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Global Economy

Live where Mickey Mouse is at home

Meet Mickey Mouse in the morning while getting bread rolls and have Donald Duck as a neighbor? At least the latest Disney project called "Storyliving" arouses such associations. "One likes to dream big and try to tell the story in a new way," promises Josh D'Amaro, Disney's head of theme parks division.

In a promotional film and a statement, it is said that the group is planning several residential parks that should have a connection to the Disney world. The look of the villages ranges from a tame 1950s American town with green front yards and white fences to a hotel resort with a blue lagoon fringed by palm trees, according to Helen Pak, Disney's vice president of marketing. When it comes to the target group, the US company not only thinks of children, but also of people who are older than 55.

"It will be spectacular"

The first settlement of this kind is to be built in Rancho Mirage in the Coachella Valley – that's in the middle of the Californian desert, a good two hours from Los Angeles. The area is known for the annual Coachella Music Festival.

Rancho Mirage Mayor Ted Weill is thrilled. "The word 'outstanding' is an understatement. It's going to be a great story on a great piece of land," Weill said on local television. "It's the largest project in the city with 1,700 apartments, 400 hotel rooms, a beach club and a lagoon to swim in. It's going to be spectacular!"

The small town with less than 20,000 inhabitants is hoping for an economic boost from entertainment giant Disney. Because the 340-football-field-large residential complex has to be built – in addition, numerous service workers will probably be needed if the settlement is to offer more than just a place to live. According to Disney, external visitors should also be able to purchase day tickets.

Local residents worry about increasing tourism

A concern of local residents is the problem of too much traffic and tourism for the small town. And some people also have concerns about the planned swimming lagoon, says Mayor Weill. "The question arises: a blue-green lagoon to swim in in the middle of the desert? And while California is suffering from a drought – isn't that a problem?" The local water authority gave the green light. "And Disney is building this lagoon in such a way that there shouldn't be any outflow of water, everything will be recycled, it will be very sustainable," says Weill.

Some Florida residents have already learned that the Disney dream can turn into a nightmare. In 1996, Disney built a condominium called "Celebration" there, modeled on a small American town. Soon the first residents were complaining about leaky roofs and moldy walls. The settlement has been owned by a private investment company since 2004 – many residents complain that the situation has worsened since then.

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