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The Brazilian Dream of Disney: the Rumors and Realities about a Theme Park in Brazil

Recently, Brazil has been overwhelmed by a huge wave of rumors regarding the possible construction of a Disney park in a Jundiaí area, state of São Paulo. The catalyst for this frenzy was a video that went viral on social media, which ended up generating high hopes for Brazilians.

Like many other pieces of information that are not confirmable and spread rapidly nowadays, this video uses some concrete and verifiable facts as arguments (before reaching a dubious conclusion), such as the creation of the new tourist district of Serra Azul between São Paulo and Campinas, and several other realist plans for investment in hotels and other tourism infrastructure in that region. The video also mentions Disney's announcement of a mega investment of $60 billion to "expand and enhance" its parks division over the next ten years, and the hosting of the "D23" event, which for the first time will leave the US to be held in São Paulo.

The narrative presented is indeed strong and compelling, capable of leaving all of us with much hope. However, it's necessary to be cautious not to foster false expectations; first because Disney itself has appeared to say that it doesn't have plans, at this moment, to build a park in Latin America—although emphasizing the importance of this market to the company. Second, because this type of rumor isn't recent, being recycled from time to time.

Older waves of rumors

Throughout the decades, since the success of Disneyland, Brazilians have heard the rumor of having a Mickey Mouse park in their country for several times, only to see these hopes fade always over time. At least every ten years new stories emerge, which always spread rapidly, that the company is studying areas to begin structuring a park for the Brazilian and South American public. On at least one occasion, this may have been a reality. The book "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination," by Neal Gabler, recounts that Walt Disney himself became interested in visiting Brasília, then the new Brazilian capital, to investigate the possibility of building his second theme park there. Walt was passionate about urban planning and certainly was intrigued by the new concepts of the Brazilian capital and all the space available to be explored in the novel city, in addition to the central geographic position and stable climate offered by the capital. However, Disney continued his feasibility studies in the US and, after considering some cities (such as St. Louis), ended up launching the construction of his parks in Orlando, which were not completed before his death in 1966.

Walt Disney and Brazil

Walt Disney visited Brazil in the 1940s and had a particular fondness for the Brazilian audience, as well as a certain pride in the success his films in the country. In one of his early feature-length films, "Saludos Amigos," Walt Disney introduced the world to the character José Carioca, along with the melodies of Ary Barroso and the landscapes of Rio de Janeiro, which created such a striking image of Brazil in the American imagination that this image lasts to this day. The film is considered an important cultural bridge between the countries of South America and the USA—and its production was encouraged exactly for this purpose, during the period of World War II.

More recent rumors

Another historical moment that revied these rumors occurred in 2010 when the Disney Radio station was inaugurated in São Paulo, broadcasting on the frequency 91.3 MHz, in the FM band of São Paulo. At that time, there were backstage comments that the radio station would function as a kind of media anchor for the Disney conglomerate to strengthen ties with young people and help promote future park projects. More than a decade has passed, and again, this proved to be an entirely unfounded rumor. In 2019, newspapers even reported that Disney was really considering establishing itself in Sobradinho, in the Federal District. However, once again, nothing happened.

The dream lives on

The familiarity of the Brazilian public with Walt Disney's films and characters has always nurtured the burning desire to have in Brazil an attraction as great as Disneyland and Disney World. The Brazilian desire on this matter is proven true by the consistently large number of Brazilians who visit Orlando every year, always drawn by the magnetism of Disney parks. Moreover, the development of parks in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, and Shanghai makes the fans believe that the inauguration of a park in Brazilian quadrants may indeed be near.

Although the combination of all these factors is promising, it's important to maintain a balanced view and not get carried away by unrealistic expectations. The fact, mentioned earlier, that Disney has denied plans for the parks at this time dampens the spirits of Brazilians. However, for those who want to continue to hope, it may be useful to know that the company also claimed in the past not to have plans to build in Florida while buying land to do exactly that.

Let’s keep wishing upon a star.

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