Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
And I’m Barbara Klein. The Walt Disney Company opened its first amusement park in the United States fifty years ago. In September, it opened a similar park in Hong Kong. Today we tell about the company and its creator.
The weather was hot. But the heat did not prevent thousands of people from visiting the new Hong Kong Disneyland. They came to try the rides, the shows and all the other things to do at the newest theme park of the Walt Disney Company.
|Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang, left, Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner, third from left, China's Vice President Zeng Qinghong, third from right, and Walt Disney Company CEO-elect Bob Iger, right, pose with Mickey and Minnie|
Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong and Disney officials held the opening ceremonies. The park is the eleventh that the Disney company has built in the United States and overseas since nineteen fifty-five. The Hong Kong park cost about three and one-half thousand million dollars.
Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Cinderella paraded at the event. And the park has traditional Disney park rides like the Mad Hatter Tea Cups, Dumbo and Space Mountain. But there was also a good measure of local culture. The Hong Kong Children’s Choir sang. Dancers representing lions and dragons appeared. Fireworks lit the sky.
Soon after the opening, Disney official George Mitchell said the company plans to build a second park next to the new one.
|Visitors watch a giant Mickey Mouse on parade after the grand opening of Hong Kong Disneyland on Monday, Sept. 12.|
Hong Kong Disneyland is the second Disney theme park in Asia. Tokyo got the first one in nineteen eighty-three.
There is also Disneyland Park in Paris.
Disneyland in Anaheim, California, came first, fifty years ago. Visitors to the new Hong Kong park see a Sleeping Beauty Castle building copied after the one in Disneyland in Anaheim.
The Walt Disney Company controls forty-three percent of the new park. Hong Kong holds fifty-seven percent of the project. The park and two Disney hotels are on Lantau Island, surrounded by mountains. Getting to the park by underground train from the center of the city takes about a half-hour.
Experts in Chinese traditional feng shui helped design the Hong Kong park. Feng shui says that if objects are correctly placed, good energy and a good future follow.
Signs in the park are in both English and Chinese. Its eating places serve a number of kinds of food. For example, some offer hamburgers and American soft drinks. But hungry visitors can also find Asian food like sweet and sour pork and chicken curry.
In addition to food and rides, the new park has live shows. One of these, “Festival of the Lion King,” was created especially for Hong Kong Disneyland. Another show, “The Golden Mickeys,” is presented like an awards program in Hollywood. It tells Disney stories with song, dance and special effects.
Some visitors noted that Hong Kong Disneyland has fewer rides and other things to do than other Disneyland parks.
About five thousand local citizens work at the park. Labor union activists have urged them to organize. The activists say the employees are working long hours in sometimes difficult conditions. Disney says it would be better for employees and the company to "work and communicate directly with each other."
Other activists successfully demanded that a park eating place cancel plans to serve a food containing a threatened fish. People spoke against the treatment of wild dogs that live on Lantau Island. Still other activists demanded that fireworks that are shown not damage the environment.
Today, the Walt Disney Company is worth about fifty-seven thousand million dollars. It has come a long way since the nineteen twenties. At that time, Walt Disney and his brother Roy produced their first cartoon film, “Steamboat Willie.”
Walt Disney’s cartoons were a series of drawings on film. Each drawing is a little different from the one before it. Each shows a tiny change in movement. When we see a film of hand-drawn cartoons, the cartoon people and animals appear to move. They speak with voices recorded by actors.
|Walt Disney with models of Disneyland|
The public loved to watch the Disney creatures move and act. Walt Disney, however, was not satisfied with just making cartoons. He wanted to do more. Later in life he opened that first Disneyland in California.
Walt Disney died in nineteen sixty-six. But his company continued. For twenty important years, Michael Eisner served as top leader of the Walt Disney Company.
Mister Eisner had joined it in nineteen eighty-four as chairman and chief executive officer. In the nineteen nineties, the company grew into a total media business. It bought movie production companies, newspapers and cable television companies.
Michael Eisner and Pixar Animation Studios agreed to make five animated movies. This produced the extremely popular films “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles.” But in January of two thousand four, talks to extend the agreement failed.
Some shareholders in the company blamed Mister Eisner. Michael Eisner remained top leader of the company until two thousand four. At that time, the Disney board of directors removed him as chairman.
In March of two thousand five, the Walt Disney Company announced that Robert Iger would replace Mister Eisner as the company’s top official. Mister had been president and chief operating officer of the company for the past five years. He and the chief of Pixar Animation Studios have held meetings. But the future of the relationship between the two is unclear.
Pixar uses computers to produce cartoons.
Michael Eisner left Disney on Friday.
|Mickey Mouse in Chinese dress in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle |
Now we will tell you more about the man who started the huge Disney creative and business world. As a young man, Walt Disney believed that cartoon movies could be just as popular as movies made with real people. So he created Mickey Mouse.
Disney’s cartoon mouse had big eyes and ears. He stood on two legs like a human. He wore white gloves on his hands. Disney’s first short cartoon films starring Mickey Mouse made both the mouse and his creator famous.
Mickey Mouse appeared in hundreds of cartoons over the years. He became known throughout the world. Other cartoon creatures soon joined Mickey. One was the female mouse called Minnie. Another was the duck named Donald, with his sailor clothes and funny voice. And there was the dog called Pluto.
Disney’s first full-length cartoon movie was completed in nineteen thirty-seven. It was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” became one of Hollywood’s most successful movies.
Many movie experts say Disney's art of animation reached a high point in nineteen forty with the movie "Pinocchio." The story is about a wooden toy that comes to life as a little boy. Disney's artists drew two-and-one-half-million pictures to make "Pinocchio."
Disney made other extremely popular cartoon films during the nineteen forties and nineteen fifties. They include “Fantasia,” “Cinderella,” “Dumbo” and “Bambi.” Disney’s skills in this animation process made him one of the world’s most successful movie artists.
In the middle of the last century, Disney also started producing live-action films with actors. Live action or animated, Disney stories had similar ideas. In most of them, evil forces threatened innocence, loyalty and family love. Sad things sometimes happened. But there were always funny incidents and creatures. In the end, good always won over evil.
In nineteen sixty-four, Disney made a popular film called “Mary Poppins.” It told about a woman who cares for other people’s children. Human actors shared the action with cartoon characters. “Mary Poppins” was one of Walt Disney’s last productions. He died two years later.
Over time, Disney won thirty-two Academy awards for his movies and for technical inventions in filmmaking. People still praise his work.
That work included Disneyland parks. Disney once said Disneyland would never be complete as long as there was imagination left in the world.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson. Caty Weaver was our producer. I’m Bob Doughty.
And I’m Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.