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4 Factors When Disney looks to Build a New Park

The term “international parks” is a little bit bias towards Americans. As far as I can tell, the only people to use this expression are Americans, and maybe some Canadians. I’ve never seen anyone in Japan, China, or Europe use this expression and even if they did it would have a completely different meaning. What international parks refers to is any Disney Park that is not in the United States. Again, it’s a little bias as it assumes that the person reading it is living in the United States, and not in another country. To some, like myself (being Canadian) all Disney parks are in fact international. To someone living in France, Disneyland Paris is not international and Disneyland or Magic Kingdom are.

While you could look at this expression as being bias, you can also look at it from a historical and business context. Disney as a company is based in California, and the first Disney theme park was also built in California. So, you could think about the idea of international parks as being the parks that are away from the head office of Disney or where the first Disney Park was built.

You don’t often see Disney use the expression international parks, at least not very recently. I would imagine that it would look pretty bad for the countries where these international parks are found. Some travel agents might use this expression if you’re booking a trip to Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong or Paris, but I don’t imagine you’d see it much on the official literature. Having said that, Disney is known for producing promotional material for many different countries, so it’s possible they use the expression when promoting these parks in the United States. I can’t really tell you since I don’t live there and have never booked a trip to Disney from the US.

In some ways you might say that using the term international park is a little problematic, and it alienates many people, but what’s the alternative. How could you describe the parks found in other parts of the world than your own. Or even more challenging, how do you describe the parks when you don’t live in a country that has a Disney Park at all. You could break them down by continent maybe. There would be the North American Parks, the Europe Parks, and the Asian Parks. It’s a little odd since the North American parks are all in one country, and Europe has all of their parks in one place.

This also makes me think about the places that don’t have Disney parks. Why are there no parks in Africa, Australia or the Middle East. There are always rumors of new parks being proposed, but it’s surprising that some parks have not yet been built.

Disney has many reasons to decide to build a park or not to build a park in a new location. Some are pretty obvious; others are trade secrets. Here’s a just a few reasons that I’ve seen (either through rumors or through official channels) as to why some places have not had Disney parks:

1 – Weather Conditions – I know about this particular reason because it keeps coming up every time I hear a rumor that they might open a Disney Park in Canada. Disney does not open a theme park that requires any kind of seasonal shut down. Canada has some harsh winters and unless they design a park that works really well on a cold winter’s day, Canada is never going to get a Disney Park. It makes sense considering the cost of building a theme park like Disney, as well as managing the crowds. If the park was only open for part of the year, there’s a possibility that there would be a huge rush of people coming when it’s open, more than any park could handle. Having said all of that, both Tokyo and Paris do get some snow, so it’s not impossible I guess.

2 – Population – Disney will not open a theme park unless the local population can keep it full all year round. Local population in this case doesn’t always refer to people actually living in the city where the park is found. If there are other cities or countries that have easy access to the park and can travel easily and inexpensively to the park it’s taken under consideration. Florida actually has a great connection to many South American countries as well as Canada. Paris has trains coming in from many other European countries. Even when Walt Disney first looked for places to put his second park in Florida, highways and local population played a big part as to why he chose Orlando.

3 – Politics – This is a little bit more complicated than all of the other reason, but politics plays a really big part when choosing to build a theme park in a new country. Before the designs of a park are even started, agreements must be made between Disney and the country where they plan to build. Countries have laws about amount of foreign investment in one single project, or who owns what when a project like this is built. There are also the optics of building a park in a particular country. Some places might be the perfect spot to build a new theme park, however these countries may not have the best relations with Western countries or in particular their citizens. Disney has to be aware and be ready to deal with how their stockholders as well as their customers might react to them having a park in certain countries.

4 – Investment – Most people assume that Disney is such a giant company that they can just build a theme park wherever they want. The truth of the matter is that many Disney parks are not completely owned by the Disney company. In some cases, they may not even be the majority owner. It could be that Disney owns a portion, and has a licensing agreement with another company to build a Disney park. Disney might choose to do this for many reasons. It could be simply a way to save some money on the initial investment. It could also be that if their opening a park in a certain country that it’s required that they have a large or even majority invested by a local company. It can also be that having a local company investing in the parks allows them to use the expertise of that company to help with building and promoting the park in that country. This is not something new to Disney as Disneyland itself had many outside companies investing in Disneyland when it opened, and to this day many attractions are sponsored by companies other than Disney (just look at the fine print on some of the signs at the parks).

As you can see the complexity of building a park, the expression “international parks” is kind of loaded. While in the United States, I don’t think anyone would misunderstand what’s you’re saying, in other parts of the world it’s actually kind of confusing. Disney seems to be steering away from this as well and will probably continue to steer away as more and more parks are being built outside of the USA.