Mickey Mouse has been around forever. It feels as though the same is now true of Disneyland Paris, which opened 22 years ago today. But the theme park hasn’t been without its controversies.
The decision to site the theme park in France in the first place disappointed rival bidders in Spain and angered locals. The chattering classes were up in arms, with critics dismissing it as a “cultural Chernobyl”.
That sounds a little harsh. However, Disneyland is what it is, and token gestures – such as sticking Minnie Mouse in a Lanvin dress (pictured) – have fooled nobody into thinking that Disney is part of French culture.
It isn’t and it never will be.
The resort struggled financially for several years. Changing its name from EuroDisney to Disneyland Paris – dropping the financial term ‘euro’ in favour of the magic word ‘Paris’ – was one of a series of moves that helped change the park’s fortunes. Recreating a popular ride from the Florida Disney World, renamed Space Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune, sealed the turnaround.
Eventually, the park turned a profit.
The 19km2 site in Marne-la-Vallée, to the east of the French capital, has gone on to become Europe’s leading tourist destination, attracting some 15 million visitors a year.
Relations with the French media and public have calmed too. The fact that it helps France remain the most visited country in the world has helped. Tourism means jobs and money.
Money talks, no matter what the language.