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The United States is the epicenter of the Disney parks—Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is the original and the heartbeat, while Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is a behemoth that attracts tens of millions of visitors a year. Walt may have spent his formative years in the American Midwest, but his imagination spread to all corners of the world. In addition to the U.S.-based destinations, Hong Kong, Paris, Shanghai, and Tokyo also host a variety of parks that showcase classic attractions as well as park exclusives. These resorts capture the Disney aesthetic, but each presents unique challenges and cultural sensitivities.

Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) Executive Producer Ali Rubinstein worked on the Shanghai and Hong Kong parks, sites that are both located in East Asia but offer differing cultural perspectives. “It’s interesting because, in Shanghai, we went in there and were very respectful of the culture and tried to make design decisions that would be appealing to the local audience,” Rubinstein recalls. “We wrote our scripts in Mandarin. Conversely, when we did Hong Kong, originally, we went in with a much different attitude. First of all, it was 10 years before Shanghai. It was the first Disney park in China, and we really wanted to introduce the Disney aesthetic. We didn’t copy, but we came as close as possible to the original 1955 Anaheim Disneyland as we could in Hong Kong. Also, at the time, Hong Kong was somewhat more westernized. There are more English speakers, and that is slowly evolving and changing. It’s becoming much less of an expat community, and there’s much more of a local presence.”


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