International Censorship in Disney Theme Parks Runs Rampant

in Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, Travel

Censorship at Disney theme parks and in television as Buzz and Andy watch the castle

Credit: Disney

Disney. It’s a word and a world unto itself, and that’s why so many people assume that there is an international standard. This is not true. Censorship in Disney theme parks is dark and pernicious, showing up in a surprising number of global getaways.

Disney Youth Programs at Shanghai Disney Resort as censorship at Disney parks makes an impact
Credit: Disney

According to the official Disney Shanghai website, “The dream of the Walt Disney Company is alive and well at Shanghai Disney Resort. Quite unlike any other Disney property on the planet, Shanghai Disney Resort prides itself on offering a culturally distinct experience—imagined especially for China and designed for Guests of every kind.”

Disney shanghai family at a restaurant as censorship at Disney theme parks and productions increases
Credit: Disney

The Shanghai resort clearly distinguishes its experience for a specific set of visitors. This is discrimination—a type of judgment that assesses the demand curve and says which attractions work, and where.

While Robert Iger might be on record, as ‘taking exception to China’s media rules,’ Disney still does a lot of business in Shanghai and Hong Kong. After the reopening post-COVID, attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland saw revenue increases of 31%, most of which was from domestic visitors, those whose national media is actively censored.

'Marvel' Season of Super Heroes - The Power of Fun in Hong Kong Disneyland
Credit: Disney

But this doesn’t mean that guests everywhere aren’t being censored. Any visit to a theme park means a different experience. That’s part of what makes Disney so special as an international attraction. However, when it comes to Shanghai and Hong Kong locations, clear, and ethically questionable censorship rules are clear, and ethically-questionable censorship rules at play.

The issue has deep roots, revealing itself through small things. Films like Strange World hop over anywhere that LGBTQ+ content is banned. And if Disney, a company with powerful international reach’ isn’t actively fighting censorship, it almost seems impossible to create true inclusion for future generations.

Scene from Disney 'Luca'
Credit: Disney

But there’s still a little imagination. NGOs like GayOut and its Shanghai Pride celebration seem to keep fighting. Per the organization, in 2019 the government banned a host of LGBTQ+ accounts and censored television, amongst other things. The result was Shanghai facing ‘increased scrutiny and pressure from authorities.

Censorship in Disney Theme Parks: Comedy, Attractions, and More

The cultural distinction in the phrasing on the official site can easily fall under categories that lead to censorship in Disney theme parks. If LGBTQ+ acts are illegal, then so is any representation thereof. It’s an increasing trend, with more Floridian pressure to put censorship on Disney theme parks in the United States. But recent projections show that Disney World is about to lose literal thousands of guests after recent cancelations.

Real people lie behind the news. Active censorship from Disney at theme parks or online means deleting content about forced labor camps or eliminating a popular Spiderman film for the content it depicts. The idea challenges the very thought of free speech. It’s gone so far that comedians in China have faced a $2 million fine for one single joke.

Scene from 'Mulan'
Credit: Disney

So, while Hong Kong Disneyland breaks attendance records, some pieces, there are pieces that go unseen, deleted, and forgotten. Disneyland Shanghai is right alongside the rest of the locations slated to increase prices. So clearly some things appear unilateral.

Other Disney decisions, like the representation of critical historic events, seem to vary based on the law of the land. Whether it’s a matter of cultural respect, jurisdictional authority, or simply wrong, censorship in Disney theme parks and content is clearly on the rise.

What do you think about censorship in Disney theme parks? Have you seen it firsthand? Share your stories in the comments below and help shine a light on censorship!

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