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US-Style Amusement Parks Draw Crowds, Criticism in France - 2002-03-16

Europe's second Disneyland theme park opens outside Paris Saturday. Despite criticism that such American-style parks are undermining France's cultural heritage, they are becoming more and more popular in France.

The opening of a second Disneyland theme park east of Paris coincides with the 10th anniversary of the first park, which is located right next door. That park has been a hit for the French company Euro Disney, attracting 12.5 million people last year - almost twice the number of people who visited the Eiffel Tower last year.

Dominique Coquet, one of the directors of Euro Disney, says the company hopes the two parks together will bring in up to 19 million visitors a year.

In an interview on French radio, he said the second park will be dedicated to movies, with a focus on French and European productions.

The Euro Disney parks - which are partly owned by America's Walt Disney company - are not the only theme parks in France. In February, a park dedicated to volcanos opened in the town of Auvergne. Today, almost a dozen theme parks are sprinkled throughout the country.

But not everybody is happy with American-inspired parks. Many French view them as another example of globalization, which has many enemies in France. A few years ago, a French farmer, Jose Bovo, became a national celebrity when he drove his tractor into a McDonald's restaurant.

But Mr. Coquet says Euro Disney poses no threat to France. In fact, he says, its parks and hotels will develop the economy of the surrounding Marne-la-Vallee region. He said thousands of new jobs have already been created.