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A crash course on Disney



Published: Sat, April 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The visitors will use what they learn at Hong Kong Disneyland when it opens.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -- Five hundred Hong Kong visitors have landed in Orlando to learn about a foreign culture with a vocabulary and manners much different from the one they know.

The culture isn't American. It's Disney.

The Hong Kong natives, who will work at Hong Kong Disneyland when it opens later this year, will first get a crash course on Disney at the company's Florida theme parks, absorbing company facts and lore and adopting the Disney demeanor -- including a cheerful "have a magical day!" as they greet every park visitor.

International employees routinely work at Disney World, many as cultural representatives at the Epcot theme park, and managers and other leaders were brought to the U.S. Disney parks for training before opening Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. But Disney has never invited so many international trainees for schooling at one time.

Good experience

"It's critical," said Danni Mikler, manager of operations for Walt Disney World, where the 500 workers are being trained at the resort's four theme parks and 22 hotels. "When they go back, they're going to basically have to instill the culture in people who haven't had the opportunity to come here for training."

The trainees, who were selected from 5,000 applicants, arrived in January and leave in May. They're staying in Disney apartments that house workers in the college intern program and other international students.

In addition to a regular schedule of working in the parks, the Hong Kong workers are taking seminars on customer service, marketing, leadership and the history and philosophy behind Disney's entertainment empire. They're also learning the minutiae of greeting guests and keeping the parks clean.

The language

Among the Hong Kong workers' tasks is learning the language of Disney. Workers are called "cast members," and visitors are referred to as "guests." Special encounters at the theme parks are "magical moments." Disney workers don't go to work, they "put on a show."

They also are getting grounded in Disney's characters. Most Hong Kong denizens know Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, but they haven't heard of Stitch or Pocohantas.

The trainees are finding that the Disney way of doing things can be very different from what they're used to.

"Chinese culture is more conservative, and they're not that expressive about feelings," said Wynnie Poon, 29, imagining the response she'll get back home when she tells Disney visitors, "Have a magical day."

"People will say, 'Oh you're insane! You're crazy!'"

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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