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What do the French think of Mickey Mouse and his latest kingdom? As soon as the plans for Euro Disney were unveiled, members of the French intellectual elite denounced the entire project as a "cultural ChernobyI." Le Monde echoed this view in a cartoon of "L'Angelus du Soir," the muchloved l9th-century French painting by Jean François Millet on view in Paris at the Orsay Museum. In the cartoonist's pen and ink redo, the humble French peasant couple who, in response to the roll of a distant church bell, pause from their work in the fields to pray, are sporting Mickey Mouse ears. The church on the horizon has become Euro Disney's centerpiece, Sleeping Beauty's Castle (bottom right). Forever lost, or so the drawing tells us, is France's religious faith, replaced by comic strip mythologies. Well on its way out is the ancient French agrarian culture.

Few French view Euro Disney so darkly as the Le Monde cartoonist. Most accept it as a culturally nonthreatening fun fair and resort. They like the wild West kitsch, including the Santa Fe and the Cheyenne hotels, but find one serious flaw – the entire complex is too expensive for all but Europe's well-to-do. The two-night package at the resort hotels, including admission to the theme parks, ranges from $223 per person at the Sanra Fe to $778 at Hotel Disneyland (bottom left). For a family of four with two children under 12, spending only a single day within the theme park, the tickets alone cost 750 francs ($144). As a result, ticket sales so far have been poor. If Euro Disney is to meet its goal of 11 million visitors a year, or average 30,000 per day, it may be forced to reduce its prices.

Pierre Merlin, a French architect and planner who participated in the early development of Marne-la-Vallée, the new town east of Paris whose outermost rural sector became the 4,800-acre site of Euro Disney, believes the French government made a deal for which the only winner will be Disney. France bid high to arttract Euro Disney to French soil, hoping to create jobs, secure billions of francs in revenue, and at least $700 million in foreign currency each year. Disney statisticians projected the employment of at least 30.000 French to build the park and its infrastructure, and 14,000 to staff it by opening day. In the matter of staffing, however, it turns out that the unemployed are presently getting some, but not enough, help from Disney. Only 70 percent of the theme park's employees are French, and a current Euro Disney press release boasts that its workers come from 37 different nations. Nevertheless, the French government retains high hopes for jobs, expecting that 65,000 French will be hired to serve the additional hotels, recreational facilities, office parks, and residential developments that will have been added when the entire site is developed by the year 2017.

In return for these benefits, the French government made the land available to Disney at its 1971 price – $5,000 per acre, with 20 years to complete all of the land purchases at no price increase. Orher favorable financial arrangements include the allowance of below-market interest rates combined with generous tax breaks, permitting Disney to buy nearly half of a $3 billion venture for less than $200 million in equity and other expenses. "So far," deplores Medin, "there have been 1 million francs of public investment for every job created, and all we are getting is a Disney caricature of American culture. The architecture itself is unimportant. If Disney had used the best architects in France, it would not have justifed the project." Government funds, assert Merlin and others like him, should have gone to schools, public housing, health programs, and other investments in the public interest.

But many thoughtful French citizens have a different view. As a Parisian architect points out, "Too much is being made of the imposition of American culture on France. Paris needs large hotels with full resort facilities just beyond the city limits. Europeans want leisure, golf, tennis, swimming, and a place to bring the children, just like everyone else." Furthermore, tourism in the entire Seine and Marne region, and the rest of France, will benefit, and tourism is what Euro Disney is really about.

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