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Since the first of the Disney parks was founded in 1955 in Anaheim, California, Disneyland theme parks have often been referred to as the “happiest places on earth.”
Donyamali has mentioned: One of the most significant functions of recreation is to generate an unrealistic and ideal world for social groups or individuals. The entertaining industry seizes this desire of the public, providing various products for people to escape from the physical world’s pressure. Disneyland, as one of these choices, lay in front of us, are becoming increasingly popular around the world due to their specific themes that can meet different demands of visitors. People’s interests and desires are satisfied here since theme parks collect and amplify the Utopia within each mind, creating a unique environment that used to only exist in our dreams. Disneylands are recognized worldwide for their joy-filled rides, playful atmosphere, and other amusement features.
Various studies have shown that Disneyland has created multicultural amusement zones where people from diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds enjoy escapism and fairytale life. This description makes Disneyland an intermediary between cultures. Culture can be seen as shared beliefs, customs, values, behavioral patterns, and cognitive constructs among people belonging to a particular group (Banks 72). It defines the characteristics and knowledge of unique groups of people in aspects such as language, socialism, religion, cuisine, art, and more. While culture presents diverse characteristics among people of different origins, conscience plays a significant role in binding them within a larger society, allowing them to share unique experiences, beliefs, attitudes, values, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and time (Banks 73). In this context, cultural diversity is a phenomenon where people of different cultures respect each other’s beliefs, customs, and values, among other aspects.
Due to the popularity of the American culture, Disneyland’s representation of American culture that spreading a positive attitude about life has a significant impact on Disneyland in Asian countries, especially in Japan. However, the popularity of American culture does not go well in every place, such as Paris Disneyland in Europe.
As a result, they are equally crucial in the embracing of cultural diversity in Disneyland theme parks. Overall, Disneyland offers an environment for enjoyment and relaxation in almost every aspect of life, regardless of cultural variations among communities. Disneyland amusement parks play intermediary roles between diverse cultures in Japan and France. However, while American culture is readily acceptable in Japan, it is seen that Europeans have a negative attitude towards it, deeming American presence in France as a cultural invasion.
American Culture in Disneyland
Disneyland fully embodies the spirit of the American people who love freedom, adventurous, creative. Fist of all, the first immigrants came into this rich but full of inflicted land. Americans have to fight with nature. Therefore, they have the spirit of innovation enterprising, adventurous. Also, because of their lack of history and tradition, they don’t have many taboos. American people believe that people need to have an adventurous spirit to get a chance to be a success. (need some source here) As a part of American culture, the national feather is fully embodied in Disneyland’s thematic area. In the “Fantasyland,” visitors find their favorite Disney characters, hovering in Disney coffee cups; “Adventure land” allows visitors to experience a tour of virgin forest in Asia and Africa. “Tomorrow land” is a place full of science fiction and the realization of shuttle space fantasy place, visitors can “fly over space mountain” experience time and space travel. They also can take the UFO back and forth shuttle space. When people in Disneyland can temporarily stay away from the real world, into the colorful fairy tale kingdom, feel the mysterious fantasy of the future kingdom and thrilling adventure world. This is the main reason most people enjoy spending their spare time in Disneyland.
Moreover, as part of the culture, Americans have great behaviors in public. In Disney, everything has its rules. As such, people should get in line with everything. Only if people respect the rules, they will get full freedom. Except for disabled people, no one has special. In the United States, people are educated on their independent work, independent thinking ability, and American education to encourage personality development. However, in most Asia cultures, people do whatever their parents want at home, follow the teachers’ orders in the school after work listens to their boss. This is completely lost their independence, resulting in creative lack. At Disneyland, people can take full advantage of their creative and independent ability. This is also why Disneyland, as an intermediary for American culture, is being loved deeply in Asia.
Comparing the Tokyo and Paris Disneyland Parks
Amusement activities offered by Disneyland parks in Tokyo and Paris play an important role in shaping multicultural and social environments. When discussing the present tendencies related to cultural and social development, it is important to pay attention to such companies since they influence the whole of society by attracting an audience that loves escapism and fairytale settings. Everyone knows that Disneyland is a popular theme park. However, people seldom think about the enormous influence of the company’s activities on people’s perceptions regarding fun in multicultural environments.
There is no doubt that culture and cultural diversity play an important role in Disneyland. Nowadays, theme parks represent a major source of cultural exchange as they promote specific values that are unique to Americans among the citizens of other countries (Stahl et al. 3). Indeed, Disneyland represents several of American cultures’ key values, such as having a positive attitude about life, being kind, and spreading peace. The presence and spread of American culture have compelled millions of people to accept Disneyland. This has significantly promoted the popularity of Walt Disney products (Stahl et al. 3). However, it is also necessary to note that Disneyland is popular because its specialists have managed to integrate newer elements that reflect and support local cultures.
Disneyland’s representation of American culture has had a significant impact on Asian countries such as Japan. Tokyo Disneyland attracted many visitors as it became one of the most liked parks in Japan. In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland completed, the number of visitors was increasing year by year, such as 1984, about 10 million people in 1990, 15.88 million people in 1995, 16.99 million people in 2001, 22.05 million people in the first half of 2003 (4 ~ 9 Month) the highest number of admission record, per capita consumption of about 100 US dollars. (source here) As we all know, Japan and the United States are two countries with very different cultural differences.
How can Japan Disney successfully overcome the huge cultural differences between the United States and Japan? Japanese admire the modern culture of the United States. This is determined by the characteristics of the Japanese nation: Japanese has very great pride for the great of their country, but once it is defeated, it will accept the other country’s culture at all. In World War II, the united states occupied Japan. After the war, the US helps Japan rebuild their country, so that the rapid recovery of the Japanese economy into a world economic power is Japanese appreciate. They had respect and acceptable, that the Americans are heroes and savior, and in that time, they thought American culture must be advanced culture. In this situation, Disneyland is representative of the typical American culture is very successfully. Also, Disneyland in Tokyo has been characterized by successful cross-cultural management (Needs more research source here)
Cultural differences not only didn’t bring any bad influence but contributed to the success of Tokyo Disneyland. Ambitious Disney decided to build another overseas paradise in Paris, France. However, the popularity of American culture does not fit well in every place, especially in Paris. In 1992, Disney company investment of 4.4 billion US dollars opened in Europe Disney. However, this investment has failed to achieve the desired success. Only 40% of French tourists came here to visit; even more surprising is that many Japanese people travel to Europe. By the end of 1994, Euro Disneyland had a total loss of $ 2 billion (need source) Why is the success of the business model in the United States and Japan in France does not work? Cultural differences are an important reason. Historically, the French have a great national pride; they are proud of their culture and strive to maintain and carry forward. French people despise American culture that compared with France’s long history, the history of the United States is very short, there is no local culture, even if there is only a fast-food culture or commercial culture, no artistic beauty and philosophical precipitation. They think that Europe Disney is cultural imperialism, fear of American culture from their culture had a great impact or even replaced, from the psychological generation of exclusion.
As a result, there have been cases where Disney’s management team has failed to consider other communities’ cultural aspects. This situation has been witnessed in Paris Disneyland. In this case, Disney executives failed to understand the European culture before the establishment of the amusement facility in Paris. The anticipated customers for this park had no idea of the meticulous nature of Disneyland. This situation created a disconnect with their customers from the opening of the facility. Disney has made a lot of cultural mistakes in the negotiations with Paris. Before Disneyland was going to buy 4,400 acres of farmland from the French government, there was a distance between French and Disneyland. That 4,400 acre is the peasants who lived in the farmland for generations were reluctant to leave their homeland, and Disney thought it was as simple and easy as buying land in the United States, ignoring the French people have a nostalgic feeling of the homeland.
Also, through a large number of media reports, Disney is the invaders’ face in front of the French people. Disney also ignores the French style of negotiation, which appoints lawyers rather than management to participate in the negotiations. In French culture, lawyers are the last choice in the business. If the negotiations are fully responsible by the lawyer, there is no trust in this business, but in the American culture, it is a very normal culture. Therefore, the French didn’t have any good impression of Disney Company. In addition, the number of guests was far lower than the management team had anticipated. Various factors also led to inconsistencies with other Disneyland theme parks. For example, other Disneyland parks are known for not serving alcoholic beverages. However, due to European customer preferences and demands, the Paris facility was forced to begin serving beer and wine. The early failure of Europe’s Disney shows how European culture has unique differences from American culture.
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Nevertheless, Disneyland demonstrates how distinct elements of different cultures can coexist peacefully and even complement one another through its American cultural features and demonstrated respect for other cultures worldwide. Soon after the opening of Paris Disneyland, Disney executives embarked on research to understand European consumers’ culture in aspects such as spending habits, means of transportation, preferred activities, and geographic distribution, as well as other factors. This strategy helped Disney executives integrate European cultural aspects into the management of Paris Disneyland without fear of losing Disney magic.
Why Disneyland Is an Intermediary between Diverse Cultures
Asian culture differs from Western culture in many aspects. Considering there are so many cultural differences, why is Disneyland still so popular in Asian countries? It can be said that Disneyland exists as a successful intermediary that encourages people belonging to other cultures to accept new ideas and see the world from a different perspective. Therefore, it is important to understand that Asian people are more likely to accept American values promoted by Disneyland theme parks both in Paris and Tokyo. The construction of theme parks such as Disneyland contributes to exchanging information, values, beliefs, experiences, attitudes, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and notions of time (Batala et al. 105).
Moreover, it is widely known that Disneyland has become popular among Asian and European people despite the differences between them and Americans. Cultural exchange involving the United States, Asian, and European countries has greatly increased Disneyland’s popularity. This state of affairs is considered one of the most obvious manifestations of globalization (Tao and Lai 812). Disneyland theme parks represent a mixture of different cultures. Thus, it may be stated that American values can successfully integrate into other communities’ lives, especially in Asian countries such as Japan.
At the same time, some people have the opinion that Disneyland’s activity and its expansion of amusement parks pose a threat to cultural diversity in the world. However, evidence shows that these theme parks’ creators strive to strike the right balance between American and other cultures (Hoon Hyun et al. 247). For instance, the application of local customs and festivals in the programs at Tokyo Disneyland has drawn many domestic tourists’ attention. Indeed, Disney has always emphasized cultural factors such as customs, beliefs, and values, which help the amusement parks to pose huge attractions both locally and globally. The influence of culture on Disneyland theme parks’ success is evident in most of the facilities, as seen in Tokyo Disneyland. Japanese people are known for their product effectiveness and high taste in quality. They are careful about cultural differences between themselves and other people. Also, they admire the advanced technology of Western countries. However, they are keen not to forget their essence. For these reasons, Disney has had an easy time incorporating American culture into Tokyo Disneyland.
Although American culture’s acceptance in Europe has dwindled, Disneyland has become a symbol of fashion among many locals and international tourists. French people have demonstrated a dislike of Western styles since capitalism is discouraged in Europe. There is a feeling that Paris Disneyland represents America in France. Due to consistency, Disneyland in Paris resembles the Anaheim theme park in many aspects related to Western culture. The French people may never come to accept American styles. However, by embracing diversity and inclusion, Disney started incorporating “Mickey and Minnie” into fashionable elements popular among the French people. In this manner, the latter started seeing their homeland represented in Disneyland, thereby creating a more positive attitude toward the facility.
The cultural exchange encouraged by the expansion of Disneyland is reciprocal. By respecting other cultures, the company does its best to show that many elements of different cultures can coexist peacefully. Support of this opinion is presented by several different facts that show how Disneyland theme parks outside the United States are constructed with the local identity in mind. According to Hoon Hyun et al. who study and compare four Disneyland parks in Japan, France, and the United States, there is no doubt that the people engaged with organizing new events at these parks pay special attention to the use of imagery and symbols unique to the local cultures; indeed, incorporating local imagery remains an important factor that allows the company to increase its competitive advantage (247). As made clear from the facts discussed by the authors, the most successful attempt to reflect local culture has been made in Tokyo, Japan.
The company’s significant attention to cultural norms is represented not only in the way that costumed characters look but also in the approach taken to place objects inside the park. For instance, because Japanese people find it inappropriate to eat while walking, the company chose to increase the number of seats in the eating areas of Tokyo Disneyland to meet local visitors’ needs. This evidence is important for future research, as it shows that Disneyland is a place where values supported by different nations and preferences unique to local cultures are respected. Indeed, it seems clear that visiting Disneyland may help representatives of different cultures outside of America feel that their national identity is respected and that measures have been taken in order to make them feel comfortable.
Moreover, the culturally sensitive approach used in Disneyland theme parks around the world is beneficial even for those who have left the United States recently. Due to the presence of ancestors in both cultures, it might be easier for them to get used to the new culture while also immersing themselves in the atmosphere of their native culture, a situation that might help increase their psychological comfort levels. Disneyland parks are constructed with regard to local visitors’ preferences; the specialists who have worked on their design seem to have conducted substantial research to understand the specific needs of local people based on the notions of appropriate and inappropriate behavior unique to their cultures. As a result, customers respond to the joy-filled atmosphere with the Disneyland characters mimicking their homeland culture. It is for this reason that Disneyland is seen as an intermediary between cultures.
In addition to uniting people of different cultures, Disneyland parks help to strengthen the links between children and their parents, who may hold extremely different attitudes to life. Another important idea connected with the work of Disneyland theme parks in some countries is that it encourages dialogue not only between different cultures that may vary deeply from each other but also between people of different generations who sometimes fail to understand each other. For instance, Disneyland Park in California acts as a kind of guide for children by encouraging them to get acquainted with their parents’ concepts and ideas in everyday life (Aronstein and Finke 616). In this amusement park, special zones are designed to reflect the differences between the two genders related to men and women’s traditional roles, which are still strongly supported in the United States despite people’s love of liberty (616).
Also, it is necessary to incorporate the work of Lyon, who discusses the topic of religious symbolism in theme parks and how it influences people (17). Some people may believe it to be inappropriate to use religion in places where children are supposed to relax. Still, in fact, it may often remind children of religious values supported by their parents and encourage them to follow their example. The fact that people visit Disneyland parks for leisure and excitement does not mean that they cannot make religious comparisons. Indeed, Disney has ensured that popular religious festivals are celebrated in the Disneyland theme parks since the celebration is deemed central to the religion. For instance, the animations presented by the world’s most famous rodent, “Mickey Mouse,” and his animated friends bring about an understanding of various religious values and faith in Disneyland theme parks. However, there are no religious buildings on Disneyland’s main streets. In addition, postage stamps and other animated features do not explicitly imply religious meanings to avoid favoring any particular faith.
Disneyland parks are aimed at supporting the diverse cultural values that unite generations of Americans and other people around the globe. Besides the fact that many of the events help children better understand the world in which their parents live, Disneyland also provides them with an opportunity to learn more about the religious beliefs and ethical principles of their ancestors. Although Disneyland theme parks do not favor any particular faith community, various postage stamps and animated features provide relevant religious lessons, especially to little children. Traditional elements of culture and the common notions of good and bad can help shape children to be an important part of society and its future. The above discussion reveals that Disneyland theme parks are successful at promoting cultural traditions and strengthening cultural integration.
The proposal will provide an insight into the intermediary roles played by Disneyland theme parks in the promotion of cultural diversity. It will provide a clear comparison between American styles and those of other cultures of the world. However, the proposal will focus on the Disneyland theme parks in Paris and Tokyo. For example, it is commonly believed that Americans do not respect European culture enough, and this is why the Disney theme parks fail to meet the needs of visitors in Europe (Kaynak and Herbig 6). To some extent, some researchers view this situation as a cultural invasion on behalf of Americans and proof that Americans overestimate their culture and want to expand its influence even more.
It may be necessary to pay more attention to the cultural characteristics of Asians, Europeans, and Americans in order to prove that the elements of different cultures are preserved in theme parks outside the United States. In order to address these minor problems, I am planning to examine additional sources devoted to the cultural assumptions of the mentioned groups of people as well as visual materials that will help illustrate the ideas better. When conducting research, I will try to focus more on examples related to the designs and plans of theme parks in order to make my argument more substantial and illustrate the concepts mentioned in the paper. As for the broader significance, the research paper will present a general review of the topic of Disneyland and culture.
Aronstein, Susan L., and Laurie A. Finke. “Discipline and Pleasure: The Pedagogical Work of Disneyland.” Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol.45, no.6, 2013, pp. 610-624.
Banks, James A. Cultural Diversity and Education. Routledge, 2015.
Batala, Lochan K. et al. “Cross Border Cooperation through Tourism Promotion & Cultural Exchange: A Case Study along Nepal and China (TAR) OBOR—Prospective.” Open Journal of Business and Management, vol. 5, no. 1, 2016, p. 105.
Donyamali, Ahmad. “Social Impact of Amusement Parks”. The Caspian Sea Journal, vol. 9, no. 1, 2015, pp. 17-28.
Hoon Hyun, Kyung, et al. “Investigating Cultural Uniqueness in Theme Parks through Finding Relationships between Visual Integration of Visitor Traffics and Capacity of Service Facilities.” International Journal of Architectural Computing, vol. 14, no. 3, 2016, pp. 247-254.
Kaynak, Erdener, and Paul Herbig. Handbook of Cross-Cultural Marketing. Routledge, 2014.
Lyon, David. Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Stahl, Günter K. et al. “The Upside of Cultural Differences: Towards a more Balanced Treatment of Culture in Cross-Cultural Management Research.” Cross Cultural & Strategic Management , vol. 24, no. 1, 2017, pp. 2-12.
Tao, Teresa, and Shuk Man Josephine Lai. “Globalization and Theme Park: A Case Study of Hong Kong Disneyland.” CAUTHE 2013: Tourism and Global Change: On the Edge of Something Big, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013, p. 812.