Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's a Small World After All: Disney and Competition

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the debut of the famous "Small World" theme song that features in Disney's Small World attractions all over the globe. It was first heard at the New York World's Fair in 1964, in a pavilion saluting UNICEF that was operated by Disney and sponsored by Pepsi. The song has been part of Disney theme parks ever since.

Despite the widespread brand awareness and decades of positive associations with the Disney name, competition remains an issue for the company's theme parks:
  • Shanghai Disney is expected to open its gates in about 18 months, with marketing to draw millions of middle-income Chinese families year after year. A joint venture with a Chinese firm, Shanghai Disney will compete for share in what will be, by 2015, a $148 billion market for entertainment and media services. In addition to Hong Kong Disneyland, other theme park competitors include: Chimelong Happy World, Window to the World, and Beijing Happy Valley.
  • Tokyo Disneyland, highly popular with Japanese families, is to undergo an update and expansion as the operator works to meet the needs of the aging population. Opened in 1983, attendance continues to increase, and nearby DisneySea is also feeling the halo effect of improved economic conditions. However, Japan is the birthplace of Hello Kitty, who has her own theme park; other theme park rivals include: Universal Studios, Kidzania, and Huis Ten Bosch.
  • Disney World in Florida must contend with increased competitive pressure from rivals like Universal Studios, Legoland, and SeaWorld. Reportedly, Disney has lost market share in Florida since 2009, in part because of the popularity of Harry Potter attractions at Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure.
  • Disneyland Paris, drawing customers despite Europe's mixed economic climate, has high hopes for its upcoming Ratatouille ride. What draws customers? The COO of Euro Disney answers: "That curiosity that you had as a child you hope you never lose and that’s what drives people to theme parks." European competitors include Bagatelle Park and Parc Asterix, both in France.

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