Saudi Arabia: How About a Disney KSA?

I was curious whether Disney had a presence in the Middle East.  When I did a search for “Disney Arabia” I learned that there was a Disney Arabia  television channel.    I found it interesting that Disney has had a presence in China for more than 15 years with an emphasis on its consumer products.

Disney Parks and Resorts are the number one vacation and recreation choice for families all around the world.  Disney Hong Kong, Disney Tokyo and Disney Shanghai now have a solid presence in Asia.  Disney Paris is the presence in Europe. Could there be a possibility for a Disney Arabia?  Or better yet, a Disney KSA?

On the positive side, Matthew Grossman is the Disney VP of Corporate Communication for Europe, Middle East and Africa.  He is based out of London.  At least there is a focal point for Disney operations in the Middle East region.  He’d be the initial “go to” person.

Diego Lernier is the President of Disney Europe, Middle East and Africa.  He is the one with the responsibility to seek out new opportunities for Disney.

So why is there not a Disney Arabia?  Or better yet, a Disney KSA?  The GCC and the Saudi market in particular, is one of the most stable places to invest.  It’s no secret that Arabs are very family oriented and take great joy in making their children happy.  While there are small recreational parks in Saudi Arabia there is nothing similar to a theme park like Disney.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to open and expand its tourism industry.  The presence of a Disney KSA would bring tourists from across the GCC and probably Southeast Asia.  Disney by the Sea in a city such as Jeddah would be a successful and highly profitable venture.

  Children from across the GCC are aware of Disney.  When my stepchildren visited Abdullah and I while we were in the States they all wanted to go to Disney.  Now, years later, they still talk about their Disney holiday with fond memories and joy.

Why has Disney not moved on a viable and profitable market opportunity?

If anyone wishes to contact Disney, the point of contacts within the Corporate Communications department are:

Zenia Mucha
Corporate Communications
(818) 560-5300

Michelle Bergman

Matthew Grossman
44 (0) 20 8222 2023

Maria Lavalle
54 11 5777 7078


49 Responses

  1. Not. gonna. happen.

    Mickey Mouse is Satan’s soldier and should be killed.
    Mickey is topless.
    Donald has no pants.
    There is a porcine character.
    All characters sing, and DANCE.
    Some characters hold hands and KISS.
    The female characters wear skimpy outfits.
    Disneyland recently punished a Muslim for wearing hijab to work.
    Disney is known to support gays and lesbians.
    It’s a western conspiracy theory.

    Saudis don’t want western immoral values instilled in their children.

  2. Hyeah, I can just see the Mutaween chasing down Snow White, or would she wear Hijab and Abaya? I think that Disneyland KSA would look very different than the one in Orange county. LOL

    The other thing is that Saudia would have to allow people in who are not Muslim. Maybe they could establish a 50 Mile square International Zone?

    I am sure that due to the extreme heat, engineering issues would be quite troublesome too.

    I wish them well. Who knows, maybe Disney could pull them out of the dark ages where the oil couldn’t.

  3. I agree with the above people. There is too much in Disney that Saudi’s would find offensive.

  4. Westerns really don’t want Islam’s immoral values instilled in their children either.

  5. Not possible!
    Maybe in some UAE country but never KSA.
    There are wayyyyy tooooo many cultural differences. Look at a park after a family’s done with “picnic” , it’s ridiculously filthy!
    Here in KSA people still don’t know the use of trash cans , imagine something like Disney? They may need to hire 5000 plus cleaners to pick up after these kids and, as a matter of fact, their parents!!
    Moreover, just yesterday, a 5 years old girl with her group of “””girl friends””” refused to play with my 4 years old son. And I said , why? He is a good boy, he would like to play with you, ( with a big big smile””” and trying to understand the reason why she was being so mean.
    She simply replied : ” he is a boy! I don’t play with boys!”
    I swear , if it wasn’t for religious reason, I wouldn’t be sitting here.
    And even that said, we now realize, religion can be practiced even better back home in USA
    Teaching your children the “””real””” Islamic values, not what their cultural imposes here in KSA .

  6. It would be more successful in the Emirates, maybe in Dubai. It would make more sense if it were in the Emirates, it’s open to everyone, visas are easy to get and many people from the GCC go on vacation there too.

    @ Amina Once I’ve seen a little girl pulled away from the park because she was playing in the sand with my two boys. But all the other times I see girls and boys playing together, even girls asking my little guys if they would play with them. But there are some strange people out there in the world.

  7. I was requested to contact Disney about having a Disney KSA and received an email declining stating that they are too busy with other countries. cruise ships and TV shows. And then the cultural issues it would present. The Saudi women have been complaining about the current entertainment parks not being safe or up to date and would love to have a DisneyLand. They hold the Janadriya Festival yearly and over 3 million Saudi families attended in the 30 day period. I am sure that these things could be worked out and it would be a big success for the GCC as a lot of families in the GCC would visit. After all the Mayor of Riyadh is openly calling for movie theatres to be built in Saudi and it is gaining traction with the people.

  8. Wasn’t it a Saudi sheikh who issued the infamous “Death to Mickey Mouse!” fatwa a few years back? I just don’t think a KSA Disney park would work very well.

    It’s not a bad idea in the UAE, but from what I’ve seen of the region’s safety standards, I’d be reluctant to go on the roller coasters, even though they’re my favorite part of amusement parks in the US.

  9. Yes it’s a sheikh who stated that Mickey is satans soldier and should be killed..

    There’s just way too many “issues” the fanatics here would have with Disney for it to ever be approved by religious establishment.

    Emirates would work though!

    P.S there are many western converts here who think all things Disney are haram too.
    Some people just like to rule out any type of fun from their own and their childrens lives..

  10. And who could ride the attractions safely, Not the women, not the men unless they wanted to wear Western styles.

  11. I think a disney dubai would work very well.. and people in KSa could go there easily ( that is those that don’t mind seeing a skimpy mickey mouse )

    I wonder why they didn’t do that yet.

    I wouldn’t risk an investment of anything remotely like an amusement park in KSA, thats simply not the place, its not a fun country, the people are fun but the cultural rules are too many.

  12. Re: Fatwa on Mickey-Mouse-must-die

    There are extremist “mullahs” in all faiths/religions. Remember “Imam”
    Jerry Falwell?

    In 1999, Falwell issued his own “fatwa” on the very popular Telebubbies children program, for children under the age of 3, declaring it “haram”. He especially unleashed his wrath and fury on the purple one named Tinky Winky …. a cuddly, cooing, antenna-topped character, of ”modeling the gay life style.”

  13. Western immoral values? How about Islam immoral values? We don’t that hear in the states either..

  14. I’m sorry but it people can look at mini and mickey and think anything but fun for children, they are a little Skimpy clothes? They are disney characters…my goodness.

  15. I’m surprised by all the negative comments and do not agree. I think a Disney in Jeddah could work and be successful. I can assure you that Saudi children do like the Disney characters and a great many of them have various Disney movie videos.

    I’d really like to hear some of the views from Saudi readers.

  16. Are you hallucinating, Carol??? KSA would never allow the characters to be themselves, dress as themselves and I would hope with all my heart and soul that Disney would never bow to restrictions.

  17. I can’t imagine it in Saudi- I hope it is never attempted. Can you imagine what the poor Disney Princesses would go through? Maybe Qatar or the Emirates. I think it’s best outside the Arab world. It’s too western.

  18. When you look at the successes Disney has had in the Asian world, particularly Shanghai, I think that Disney could have a successful theme park in KSA too.

    I’m not kidding. I am serious. Of course there would be a number of “wrinkles to iron out” but that could be done.

    Jeddah or perhaps Damman would make great locations as sea side cities which are more open and with larger number of expats.

  19. I don’t think Jeddah is open enough- and certainly the laws and regulations are not. Just the issue of the Disney princesses is problematic enough to make it unworkable. They wouldn’t be able to have parades or their shows like Fantasmic- women as performers, or costume charactars would be out. I hope Disney would never compromise so much. And I would find it unbelievably depressing to see a Disney where all the women have to walk around go on rides etc. in abayas. The magic would be gone.

  20. The music, the dancing, the laughter …. the segregation. Carol, seriously????

  21. What are ”Disney Princesses”?

  22. Disney Princesses- Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Princess Jasmine, Pocahantus, the Little Mermaid- can you see them walking around greeting guests and dancing in Parades in Abayas? Or being harassed by the men? Do that in the US and you end up in Securityland.

  23. @Aafke – oh you poor poor woman 🙂 If i had known of your ignorance i would have given you my then 5yr old fanatic daughter to educate you on them princesses. alas she’s too old now..

  24. Once again AB scores with the wild crowd. Who would have thought about putting Donald Duck in Arabia except Carol!

    Actually Donald is not a very nice guy. He has a bad temper, doesn’t have a job, has been lying to poor Daisy for about 70 years and, as stated above, wears no pants.

    The idea of a Disney park in the Middle East is great, even if there are immense problems. Egypt, because of its large population, would be a possible site. Other Gulf countries might jump at the possibility, particularly if they don’t have oil.

    There are, however, serious problems in reconciling Disney and Muslim culture, either ‘moderate’ or radical.

    Yeah, snow white in a burka! Maybe an “Arabian Nights” theme park would be a better idea. I guess the real question is how would TinkerBell fly in a hajib?

  25. Come on! I ahve never been to Disney land, and when I googled the Disney princesses I only got cartoons! Ok so they dress up some pretty girls as the princesses, and they dance around.
    Is not going to happen.
    Not even in an abaya and niqab.
    Donald Duck visits and hangs around with Daisy, Khulwa!
    I don’t know about Mickey Mouse, I’ve seen a Palestinian tv program where Mickey tells the little tots how great it is to become a suicide bomber.

    Maybe they could have a segregated Disney land, with the best run part for the men, and all the male characters, and the dump in the back for the women, and all the princesses could tell the girls how great it is to be wearing abayas, and how they should not do sports, and how they should always obey their master.
    And then every evening they could have a public lashing of Daisy for carrying on with two male ducks, Donald and the other one (don’t know his name in English). You know, to teach the girls a lesson, education and entertainment combined.

  26. I know they can instill the conservatives values into the girls by showing them old men marrying young girls, and then have three other young girls hidden in the background and each do not no of each other. Then showing them being divorced and given back to their previous owners ie father, brother or other male relative without their children and only three months of support who are now used and not wanted by other men. They can ensure that they are taught that they are bound to the house, hiding their awrah away (dirty sinful them), and ensured to be house bound due to movement restrictions.

    Ah, yes the Islamic values they can teach their female children.

    Disney could open a whole new chapter for instilling Islam values of male hound dogs and female prisoners. They can even show how to hunt down witches, apostates and thieves to ensure that they instill the islamic justice and fair play to all children. They can even show boys how to properly deal with their infant brides by demostrating thighing in a cartoon fashion to best protect those infants. Oh my, those Islamic values can be imprinted on children in a disney like fashion to ensure proper understanding and discipline.

    Remember this has all been sanction as the Islamic way by the Senior Cleric of Saudi. Child brides, baby brides, beatings, death and dismemberment.

    Oh those family values. Got to love them. 🙂

  27. Aafke:

    Snow white, Sleeping Beauty, Aerial (The mermaid), Jasimine, Bell (Beauty of Beast), Rapunsel (I think), Cinderella.

    I have a young daughter major into the princesses especially Rapunsel.

  28. I continue to stand by my view. With the appropriate Royal backing, a Disney theme park, sans Muttawa, could happen.

    Disney is clean, old fashioned, family fun. It is part of what Saudi needs.

    I know everyone that spoke up with negative views could also turn that around and make a positive suggestion.

    I see that a Disney park may not have everything that either Orlando or LA has but it can have enough to be a blazing success. Also, think of all the jobs it would open up for both expats and Saudis.

  29. So sorry will have to disagree , “”maafi Disneyland in KSA”” 😉
    KSA has a lonnnnnnnng way to go.
    Just visited Jeddah and fair this weekend, beautiful cities with lots and lots of parks , and seems like there are tons of “”fairs”” all year around.
    Good , great for them!
    But is KSA , royal backing or not, it won’t happen.

  30. Can’t they do it without characters? I think it would be brilliant provided that it empties from any cultural imperialist agendas. People will love theme park especially if it is large one similar to these large theme parks in America. This is from normal saudi point of view, but from an investor point of view I don’t think it is profitable. disney paris struggle for long tim to gain profits, and it is in Paris!

    Also establishing such a project in saudi could take at least two centuries with all the red tapes and the corruption in the current business environment. One solution could be to include the King as a partner in the project. This will open the doors and the red carpet will be rolled out.

    Many people in Arabia want to invest in the country but the level of corruption is unbelievable. And normal people know about the horror stories that happened to saudis investors. Now there is twitter and people exchange these stories. Huge capital emigrate from saudi to other countries due to the unhealthy business environment. Last year it was more than 100 billion saudi riyals which transferred by saudi business men outside saudi arabia. This issue is huge and people talk about it, and could have major consequences. The foreign media seems unaware of this when covering Saudi Arabia.

    Just to clear something, amusement parks are mixed in Arabia, and families can go together.

  31. Well Carol I usually like to try and find the positive side to things, but KSA Disney is just too far fetched. The religious establishment is too powerful over the royal family. The issues these extremists have (which I listed above) with Disney are too many and too “serious” to ever be accepted here, and that is just a plain fact.

    If they don’t even allow movie theatres, how will they allow this?

    However what I do think they should try here is building a large family amusement park, not like the ones they have now which are far from any international standards..But something really well planned and with the newest rides and try to have at least one “world’s fastest/longest/tallest rollercoaster there to draw attention to it.
    Some of the amusement parks here are ok, but they could be so much better!! The rides are mostly old and only for small children, nothing really interesting.
    I never understood why they don’t have theme parks such as Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World or Dubai’s Atlantis waterpark in KSA..

  32. Laylah, I agree. An improved standard of amusement parks is what is needed. We had a water slide near us for a while. Of course only boys could use it. Sigh.

    Carol, I do not doubt a fortune could be made at a “modified” Disney here. But it really wouldn’t be Disney then. And I think the Disney brand would suffer if they lowered their standards in that manner. They would certainly lose respect from me. If Saudi wants Disney- they should create a culture that would welcome it- not strip it down. If that isn’t their culture- then they can do without. The world shouldn’t cater to them.

  33. i would only question the maintenance quality of the park rides since it would be a massive size park. many rides to maintain. disneyland rides are constantly being maintenanced. i think if they just build the park with the same attitude as they did kaust, only for different desires ‘entertainment for families,not education,’ then people will baulk for a short period of time, then good luck trying to get on a ride in less than an hour.

    what is wrong with you you always are so unhappy in your writing. writing negative is fine, but redundant comments starts to feel like a black cloud over the blog. give some ‘ah, light bulb clicks info.’ whether negative or not, at least let us get some kind of useful info from you. you write like you were abused by a saudi. gia

  34. Carol you mention that the children would love Disney what child would not but what make Disney Parks so great is that adults love the parks too. Restriction I believe would be too great because it is dangerous to go on most attractions wearing an Abayas.

  35. IF, IF, I would ever get the chance to visit Saudi Arabia, I would go to Jeddah Disney, just because I am certain that Disney would make sure all ride safety measures are up to date. Though I wonder how the FAST PASS for bypassing the ride’s line would work in a place where the concept of lines and taking turns is a foreign concept.

  36. The other thing to think about is that a Disneyland would need a huge tourism base to be supported. People can’t easily travel to KSA so the real magic kingdom would suffer financially unless KSA opens it’s doors.
    It is always fun to dream, Carol. Maybe in 50 years from now it might be possible. Things seem to be at a turning point in the ME countries so life with either get much more free or much more repressed. In 50 years it could happen if we all think positively. I’m afraid I’m not an optimist though.

  37. Gia:

    No, I just don’t want the he## that is Saudi going beyond it borders. Currently with the way things are going and the pushing back of secularist in Saudi by the Conservative. I just don’t see a happy little place for children. It is a he@@ already for the adults.

    So a cute little theme park in such a sex objectifing country that sees sex everywhere and the spread of western fun such as wholesome family fun in which everyone including women can have fun and be free to do so in a non-sexual way is beyond Saudi’s grasp of understanding. Basically Saudi is the killjoy to life, fun, humanity, etc.

    Truth just hurts. Saudi is not going to be ready for a Disney during my lifetime. They are just a human rights violation in the continually making.

    Besides this is best for the women. They might get their black awrah sacks caught on a ride and be hurt, killed or maimed. I am sure that no man will assist them as they might be seen without the sacks. You know like the girls school situation back in 2002. Remember.

  38. Actually, when thinking more, a place like Abha with all of its luscious green would make an ideal location for a theme park.

    I find it interesting that many bring up the rides when talking about Disney. I actually enjoyed the other (non-ride) features best when I went to Disney…but that’s just me.

  39. I don’t think that is even possible even for items of non-rides. Image a family in a virtual theater of sorts where you feel like you going on a ride or flying in space of course this also applies to regular theaters. However now you have no curtains everywhere to seperate the families because it is not possile to engineer this obsurd requirement. Then some saudi male who is incapable of controlling himself might see some female hair and all of a sudden he becomes a raving rabid sex maniac dog drooling at the mouth and frothing. The morality police are then called in only to tranquilize the rabid saudi male dog then arresting the offending sinful female for her unleashing her awrah thereby creating an instability within the saudi male neanderthal.

    Nay, I just don’t see it. 🙂

  40. bigstick1

    you are so funny. your sense of humour amazing. I was depressed all day until reading your jokes hahaha.

  41. Snowman:

    Glad to entertain you with the absurdity that is Saudi Arabia. 🙂

  42. YEAH, thats what Saudi needs! I always said this place needs a Ministry of Entertainment. After all, why is it that all the Saudis celebrate Saudi National Day by leaving the country to enjoy the time somewhere else, because there is no entertainment here but shopping and restuarants.
    I am not so sure how the political aspect would work since Mickey Mouse has been the number one write-in on America’s election ballots for decades.

  43. Never in a million years would a Disney park fly in Saudi, and here are just a few quick reasons:

    A) Disney properties bill themselves as the “Happiest Place on Earth” – clearly Saudi Arabia does not qualify;
    B) People – and yes, that includes women – would laugh and have fun – in public! Very haram!;
    C) Girls and women might “lose their virginity” by the very act of going on park rides. I mean, if it can happen in gym class, it sure can happen on a flying elephant, right?
    D) Hia’a – nuf said
    E) Disney princesses do not cover and are terrible role models
    F) There are not enough cleaning guys in the world to keep a Disney park up to Disney standards in a land where people refuse to use garbage cans and still toss McDonald bags out their car windows.
    G) Exposure to all that imagination might spark new and dangerous ideas
    And finally
    H) Lines. Can you even imagine?!?

    Thanks for the laugh, Carol 🙂

  44. I have to agree, wouldn’t work very well in the KSA. I’d say to move it south a bit, either UAE or even better, Qatar.
    After 5 years in Qatar, I can say with some authority, they want to be viewed as “Dubai on a budget”. 😉

  45. Yes it could be great to have Disney in KSA, but unfortunately I think this is not in the projects of Saudi investors.

  46. I am from ksa and i wish wh have something like that ): and i dont now how i speak english hahah sory )) but we are like you ! We love you !

  47. They already have their version of Disney World – it’s called Mecca!

  48. That isn’t anything like Disney!
    It’s more like a three ring circus.

  49. I was a Indian and I was living in Saudi Arabia with my parents I love disney especially disney princess I think it’s a good idea in Saudi Arabia there is no disney toys or anything at least you should make a disney store in KSA please.

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