gloria Lau, PBL National Secretary

On April 12, 1992, Euro Disney was opened on time within its $4.4 billion budget. Situated in Marne-la-Vallee, France on a site that is one-fifth the size of Paris and just 20 miles to its west, Euro Disney was much like other Disney theme parks with a wide array of rides, attractions, hotels, restaurants, entertainmentfacilities, a campground, and even a championship golf course.

Euro Disney is 49 percent owned by Walt Disney Company of the U.S. The company originally project 11 million visitors in the first year of operation for Euro Disney, but reported that attendance for the park’s first seven weeks had only been 1.5 million (it was expected that the majority of visitors have already been attracted to the parkbefore the wet and colder fall and winter seasons, hence, attendance would have slow growth). The break-even point was estimated to be between seven and eight million. While the nearby French residents were projected to account for half of the park’s attendance, they only make up an unexpectedly small portion of the entire attending body. Meanwhile, the Disney restaurants and hotels onlyregistered occupancy rates of just 37 percent. With revenues for its first quarter of operations being only $489 million, Euro Disney had to declare that it would incur a loss for the fiscal year of 1992 (ending in September), causing shares of Euro Disney to drop by 31% since the opening of the park.

Despite the frustrations, Disney managers remained optimistic about the European theme park.Chairman Michael Eisner claimed that attendance at Euro Disney already surpassed that of Disney’s other three theme parks at comparable points in their history, while Euro Disney President Robert Firzpatrick stated that it was impossible to extrapolate meaningfully from the attendance figures at such an early point in park’s operation.

Disney Theme Parks

In the early 1990’s, about 71 percentof Walt Disney Attraction’s revenues came from theme parks (admissions and retail sales), 21 percent from hotels, and 8 percent from other sources. The Anaheim Disneyland was the company’s first theme park, and was opened in 1955. The Orlando Disney World, opened in 1971, was home to the largest Disney property (the Walt Disney World Resort), and has been the most popular vacation destination inthe U.S. The hotels at the Orlando Disney World were large money maker for the company; the three hotels there registered unheard-of occupancy rates of 92 percent versus 66 percent of the industry average.

Importantly, Disney is more than a U.S. company, but also a symbol that is deeply tied to the American culture. The tradition of creative imagination went hand-in-hand with the “theme” ofeach Disney park and the unique experiences for visitors. The themed land was a carefully planned and orchestrated imaginary world where a variety of interests and tastes could be appealed to. Lands that the parks had in common included Main Street, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and Adventureland. Encompassed within these were images of the most treasured elements of America’s past,the fascinations of technologies shaped the future, and the myths which helped shape the American cultural heritage. The rides and attractions in the parks were crafted and designed by professional “Imagineers” whose goal was to make each completely unique to the Disney theme park experience.

Another cornerstone of the Disney theme park franchise was the rick heritage of the Disney cartooncharacters, which were active in the parks in numerous ways, such as the roaming costumed characters in the park looking for photo opportunities and the memorable souvenirs featuring the characters. The Disney characters became a part of the childhood memories for Americans, and each character has his own appeal or “personality” to the public, making them very alive in the eyes of Americans....
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