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DISNEY SPENDS BIG TO OPEN NEW PARK.(BUSINESS)
Albany Times Union (Albany, NY) April 19, 1998 Byline: MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When Walt Disney World opens its Animal Kingdom theme park, it will feed, house and entertain a herd of thousands — not animals, but reporters, industry analysts, travel agents and corporate partners. this web site disney animal kingdom
Roaming over the re-creation of an African savannah for the Wednesday opening of Disney’s newest addition will be about 5,000 guests. Disney will be paying the tab for air fare, hotel rooms and meals for many of them.
In return the company will get wide coverage in newspapers and on television, feedback to investors and first-person testimonials by travel experts.
“They do it a lot and they do get a lot of bang for their buck,” said Tim O’Brien, an editor at Amusement Business, a theme park trade magazine.
Although Disney won’t say how much it is spending to launch the $800 million park, it’s expected to be well into the double-digit millions.
Although it’s expensive, it helps that many of the costs for the celebration are in-house. Disney has a partnership with Delta Airlines, which will fly in guests from around the world at discounted prices. Visitors stay at one of Disney’s 17 resort hotels and eat at Disney restaurants.
Because many media organizations forbid their workers from accepting freebies, Disney is offering discounted packages to the 2,500 reporters expected to be among the guests. For $550, a reporter gets three nights accommodation, all meals and three days’ worth of passes to Disney theme parks. For an extra $200, they get flown in from anywhere in the United States.
Ordinarily, such a package without airfare would cost at least $835 for one person, according to Disney’s central reservations office.
Disney doesn’t just depend on journalists to get the word out. Last year, Walt Disney World spent $47.7 million in promoting its three Florida theme parks, mainly on television, according to Advertising Age.
In the past, the opening of a new attraction has pushed that budget up significantly.
When the company opened its last U.S. theme park, Disney-MGM, in 1989, it spent $22 million on print advertising and $25 million for television spots for all its Walt Disney World theme parks, according to Advertising Age. If that sum were adjusted for inflation, it would total $60.8 million in 1997 dollars. Last year, about 10.4 million people visited Disney-MGM, the least popular of Disney’s U.S. attractions.
It’s too early to know how much Disney is spending on the Animal Kingdom campaign, said Michael Simoni, a spokesman for Competitive Media Reporting, which tracks advertising figures.
So far, Disney has paid an estimated $145,600 for an eight-page advertising supplemental in the Sunday national edition of The New York Times late last month.
Three weeks ago, the company agreed to donate $105,000 to New York City in exchange for allowing 1,300 school children in a normally closed part of Central Park. The children stood in formation making out giant animal shapes while images were filmed from a helicopter. The video will air during Walt Disney World television specials to promote the Animal Kingdom opening.
While Disney has been successful at getting Animal Kingdom into the public mind, it hasn’t done a good job of defining what exactly it is, O’Brien said.
Magic Kingdom is about fantasy. Epcot is about technology and foreign cultures. Disney-MGM is about the movies. It will be up to the public, by word-of-mouth, to decide ultimately what Animal Kingdom is about, he said.
Disney is “almost consumed in not wanting to call it a zoo,” O’Brien said.
Although it’s not a zoo per se, one-fifth of the 500-acre park is devoted to exotic animals. The highlight is a truck-driven African safari where visitors can watch animals roam over an artificial savannah. Among the more than 1,000 animals are antelopes, cheetahs, lions and zebras. in our site disney animal kingdom
But even while gearing up for the celebration, Disney has been grappling with some negative publicity about how it cares for those animals.
A dozen animals have died at or en route to the park, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has the power to fine an animal exhibitor or take away its license, is investigating. Disney says it has done nothing wrong.
USDA had previously reviewed most of the deaths, which included four cheetah cubs, two rhinos, two hippos, two cranes and two otters, and found no violations of federal regulations. An anonymous tip prompted the new investigation.
In addition to the animals, Animal Kingdom is made up of DinoLand U.S.A, with a boneyard playground and dinosaur thrill ride; Camp Minnie-Mickey, where visitors can meet Disney characters; and the Conservation Station, where guests learn about Disney’s animal care operations.
Crowds will show up based on their faith in a Disney product, O’Brien said.
“Disney is using its brand image and brand name,” he said. “That’s what they’re selling — Animal Kingdom, a new Disney park.” CAPTION(S):
DISNEY ANIMAL KINGDOM, Disney’s fourth theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., opens this week. Re-creation of an African savannah cost $800 million.
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