Leading Article: Europe declines to take to Mickey

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The Independent Online
OH, TO BE a French intellectual in these days of decline for Euro Disney. Presented at the very gates of Paris with a target for cultural disdain unparalleled since the invasion of McDonald's, they will arch their eyebrows and deliver their subjunctives over a thousand ashtrays filled with Gitane stubs. For the Disney theme park transplanted to the verdant territory of Marne la Vallee, an affront to the unquiet spirits of Americophobe intellectuals and of painters who captured the local landscape, is in such deep trouble that it may close without the intervention of the banks or other investors. If it is not the 'cultural Chernobyl' of which one critic spoke, it certainly looks like financial meltdown.

Euro Disney's shareholders have been warned by the auditors that it would be unable to continue unless it could draw on new support from the international banks. The company lost about pounds 600m in the year to 30 September and is burdened with debts of some pounds 2.5bn. The Walt Disney Company of the United States has undertaken to keep financing the park, which is only 20 months old, until the spring. But if it decides to cut its losses and withdraw, the blow would be serious. There are some rays of light - discounts have lured tourists to Euro Disney's five hotels, the Christmas season has generated larger crowds, and tourist companies are confidently preparing brochures for next summer's influx. But the Walt Disney Company and the banks are wrangling over debts and liquidity. It all looks more like a ghastly caricature than a cheerful cartoon.

Is this not, then, vindication for those who would proudly uphold France's unique gifts to civilisation against the onrushing hordes of the fast-food industry, the purveyors of Madonna movies and the Anglo-Saxon conspirators of the Gatt? Is this not sweet proof that the French could remain impervious to a place populated by American fantasy creations, which declined, initially, to serve wine, and which could be seen as a classic example of cultural imperialism imposed by foreign finance?

Alas, it is not. Who are the faceless bankers so blithely profligate with their depositors' money, so woeful now in the face of reality? Well, most of the 60 syndicate banks and nearly 200,000 investors are of the same proud Gallic stock as those intellectuals who so reviled it.