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Euro Disneyland Attracts Europeans From Far and Wide

May 13, 1992

MARNE-LA-VALLEE, France (AP) _ From here, Fortress Europe looks more like a fairy tale - of the Cinderella variety.

The bickering in Brussels over European unity melts in a sea of tongues and tourists flocking to see Mickey Mouse and other costumed residents of the Magic Kingdom.

A month after its gala opening, the jury is still out on Euro Disneyland’s prospects, but one trend seems clear: Most of the visitors to the park 20 miles east of Paris aren’t French.

The pink-and-blue castle towering over the theme park is a Tower of Babel: English, German, Italian, other European tongues, Japanese, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Britons, Germans, Italians and Spaniards have descended on the park. Tourists come from the former East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. And a backlash to a perceived American ″cultural invasion″ hasn’t materialized, said Euro Disney’s executive vice president, Jim Cora.

″You hear the French won’t wait in line. But they do wait, and don’t grumble,″ he said. ″All I see is people coming out and having a great time.″

The newspaper Liberation on Tuesday headlined: ″Waiting for Parisians, Mickey Seduces Foreigners.″ The story said attendance was below expectations.

Euro Disney’s stock plunged 4 percent on the Paris exchange Tuesday and on the New York Stock Exchange, Walt Disney Co.’s stock fell $1.62 1/2 to $148.37 1/2 .

Disney later denied the report, saying the newspaper confused the park’s daily capacity with its actual expectations for average attendance.

Nevertheless, Euro Disneyland is on track to receive 11 million visitors its first year, with daily attendance ranging from 20,000-60,000 a day, Cora said.

Occupancy at the park’s five hotels has been at 65-70 percent and should reach 90 percent this summer, he said.

Euro Disney expects revenue of up to $1.1 billion during fiscal 1992, ending this September.

The grownups seem to have the best time. Couples without kids shop and pose for snapshots. Grown men, sometimes wearing Goofy hats, seem to have video cameras attached to their faces.

″We shopped, saw a parade, ate a hot dog,″ said Grace Durham, a tour operator from Milton Keynes in England, who came to inspect what she’ll be selling in package tours.

″I’ll tell clients it’s large, expensive ... and different. For Europe, anyway,″ said Mrs. Durham, one of a group of seven women wearing Mickey Mouse ears.

″We need it in Europe because the trips to France are getting kind of stale,″ she said. ″Once you’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, it’s all the same - unless you like the food.″

Some complain about prices. Visitors pay $42.50 to get in. The cheapest Disney T-shirt is $16.

Frenchmen Laurent Piron thought it would be more expensive. ″The prices here seem normal,″ he said.

″But it’s too big. You have to walk around a lot, and that’s hard with a kid,″ said Piron, 28, from Nantes, who was spending the day at the park with his wife and baby. The family had a four-hour drive at each end of the trip.

Joachim Radigk drove six hours from Dusseldorf to spend four days at the amusement park and one of its hotels.

″I think it’s great. Nothing the same has ever been in Europe before,″ said Radigk, who spent the first morning with his friends scouting out which rides to take - later.

″America is too far away, so we took the short way, to Paris,″ said Radigk, 25.

Masaki and Atsuko Onuma visited the park on their honeymoon, two days after getting married in Tokyo.

″It seems bigger than Tokyo Disneyland - there are fewer people, and no lines,″ said Mrs. Onuma. She should know: she’s visited the Tokyo park 11 times since it opened in 1983.

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