Life

Radio review: Birth of Eurodisney proved far from easy

Nuala McCann

Witness: Euro Disney BBC World Service

It is 25 years since Disney flung open its arms for a European welcome.

But in the beginning, it was less of a warm hearted hug and more of an arrogant French sniff.

Mickey Mouse meets Paris - the marriage of America's magic kingdom and France would not be easy.

It was a culture clash. The French guard their culture jealously.

And the yellow brick road to Disney's European theme park was a rocky one.

It ended up with the French calling the Americans arrogant and Disney calling the French impossible, said the first CEO, Bob Fitzpatrick, who was charged with forcing the fairytale into existence.

This was a frank interview from a man who weathered many a storm and casts a wry eye on all that.

For a start, his French friends were not amused at his career move.

He said that one high-ranking director rang him and said they could no longer be friends and accusing him of betrayal.

Bob sighed that France had dealt with invasions from the British and from the Germans, what was one little mouse?

Mickey was a big deal, it seemed.

The distinct cultures also proved difficult.

In the US, beer and wine are never served in the theme parks, but a glass of wine with a meal is very much part of French culture.

So Bob flew his boss to Tivoli theme park and they had a lovely night out at a restaurant and a great meal and his boss agreed on beer and wine in Eurodisney. Then they strolled outside, only to witness a drunk fella throwing up over his shoes and that was the end of the beer and wine idea.

“Just because some guy barfed,” drolled Bob.

He left Eurodisney a year after it opened.

This was a funny, wry look back at Mickey Mouse's kingdom and its European labour pains.

Maybe you can make all your employees – or is that ‘cast members' - smile forever in American theme parks, but the French are absolument pas quite so biddable.

It takes more than a mountain of fairy dust to win ‘em over.

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