Coaster Kingdom


This topic suggested by 'Banana':

" The 'Starbucks' effect - The result of mass-market theme park chains arriving in Europe, and how they failed to capture our imaginations "

They came. They saw. They conquered. And all we did was to roll out the welcome mat.

If you fancy a Caramel Macchiato or a Frappuccino Light, you can go about your life safe in the knowledge that you are probably no further than walking distance from a Starbucks.

So, what is the ‘Starbucks Effect’, and more to the point, what has it got to do with theme parks?

Well, while McDonalds has become synonymous with America’s ad hock society of convenience, so too have other brands such as Starbucks and Subway.

Starbucks generic

Starbucks without a queue. Not pictured, Disneyland Paris, also lacking queues.

While many bemoan Maccy Dee, Burger King and their ilk, our custom has fertilized the almost bacterial growth of coffee shops and fast food restaurants around Europe. Whatever benefits society reaps out of these establishments, you will notice that quaint coffee shops and restaurants are being pushed aside, with the culture Europe prides itself being painted in a shades of stars and stripes.

European theme parks are as diverse as the countries they’re in. Efteling has become somewhat a national institution in the Netherlands, while Pleasure Beach Blackpool has a distinctive – if kitsch – charm that personifies the Golden Mile.

Yet, Europeans yearn for the day when they can enjoy their little bit of American theme park culture without having to fly seven hours for the privilege. Identifying this niche, the Mouse set up shop outside Paris in 1992, and the Starbucks effect continued with Premier Parks – now Six Flags – taking over seven parks in the heart of Europe, before expanding with the opening of Movie World Madrid.

Yet, bringing the essence of yank closer didn’t always work to the Americans’ advantage – not by a long way.

The arrival of Disney in Europe showed us one thing – market research is overrated. Not only was the park built in a country with notorious resistance to American culture, it had too many hotels, too many shows and not enough thrill rides.

Newport Bay Club, Disneyland Resort Paris

A big hotel for a big park with a big problem - big hotels.

What followed was an uncomfortable period of reinvention. With attendance well below that projected, the park needed to capture peoples’ imaginations and appeal to the target audience it had so poorly misjudged.

This isn’t to say that Disney are lumbering oafs with no appreciation of local culture. The poor weather in France was acknowledged with much of the park undercover, and Haunted Mansion became Phantom Manor, a ride that works on a much subtler level with an artistic flair not found on the American counterparts.

Discoveryland is another example. While the American version, Tomorrowland, celebrates the future, Discoveryland realises Jules Verne’s vision of the future using a colourful palette of greens and golds in an area which just oozes quality and neatly sidesteps the easily dated style that the American parks use. Continues...

Coaster Kingdom Magazine
Issue 07: Jun 2005

Issue 07
The Starbucks Effect
How the multinationals missed the boat