Root beer and cherry flavors are associated with medicine in China. Scratch those from the beverage list at Hong Kong Disneyland. Meals in Hong Kong...
Root beer and cherry flavors are associated with medicine in China. Scratch those from the beverage list at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Meals in Hong Kong are a social event that can last for hours, even at a theme park.
Students in Asia revere their teachers, and any compliments are returned tenfold.
Those are a few examples of the teaching and learning that have transpired in the past year as 89 people from Anaheim, Calif.’s Disneyland Resort trekked to Hong Kong to help train employees of Disney’s first theme park in China.
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Hong Kong Disneyland opened Sept. 12 with 5,000 employees, a Main Street that’s the spitting image of the one in Anaheim and high hopes that a new culture will embrace Disney’s entertainment.
“The basic spine of the park was replicated from Disneyland,” said Tom Morris, an executive from Walt Disney Imagineering. “Everyone from Southern California walks in, and it strikes them right away — the train station, Main Street, the Castle, even the music are the same as in Anaheim. … Then there’s this beautiful mountain range right behind the castle. That’s when you quickly realize you’re in the South China Sea.”
Morris directed the creative development of Hong Kong Disneyland, and builders have hammered for more than two years to get every board in place at Disney’s 11th theme park.
The final phase of preparation — the phase that makes it a uniquely Disney park — is teaching local employees how to deliver the personal service the company calls “magic.” Members of the Anaheim task force were chosen because of their expertise in a particular field, but also because of their devotion to the Disney product. Four shared their experiences from China, the fastest-growing tourism market in the world.
Matt Holding, who has run attractions for nearly 15 years, patiently taught driving fundamentals to people who rarely drive anything. Hong Kong relies heavily on public transportation, and few people own cars.
“We started with forward and reverse,” said Holding, who showed them how to maneuver river rafts.
His biggest job was helping the new staffers understand the legacy of Walt Disney.
“You don’t work at Disneyland because it’s just a job,” he said. “It was a lifelong ambition for me. I told them they are not just a host or a cast member, they are a Jungle Cruise skipper. We’re teaching them that this is something very special.”
Holding’s new friends taught him that Americans move too fast.
“One day they said, ‘Let’s go to lunch.’ It was an hour and a half. I eat lunch on the go half the time. For them, it’s a time to socialize. When I go home to Anaheim, I am going to start taking a lunch break.”
Belinda Butt, a human-resources specialist from Laguna Hills, Calif., has trained staff members for most of her 20 years at Disneyland. She went to Hong Kong because the park’s scale of operations is similar to Anaheim’s. She knows how to implement Disney’s scheduling system and set up a way of moving 5,000 people through orientation.
“You have to think of things like, if you have 12 classes at the same time, don’t have them all break at the same time or your bathrooms are slammed,” she said.
What she learned during five months was the power and grace of humility.
“When you pay them a compliment, they bring it right back to you,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s because you are such a good teacher.’ They’re very appreciative.”
Karlos Siqueiros took his 20 years of food-and-beverage expertise to Hong Kong.
“The passion we all have for Disney is what brought us here,” Siqueiros said. “We brought the importance of the story to them. It’s not just a park or a restaurant.
“In Anaheim, we say keep the story alive right down to the last bite. When you go into New Orleans Square and the world of pirates, you don’t want to have a commercial at lunchtime. You want to still be in Louisiana.”
Siqueiros also elevated Disney’s approach to celebrating birthdays in Hong Kong.
“In China, where many people have just one child, birthdays are like our weddings. They go on and on. … Tastes and flavors here are different, too. We tend to like sugar; they like the savory flavors. We had to adjust.”
Siqueiros introduced the concept of kids’ menus — already a big hit — and he will bring home a new idea from the Hong Kong park’s menu: a char siew (barbecue pork) burger.