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Bumpy ride for the mouse

Crowds cramp Disneyland's style in H.K. trial run

Not many people over the age of 14 actually admit to liking Disney products — however many they buy.

Now, the same high-minded scorn has emerged in Hong Kong, where it’s fashionable to criticize the launch of Hong Kong Disneyland.

Park-keepers have been accused of everything from damaging the environment to exploiting Chinese workers — not the kind of things that Hong Kongers normally bat an eyelid at doing themselves.

But this past week, mixed with the derision has been a note of genuine concern.

The recent full-scale charity-day dress rehearsal — in which the park operated at maximum capacity of 30,000 visitors — was a worrying mess.

Hong Kongers are used to small spaces and dense crowds, but the resulting squeeze was widely reported in all the local media. Wet weather, broken-down subway trains and painfully long queues for rides and food were met with humble pie and lessons-learned statements from the Mouseketeers. Local parliamentarians demanded Disney cut capacity to 20,000 a day.

They have every reason to be concerned.

Were this park — unthinkably — to fail, it would be a disaster for the Hong Kong government, which is the park’s majority owner. So too for the region’s shopkeepers and hoteliers, who are counting on Disneyland to drive tourist numbers.

The park said Sept. 8 it won’t cut its daily capacity of 30,000 people despite the complaints. Disney spokeswoman Esther Wong was quoted as saying the company is “confident we can manage peak day attendance in the future.”

Earlier, Disney said it was considering extending opening hours and adding more shows at the park, which officially opens Sept. 12.

Mouse execs and local officials are praying at the shrine of Mickey that the first performance goes better than the dress rehearsal.

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