Saturday, January 21, 2012

The French Do Not Understand What a Theme Park Is – Napoleon is Not Mickey Mouse

Another Reason to Worry About the Future of Europe.

It turns out that the largest employer in one region of France is Disney World.  Really, it is.

THE biggest employer and taxpayer in the region of Seine-et-Marne is Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992, amid howls from French intellectuals about a “cultural Chernobyl”.

So in order to either counteract this invasion of foreign culture, or in order to leverage off the success of Disneyland the region is embarking on a competing theme park.  Now that is probably a very good idea, except, the theme of this theme park is going to be, wait for it, Napoleon. 

Now this will certainly return the theme park business to French themes.  But using the Emperor as a source of inspiration doesn’t seem to fit the theme park motif.  Exactly how does one build rides based on, for example, the campaign against Russia by the French, one of the most horrific military adventures ever. 

But the French are not to be deterred.

Napoleonland will have the usual hotels, shops and restaurants. Harder to design are the activities and rides. This year marks the bicentenary of Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign. Even this tragic story could become an attraction, reckons Mr Jégo.

And there are some skeletons, so to speak (other than the hundreds of thousands of skeletons from the military campaign) in Mr. Napoleon’s closet.

In 2005 the government boycotted the bicentenary of his victory at Austerlitz amid protests over his reintroduction of slavery in the French West Indies.

And maybe the Park will not be completely French.

Mr Jégo’s team must raise some €200m ($255m) for the park, with construction planned to start in 2014. Russian and Middle Eastern investors are interested.

But never mind, if things work out the French will all be enjoying the “joie de vivre” of a leader who, if memory serves us correctly, is the very embodiment of Waterloo.

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