YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

FRANCE : Cultural Clash, SigAlert Fears Herald Euro Disney 'Madness' : The latest Magic Kingdom will open Sunday to tune of barking dogs, honking geese and a threatened rail strike.


PARIS — The Communist Party transport union threatened to welcome the new Euro Disney resort complex that opens Sunday outside Paris with a strike on the suburban rail line serving the site.

So far, the strikers have resisted the state railroad company's most tempting settlement offer: free tickets for their families to the Euro Disneyland.

French highway authorities predicted that a public transportation breakdown will create a gigantic traffic jam, as an estimated 90,000 motorists attempt to reach the resort, which has only 11,500 parking places.

In any case, the theme park has the capacity for 50,000 people. The regional highway traffic service counseled families to wait until "after Easter" before visiting the latest Magic Kingdom.

Meanwhile, residents of villages next to the Euro Disney grounds in Marne-la-Vallee, 20 miles east of Paris, complained bitterly that the theme park's miniature train whistles make their dogs bark and their geese honk.

Finally, in one last chorus of indignation, Left Bank intellectuals prophesied France's imminent strangulation by the invading Disney-American culture.

"This kind of activity creates a collective schizophrenia," warned former Minister of Defense Jean-Pierre Chevenement, a Socialist Party leader who appeared to be suggesting that his country was going mad.

As Disney D-Day dawned on the horizon, there was much evidence to support his thesis. Discordant debate between those for the Disney venture and those against it dominated cafe talk. Two weekly news magazines featured Mickey Mouse on their covers with accompanying stories agonizing over the effects of the "cultural invasion." The national newspaper Figaro dedicated its weekly literary review to articles discussing Walt Disney's perversion of European fairy tales.

Disney parks in Anaheim, Orlando and Tokyo may have opened with more fanfare, but none of them stirred up so much acrimonious debate.

The only harmonious news came from the French National Weather Service: The forecast for Sunday's opening day ceremonies calls for clear, sunny skies and temperatures near 70 degrees.

Two days before the opening of the $4.4-billion resort, the main problems facing Disney officials were the strike threat by suburban train employee unions, who are demanding more employees and trains to handle the extra passenger loads caused by Euro Disney, and the possibility of a nightmarish traffic snarl.

Officials said that a contingent of 1,000 riot police will line the highway on the route to Marne-la-Vallee on opening day to help direct traffic.

Mickey's New Home

Here are some facts about the sprawling Disney facility that opens Sunday outside Paris:

Size: 5,000 acres (one-fifth size of Paris, one-third size of Manhattan)

Employees: 12,000

Starting wage: $1,100 a month

Number of anticipated guests: 11 million in first year

Entry fee: Adult, $40; child, $27; family of four, $134

Number of attractions, including rides: 29

Hotels in complex: 6

Artificial rocks used: 68,000 cubic meters

Cement poured: 9.5 million tons

Amount of paint used: 100,000 gallons

Paris mart price for Euro Disney stock, November, 1989: 72 francs ($13) per share

Paris mart price for Euro Disney stock today: 149 francs ($26)

Los Angeles Times Articles