What Can Disney Learn from Hong Kong before building in Shanghai?

When the Walt Disney Company set out to build a theme park in Hong Kong there were a lot of questions. Would the Chinese take to the American style theme park? Would the Disney characters resonate with a population that had previously had little exposure to them? Just who was the audience for the park?

Fortune Magazine looks at some of the lessons Disney can take away from their experience in Hong Kong that might serve them well in future expansion into Asia markets.

[Disney] failed to gauge local tastes, opened with a park that was too small to meet the grandiose expectations of its clientele, made some public relations mistakes early on, and took too long to adapt to local food, culture, and tastes, according to Allan Zeman, the chairman of the rival Ocean Park theme park in Hong Kong.

“Disney, on the other hand, came in very American,” Zeman says. “Disney was a big brand, not really understanding the culture at the beginning. They had everything run out of the U.S. At the beginning there was a sense of arrogance: ‘We’re Disney, and don’t tell us how to run a theme park.'”

Hong Kong Disneyland also earned the wrath of the Hong Kong press corps by taking a long time to respond to queries with answers that had to be approved through U.S. headquarters

In hindsight it’s obvious Disney didn’t know what they were getting into when they built Hong Kong Disneyland. Let’s hope they’ve done their homework for Shanghai?