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Disneyland news from around the world

In March, Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd said it was interested in participating in a proposed project to build a Disney theme park in Hong Kong, but it depended on the outcome of talks between the government and Walt Disney Co. . . In Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World officials said they expected more people than ever to flock to its sprawling Orlando theme park complex, after a 1998 performance that many industry analysts described as mixed. Year in and year out, Disney World proves to be the most popular tourist attraction on the planet. The Orlando complex's four theme parks -- Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom -- individually are among the 10 most popular theme parks in the world. But industry analysts noted a 1998 drop off at all Disneyparks except Animal Kingdom, which only opened last March. The company does not release attendance figures, but industry sources have estimated that with about 42 million people visiting Disney's Florida parks in 1998, attendance at the three older parks was off 8-10 percent. Some of the decline was blamed on weather and wildfires in central Florida. June was the hottest month ever recorded in Florida, and fires last summer burned about 500,000 acres, at one point closing a 200 mile stretch of Interstate 95 that feeds traffic into Disney World. . . In April, Euro Disney said that negotiations were continuing with the French authorities on a plan to open a second theme park in France. An agreement on the second park, to be built on the same site as the first in Marne-la-Vallee east of Paris, could be signed in the next few weeks or months, a Euro Disney spokesman said. A deal had been expected on April 15, with an eye to opening the new park in 2002, just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Euro Disney. "We are in the final phase of the negotiations," the spokesman said, adding that the 2002 goal remained the "ideal" date. A second park had been envisaged in an agreement that Euro Disney made with French authorities in 1987. The project was shelved in 1993 as Euro Disney struggled with mounting debt, but was revived last year. The Disney formula calls for clusters of two or more theme parks that boost the time and money visitors spend there. The Marne-la-Vallee site already includes a convention center, a film complex and hotels. An international shopping center now under construction is due to open in 2000. . . Meanwhile, Euro Disney announced a widening loss in the first half, blaming an expected rise in charges after a financial restructuring and a partial resumption of royalties to The Walt Disney Co. The company reported a net loss of 45.3 million euros (1 euro = US$1.03) for the six-month period ending on March 31, versus a loss of 31.3 million euros for the same year-earlier period. . .

On May 28, the Main Street Electrical Parade made its debut at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The parade was first brought to life at Disneyland in Anaheim, California from 1972 to 1996 for a total of almost 3,600 performances before 75 million guests. The preview party was attended by 5,000 Floridians and celebrity guests including actors LeVar Burton, Lacey Chabert, Carrie Fisher, Jonathan Lipnicki and Judge Reinhold. Longtime Walt Disney World fans may recall a version of the Main Street Electrical Parade that performed at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom beginning in 1977, and which bid farewell after 15 seasons to begin an engagement at Euro Disney. Fans of that parade will recognize some of the units of the original Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade, includingthe Blue Fairy from Pinocchio as the "grand marshal." However, there's also plenty of new surprises in the 26 unit procession that travels the 3/4 mile Magic Kingdom parade route at Walt Disney World. They include: Dopey who heralds a segment celebrating Snow White, driving a train load of shimmering gems; Peter Pan and Captain Hook dueling on the deck of a pirate ship while Tinker Bell floats above; and butterflies and dragonflies joining the critters dancing and spinning around Alice as she enjoys a different kind of wonderland. With the arrival of the Main Street Electrical Parade at Walt Disney World Resort, another spectacle of nighttime lights and music, SpectroMagic, ends an engagement that began in 1992.

In the December 1998 issue of Animation World Magazine Joe Szadkowski wrote about Animal Kingdom in "The Mouse's Wild Side: Disney's New Animal Kingdom", and Katie Mason wrote about the early days of Disneyland in "DisneyLand: From Dream to Reality".