Mickey Goes to Europe
Authors: Karsten, Jonsen; Maznevski, Martha
Source: International Institute for Management Development
Company Name: Disneyland
Number of pages: 18
The case tracks the story of Disneyland Resort Paris from its opening in 1992 until the end of 2006, illustrating how the resort's managers learned from their initial errors how to take a strong cultural product (the Disney experience) and implement it effectively in a multicultural environment. However, by the end of 2006 the park was still not profitable and the managers were hoping for 2007, the Park's 25th anniversary season, being a turnaround year. The case presents the dilemma of global integration vs. local adaptation in a multicultural and culturally-sensitive environment. It draws upon unique insights from some historic key players as well as the current ones and sets up situations that can be interpreted from different roles in an organization (marketing, operations, senior management, etc) and some of the issues they faced being the first multi-cultural Disney theme park in the world. Disneyland Resort Paris opened its gates in April 1992 amidst enormous controversy as a bastion of American cultural imperialism in Europe. By 2006 it was the most visited tourist site in Europe with over 12 million annual visitors. In spite of a difficult tourist industry in the early 2000s, Disneyland Resort Paris' attendance remained stable: 60% of its visitors were repeat visitors, and guest satisfaction was extremely high. The operation had created 43,000 jobs, invested more than 5 billion euros and contributed to the development of a new region. As the leaders developed their execution plans, they wondered what principles should guide them and how to interpret Disney in multicultural Europe. Guests from different parts of Europe wanted different things from a vacation: how could they keep the classic Disney magic yet successfully appeal to European consumers? After 15 years of switching between French and American leadership, the answers were still not obvious. The leaders agreed that the 2007 celebrations of its 15th anniversary should set the scene for Disney's recognition as a well established experience in the heart of Europe, and a long-term financial success. But what would it look like and what path would take them there? The case was written to support two teaching objectives; the class can focus on one or both depending on time and instructor objectives. It raises issues that can be dealt with through perspectives of organizational behavior, general management and marketing: (1) identifying the complex role of national or ethnic cultures in multinational firms. Disneyland Resorts were 'selling' one culture (idealistic American culture) to guests from many cultures, and only started to become successful when they could articulate cultural issues well; and (2) working with the global standardization vs local adaptation tension. Disneyland Resorts could be neither completely standardized nor adapted. Finding an 'intermediate' solution is not obvious but is key to managing the Resort for high performance.