Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 01 – The Entertainment Prince (Philippe GAS, Disney Shanghai Resort)

Oscar Fuchs
Philippe Gas was the President of the Shanghai Disney Resort. We talked about his experiences at the park, from the tail-end of the construction phase to the operational phase.
Oscar Fuchs

Listen Here

Original Date of Release: 13 Aug 2019.

Philippe Gas was the President of the Shanghai Disney Resort. We talked about his experiences at the park, from the tail-end of the construction phase to the operational phase.



PG: A few of the actors, including Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) wanted after the Premiere to have a chance to do a few rides. And I thought this is… it was gonna be a riot. I mean, this guy is amazingly popular, Tom Holland same thing.

Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 01 – The Entertainment Prince (Philippe GAS, Disney Shanghai Resort)


OF: Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. When all of their stories are pieced together, they form a Mosaic of China. I'm your host Oscar Fuchs.

In today's episode, the first in Season 01, I talked with Philippe Gas, who at the time of recording was the President and General Manager of the Shanghai Disney Resort. Philippe is one of the most charming business leaders I've met. And in this interview, we talk about his experiences in the five or so years that he's been with Shanghai Disneyland, from the tail-end of the construction phase to today, where the park has been open for around three years. Among other things, we talk about how Philippe managed local and international stakeholders; about the Chinese consumer and their tastes on everything from Snow White to Star Wars; and most importantly, how the Disney organisation has itself managed to adapt to the needs of the China market.

Since this is Episode 01, let me quickly explain the format of the interview. There are three parts. The first part is just a two-way conversation. But it starts with the guest introducing an object that in some way describes their life in China. In the second part, I ask every guest the same 10 China-related questions, all on the theme of their personal experiences, tastes and opinions. And then in the final part, the guest recommends someone for me to talk to in the next season of Mosaic of China, which I'll be starting to record in the autumn of 2019. So back to today's interview, Philippe and I recorded this in my apartment in Shanghai, so the sound quality isn't as good as the interviews that I've done in the studio. But it won't distract you from what I hope is otherwise a great conversation.

[Part 1]

OF: Well, thank you very much for coming Philippe. I'm sitting here with Philippe Gas, who is the President and General Manager of Shanghai Disney Resort.

PG: Good morning.

OF: Good morning to you. And you've now been in Disney for how long? It's been..

PG: I have been with the Walt Disney Company for almost 28 years. So a long time, a lifetime.

OF: Wow, well we'll get onto that. But first of all, as you know, the first question I ask everyone on this podcast is, tell me about the object. What object have you brought in today?

PG: So it's not really an object, it's a picture. And it has to do with my arrival in China, and all the anxiety I could have, given the immensity of the task that I was given. And it was something that our CEO Bob Iger was always repeating and repeating. He wanted Shanghai Disney Resort to be authentically Disney, but distinctly Chinese. And I received as a matter of fact, a few days after I arrived here, a picture of Mickey Mouse, a plush of Mickey Mouse, on the Great Wall of China. And first of all, it's a beautiful picture, because The Great Wall is a beautiful monument and a masterpiece of what China can deliver. But it was for me the perfect combination of what I was here to do. Something very Disney, but respectful of the culture of China, and embracing China.

OF: Well, that's a great starting point. And at what point in the long project, which was the whole building of Shanghai Disneyland, at what point did you physically come into China?

PG: I arrived approximately two years before the park opened. So just at a time where we were in very intense discussions with our government partner on what will be the date of the opening. Because you know, it's a very important thing. Once you say what date it is, you have to open that day, no matter what happens. So it was really the first thing I had to do, was to be involved and work with the government on what that date would be. Two years before the opening, approximately.

OF: Did you stick to that date, then ultimately?

PG: Well, it took us a little bit of time, it took us another six months before we were able to have enough confidence in our ability to deliver. But once we did announce it, yes, it was that one. June 16, 2016.

OF: Well, congratulations. And in terms of the construction project then. If you come just two years before opening, at what stage was the construction then?

PG: We had broken a couple of years before I arrived. We had contractors on site. The Walt Disney company staff - the cast members -- were not there yet. We had no back office, no structure ready to accommodate that. Only for the project, the field people. But it was pretty well advanced. The hotels were building up quite well. The park was what took the most time. It's the most complicated, typically, because of the theming. And especially because of the expectations and the sense of perfection that Disney requires, when it comes to how you immerse people in a story. And that was maybe the most foreign for our Chinese contractors and our Chinese partners.

OF: Yeah, cuz, just when you see here in Shanghai, there's a new shop opening, it says "launching in one month", and you see that sign two months later, three months later, even a small shop. And so whenever I see that in Shanghai, I always think of the Disneyland project, where you had so many things going on at the same time. You mentioned the expectations with the constructors, can you think of one or two examples of when you were not on the same path as them?

PG: We've always been on the same path, in the sense that the contractors had a very high sense of pride to be involved in a project like this. Remember, it was the big project that China launched, when it comes to this type of partnership with a Western company. It was the biggest investment of the Walt Disney company in its history. And definitely everybody was very proud. The Chinese partners and contractors were very proud to be involved. The thing is, there are things you don't know, and expectations that are very different from what you would naturally be doing if you were to deliver the same thing. An example is all the rocks, the rock work that you see in the park, the mountains that appear to be very real. We have the highest and the tallest mountain in Pudong, manmade. It has to look like a mountain, the painting on the rock has to be very specific. They had no idea how to get there. So we didn't have to… it was more than just having them go and do this, it was first months and months of us training them. Having people come, teachers to help teach them how to do the work, and then send them on the field to go and do it. As an example, what would take a few months in a place where we do it directly, took a few years here in Shanghai because of the need to educate, to control, to test, to do again, to change. So everything was multiplied, because of the fact that we would still not compromise on the quality we wanted to deliver. It had to be a Disney-level quality, no matter where you are in the world, and that requires more work and education. But the partners and the contractors were actually very excited, because they saw the value for them to bring up the level of technicality, their level of expertise in a field they had not touched.

OF: And do you think that from then, you've seen those same contractors do other work similar to Disneyland? Or do you think that's still going to be a one-off project, more or less?

PG: Well at this stage, as you know, there's not that many projects of that magnitude in this area of themed entertainment. I would say, as you know in Beijing, Universal Studios is ramping up, they have started the construction. And I suppose that some of the employees that were working on the Shanghai project will bring that expertise elsewhere. There's an entire level, it's not just about the technicality. It's also about how the contractors on the field approach their work when it comes to safety. As you know, China is a developing market when it comes to safety regulations and rules. They are very focused on that. But they're not there yet. We brought in, directly, the level of standards of safety and risk management that we apply everywhere in the world. That has been years and years of our Chinese partners and contractors working with those guidelines, with those principles. And that also has helped move up the level of attention, the level of focus, on something very important, which is preserving the life of people.

OF: And you mentioned those relationships you had with the contractors, it makes me think about the other relationships that you had to manage in Disneyland, in the whole project. Most importantly, I guess, the joint venture partnership you had with the Shanghai government, right? How did that start off for you?

PG: Well, it's something that I've, even though the context is very different, I was prior to this job the CEO of Eurodisney for seven years. And the construct of Eurodisney is very similar to the construct of Shanghai Disney Resort in the sense that we have one major partner in Paris, and that's the French government. A government is a government. Culturally speaking, things are different, politically speaking, and philosophically speaking also. But the way they look at the issues are very similar. They look at the issues through the eyes of the consumer as an elector or as a citizen, that has to be satisfied, that you are here to protect. And that's always going to be their screen. A business does not always look at it this way. They look at that from a demand perspective, from a consumer service perspective, from a business profitability perspective. And those not always align instinctively. There's always sometimes a difference. And that's what happens. So I was aware of what the challenge would be. And my main biggest focus when I arrived was to spend a lot of time with them. The chairman of the board was a member of the of the Shanghai government, and my focus has been on establishing trust. And having realised that Shanghai Disney is being a joint venture, the majority owner being the Shanghai Government, I was eager to help.

OF: Right, what was the exact share? How much does the Shanghai government own?

PG: 57% for the Shanghai government and 43% for the Walt Disney Company, so the majority owner. And so they realised that my purpose was not to be the Disney guy, telling them what to do. But being somebody who understood that to succeed, you have to make the best balance. We are Disney, we brought an expertise in a field that they didn't have an expertise. But we were very new to the Chinese market, the Chinese consumers, to the relationship with the contractors. And we were ready to use them as guides, as advisors, and realise what we can bring and what they can bring, will make, eventually, the project succeed.

OF: And so what was that, then? When you said that you didn't just teach them about Disney and come here to just give them a lecture, what did you actually learn from them, that maybe you weren't expecting, or you were surprised about?

PG: It was a lot about these preconceived ideas you have on especially the Chinese consumers and their expectations, or how you adapt your product to what the real needs are, versus what you think you want to give them. A Chinese consumer is not an American consumer; a Chinese Disney fan is not a US Disney fan. The level of knowledge of the brand itself is completely different, people don't know the Disney brand very much. They know the name Disney. But how much could they relate to what the stories are? How much do they connect emotionally? That was not there. And we came in blind, because, as you are Disney and how successful we can be around the world, we think everybody knows us. We think that this is going to be fine. We have learned the hard way this is not always the case, Paris was an example of that, and Hong Kong and others. So we have developed that ability to expect what we don't know. But still, they have helped guide us in terms of, don't fall through the traps, do not develop a product that is not going to be relevant for the Chinese market. But most of all, they have been very helpful when it comes to helping us navigate the maze of the Chinese administration, that is maybe more foreign than the consumers, for us. And they've been very, very helpful.

OF: Well there's a lot of points you made there. Maybe I'll focus in on the Disney IP, and what you said works in some countries, some markets that did not resonate here in China, and vice versa. Can you think of which particular characters or which particular IP was more successful than you had imagined? And which was completely less?

PG: Well, I mean, a good example is… the big surprise for me was a very, very classic princess, Snow White, that is extremely popular here in Shanghai. And looking back we realised that one of the big connection that the Chinese and the Shanghainese have with Snow White is that this movie was actually one of the few animated movies released in China, back then, talking about in the late 30s. And that has stayed in the stories that the parents were telling to their kids, and so on. So that is very popular. Some of the most new, what you would think maybe one of the most popular franchise that Disney owns today: Star Wars. Very popular throughout the world, as you know, a cult franchise for many many people, leaves our Chinese consumers pretty cold. It's a complicated story, they did not get the chance to immerse themselves in the saga back in the 1970s, late 70s, and that has been complicated for us. The tidal wave of success of the of the new movies being released throughout the world, were definitely not as successful in China. So that's a good example of franchises that may take a lot of time to be built, or won't work.

OF: But then now, with Disney having Marvel as well, you've got a few more chances to have another bite of that apple right?

PG: Yes, Marvel is different. Marvel has been very powerful. I think there's also a great thing about the Chinese people, they love stars. And they connect very well with names that they've seen in other movies. Iron Man, for example, Robert Downey Jr., he's an immense star here in China. And many of the other actors. I was shocked when we had one of the premieres of Avengers in the park, Shanghai Disney Resort, and a few of the actors including Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk) wanted after the Premiere to have a chance to go and do a few rides. So I took them, Tom Holland (Spiderman) was there too. So Tom Holland, Mark Ruffalo and myself plus a few others, we go on a ride, they wanted to do Tron, the attraction. And we got into the backstage, we start to go through the queues. And some people start going out of the ride that they had finished. Chinese consumers. They saw Mark Ruffalo, and I though this is.. it was gonna be a riot. I mean, this guy is amazingly popular, Tom Holland same thing. And it surprised me. And I know them, I've seen a lot of their movies outside of Avengers, I was shocked, to tell you really, the level of excitement that very spontaneously the Chinese consumers, our guests, had when they saw those two actors. So Avengers and Marvel is very successful here in, in this marketplace and throughout the world.

OF: Let's go back to another point that you said, which was about how you deal with the general bureaucracy and red tape, and how your joint venture partners would have helped you navigate that. Your perspective would be quite unique, because I think most people who I speak to, would usually work in a wholly-owned foreign entity. And you being a joint venture, and such a high profile joint venture at that, what particular things did you experience that you think perhaps other CEOs in other less complex organisations wouldn't have experienced?

PG: Well, as you said, this project is as important for the Walt Disney Company as it is for the Chinese government. It has been an immense reflection of the opening of China to tourism. It's a milestone in that development of tourism in the country. And our Chinese partners, from the central government in Beijing to the local government here in Shanghai and Pudong, have been extremely, extremely helpful. When it comes to help us go through the maze of some of the difficulties we could have encountered. An example of that, something that can sound and seem trivial, is the Lion King, the Broadway show that we have: the customs is actually one of the biggest issues you can find, any company, can face when you come to importing material or products from another country. It's one thing when you bring some wood to make furniture, but in our case, we're bringing feathers from very exotic birds from places that God knows only, and other things. And that was a headache for the authorities, that you know, as in any country, if I don't understand what that is I block everything. Now we have a show to open, we have rehearsal to take place, we have costumes to build. Our partners have been immensely useful and supportive of us to help us green-light the arrival of those parts. We are complicated as a company because everything we do is real. So we reproduce themes, countries, areas, using the materials that exist, where they come from. And that would take years to come in the country if we're not supported. So we have had the chance to be able to expedite and go through many hurdles, thanks for the partnership.

OF: That's great. And as a consumer, you don't realise that to get that level of detail correct, it does require that amount of effort and that amount of headaches.

PG: You don't expect that to happen in America, for example. Because you are here, you control, you build, you buy, you get. It is different in a place where the rules of the game are different. And we have to learn about them, and learn how to address them.

OF: When you're speaking about trust. How did that work, then, when you were here in Shanghai, you'd been here for a couple of years, and then you were reporting back into the headquarters. So that relationship must sometimes have been just as mysterious as the relationships you have here with your Chinese partners?

OF: Well, it's it's always a case. And that's true for many of my colleagues representing foreign companies in the country that is not theirs. You have to explain that the way things happen, are not happening the same way in America, in our case. And that is something that is always complicated. You have always to justify why things have to be handled in a certain way. Even though that may surprise people, it is the way it's going to be working. That we have to face. But I've been with the company long enough, and around the world, to have been used to doing this. The key there is to be yourself trusted by the people you talk to. As we started the conversation, I told you that I was with Disney for 28 years and I have worked around the world in any location Disney has, so I'm a known entity when it comes to what I can do, what I can deliver. And I have this relationship with the people I was talking to that helped me navigate through this. The other big thing we had going for us is that Bob Iger, the CEO of the company, has been directly, completely, involved on that project. We had Bob Iger come every month, pretty much and getting closer to the opening, he was here for almost three weeks in a row. So he was very close to what was happening. He's been one of the biggest advocates of the Chinese market for the Walt Disney Company, he has connections through Xi Jinping down to the entire organisation. So he knows China, he's a curious man, he knows the Chinese politics, he is very curious about the Chinese culture. And that was very helpful because he knew already what we were talking about.

OF: And so going to the end of the project, was when the park opened, it was launched. And then, of course, it started running, it's now been a couple of years already. What was the biggest change, not just in your role, but I guess, the biggest change in terms of things that were unexpected or things that didn't work as you thought would, between pre-launch, and then post-launch?

PG: Nothing worked the way we thought it would. So, it's the beauty of a market you don't know. You can study it, you can assume things will happen a certain way. At the end of the day, the park opens, and the consumers, they tell you what they really want. And they tell you how they really behave. And that's been a surprise for us from the day we opened. So I think the biggest challenge for us has been to put all our pride on the side and adapt, adapt fast, because we also had to be a success, we had to demonstrate that this project was going to be what we wanted it to be. And so we really had to quickly un-learn what we thought we knew and learn what the consumers were telling us. Be relevant, adapt to them, adapt our product from the food and beverage, to the ticket price, the controls in place, to the merchandise, to our trade partners and the network we had established, and how we were going to work. The power of e-commerce is amazing in this marketplace, and we had not anticipated it to be that strong, for example. So, many things had to be adapted. And that's been pretty much the story of our first two years of operation. Adapt, learn, and move: move as quickly as we can, be "nimble" has been the word for us.

OF: Which, just from an outsider's point of view, I wouldn't say Disney internally as a culture would have had much experience with that. Because when I think of Disney, I think look, it has a formula, it knows what it does, it does it extremely well. So how did the culture adapt when you had to really be much more nimble in this market?

PG: Well, I think we were prepared for many surprises, which is where they were going to be. And we did not expect them to be as many as we faced. But that's the thing about Disney, what you say is right, I mean, we definitely have a leadership position when it comes to entertainment, under all its forms and shapes. Around the world, we've been very successful, we are very successful: the connection that people have with our brand and our stories is just unique in the world. But you know, there is something that we have learned also, is that we have made mistakes throughout the years. And I can talk to some of the things that I remember, I was involved in the opening of Eurodisney. That has been maybe a good example then of the lack of knowledge by Disney of what it means to be relevant, and adapt to people who are different from the ones you know. Disney had been immensely successful in the US and copy/pasted a product. and put that in Europe. And in Europe, in France, it didn't work like that. It took years to establish the connection, the trust, to adapt. And we have learned that. Hong Kong was another step where we had learnt from the mistakes made in Paris and tried to adapt. Still made some more, because you always learn. So it's been a road of 20+ years that has allowed Disney to, if not prepare entirely, at least be ready for some surprises and try to anticipate. So we've been very, very careful. And that's something we did succeed in, immediately, was balancing the success. And leaving, potentially, profitability on the table to make things right. To balance things in the right way, To be accepted by the consumers. Even though they didn't know us. we wanted people in China to understand that we're coming into this marketplace with humility. And that was number one, then. So we have prepared ourselves. Not for everything, but at least mentality, we were humble. And we're still very humble.

OF: That's great. And I guess it keeps life interesting, right? I mean, if you were just to open up another park and it worked just as easily as the others, then that's not very fun.

PG: Well, yeah, that's the exciting part. That's the thing about, you know… it feels like a very, very expensive startup. But it is, you just go into a place and you try to learn as much as you can, and you try to go fast, and this is also something very new for Disney to go fast because we are a massive Corporation, right? These companies tend to not move very fast, because of process and organisation. We had to be. So that was quite exciting for us. And maybe also the most exciting for the team here in China has been the establishment of our own identity, our own culture. Because remember that the 12,000 people that started this business in 2016… 11,000 of them had no idea of what Disney was, maybe three months before we opened. So it is also a very massive work when it comes to human resources, for example, and culture, and communication, engagement on how you prepare people, not on the technical side, anybody can learn the technicality of some food process or merchandise, it is about our culture, what we are, how we want to be, how we want to be perceived, what we want to give to families. And that was, I guess, the biggest satisfaction for all of us. It's to see how great the cast members had been from day one, knowing where they were just a few weeks prior to their arrival.

OF: And I happen to know that by the time that this recording will come out, you will have left Shanghai and you'll be moving on to another thing. So what do you expect to happen in the future?

PG: Well, yes, I will be moving to another part of Asia, Japan. I lived in Japan a long time ago, 20 years ago already. Still with the Walt Disney Company, I will be heading a very mature business there, The Tokyo Disney Resort, which is two parks and a fantastic, success for now 35 years. And I will also be engaging in running some of our global licence businesses, out of Japan, but a more global function. So it's a new challenge. I will have been here in Shanghai for five years. As you said, before the opening, way before, to get the project ready, and open it on time, and successfully run the operation for a couple of years, more than that. So it was part of my path, and part of my journey, and its the next step. I'm excited about that. I'm excited to go back to Japan. And I'm looking forward to this new page.

OF: Well, when I launch Mosaic of Japan, I'll come and interview you again then.

PG: Pleasure. Yes.

OF: I guess my last question before we move on is, who actually is the audience then, here in Shanghai Disneyland? Are they mainly local Shanghai, people? Are they from other parts of China? How many foreigners actually come here?

PG: It's Disney for China. So 98% of the people coming to Shanghai Disney Resort are Chinese. The majority of them, no not majority, but maybe 40 to 45%, are Shanghainese. But we have been actually quite nicely surprised by the numbers of people visiting from other parts of the country. But it's mainly China and Chinese guests coming to our park.

OF: And that's what I guess the model is, because you build it in a place where there is a large catchment of middle class people with a certain spending power. It makes me think, where will Disneyland open another resort in the next few years? I can't see one happening myself.

PG: Well, time will tell. I can't answer that question, actually. But you know, Disney will be there. There many people asking for the ability to have a physical connection with the Disney brand. So it can take many forms and many shapes. We will see.

OF: Very good. Well, thank you so much for that, Philippe. And let's move on to Part 2.

[Part 2]

OF: So Part 2, I'll ask you 10 questions, and you can answer them either quickly, or you can give me a little story. So number one, what is your favourite China related fact?

PG: I would say maybe one thing that has always been fascinating to me. So this is such a big country, vast geography, and one timezone.

OF: Right.

PG: And so it has been something quite fascinating for me. Don't ask me why, but that's something.

OF: I think what I read was that they wanted it to help unify the country from all the way in Xinjiang to all the way east in…

PG: Right, right. I get that. It still interests me. When you wake up in Tibet, and it's the same time as Shanghai.

OF: Exactly. Great. Number two, do you have a favourite word or phrase in Chinese?

PG: Well, I have two. One is… forgive my accent. I know you're gonna look at me and say "what is he saying?"… 周末愉快 [zhōumò yúkuài], have a good weekend. It was actually the first words I learned in Chinese. And I was known for saying 周末愉快 [zhōumò yúkuài]. I was very active in Chinese on Fridays, typically, that was what I could use. The other one, has been coming later, is 好久不见 [hǎojiǔ bùjiàn], long time no see. Just because it's good to reunite with friends and people you haven't met for a long time. So I like this sentence. I like the way it sounds.

OF: I love it. What is your favourite destination within China?

PG: Well, that's interesting. I think one of the most memorable trips I have made in China is Tibet. 18 months ago, I had the chance with a few friends to go to Lhasa and just travel in Tibet. And it's been a fascinating experience. At many levels: cultural, religious, geographic. You know, arriving and landing in a place that is about 4600 metres is quite an experience in itself. It's a beautiful place.

OF: Did you arrive by train or by plane?

PG: By plane, flew from Shanghai to Xian, from Xian to Lhasa. So, it's a shock, right? As you arrive, some of my friends were shocked immediately. It took me a little bit more time. But it was fascinating, the place is beautiful, and understanding how people leave their religion, live Buddhism. I'm not an expert in Buddhism, but I have been very impressed by how connected they are all the time to their practice and their philosophy

OF: Great, thank you. This is a pertinent question, if you left China what would you miss the most and what would you miss the least?

PG: Miss the least, easy: pollution. Shanghai and all the cities, when people talk to you about Shanghai and say "oh my god, look at the air quality", having an app and checking in every day was… at one point I gave up. But I won't miss that. What I will miss the most: the people. I found the people, especially in Shanghai which is where I lived, very close to my culture. European, Latin, loud-speaking, saying but they think, very direct. I love that. I remember walking in the street, maybe a couple of days after I arrived, and I passed by a truck driver, a delivery guy, who was talking to the guy in the shop. And they were screaming at each other. And I thought they were gonna fight. Actually no, they ended up laughing. I had no idea what they were talking about. But I will miss that, I will miss the people.

OF: Especially in Japan where people are very, very polite.

PG: Haha, I won't get that.

OF: Is there anything that still mystifies you about life in China?

PG: No, nothing mystifies me I'm a very open person. So no. Something that surprises me is that people keep offering me hot water, not telling me, so I keep being surprised by hot water coming in. I'm always expecting the tea bag to come. But that's pretty much that.

OF: What's your favourite place to go out, to eat or drink or just hang out?

PG: There's many. When you live in Shanghai, I have to say you're spoiled about that. I recently discovered a very good Cantonese restaurant in a hotel called Edition Hotel, it's right off The Bund, called Canton Disco. If you have not been there, I recommend you try it. It's great food, great environment, I love this place. I have many hangouts, places where I go to. I live here in the centre, so there's some Mexican food that I love, and many of my friends like to hang out there. but this one I recommend to try.

OF: Great. What's the best or worst purchase you made in China?

PG: I don't have a worst purchase because sometimes what you buy is… what it is. But the best purchase I made is, a little more than a year ago, I bought a scooter. A Niu scooter. I don't want to make an advertisement, but this is amazingly wonderful. It changed my life in Shanghai on the weekends, the freedom that you have to get on it and just go around the French concession or explore the place. I've been biking a lot before that. This is just great, and I love my bike. I'm going to miss it when I leave.

OF: This is interesting because I was tempted to do a scooter and then I got into the whole Mobike thing, but you're you're saying I'm missing out?

PG: Definitely. For me, yes definitely. Especially for me and Mobike, I tend to pick the wrong ones.

OF: With obvious results.

PG: Yeah.

OF: What is your favourite WeChat sticker?

PG: I have a couple, but the one I use a lot is a little baby chicken that looks very grumpy and has a cigarette in his mouth. And that's the way I look and I sound, I think, on Mondays. So typically I send that to anybody who's talking to me on Mondays, that's the face I make because it represents my mood. Really my mood. Another one I have… a nickname for my wife is baby pig, and I have a little baby pig as a sticker that I use sometimes. It's done in a very nice way.

OF: Of course, well you've just sent me them they look pretty fun so I will post them on our social media. And what's your go-to song to sing at KTV?

PG: I would not.. I cannot do anything but think about Beauty and the Beast. I've been very involved in the new Broadway show that we have here, Shanghai Disney Resort, Beauty and the Beast. And I have spent so much time both in New York and here with the team working on that so it sticks to my mind that right now, I would say. Beauty and the Beast.

OF: Great. And finally, what other China-related media or sources of information do you rely on?

PG: Well, I tend to rely on many media sources, not just China, to check on news and stuff. On my phone, I use Xinhua News. That's the one I use the most. And I'm happy with that.

OF: Well, thank you so much, Philippe, I really appreciate you coming in. And the last question I ask everyone, which will include you is… Who, out of everyone you know in China, would you recommend that I interview next?

PG: So I'm thinking about a colleague of mine that has been working in China for now more than 20 years. His name is Murray King, he's the head of Public Affairs for Shanghai Disney Resort. A diplomat by trade for Canada, arrived in China through Beijing and the Canadian embassy, moved off the public service to business, and moved to Shanghai maybe 18 years ago. He is, I think, a beautiful example of somebody who's a blend of Western and Chinese culture. He understands the culture, speaks the language, embraces it. He's extremely knowledgeable about anything China-related, very curious. So I think he would be a great man to talk to.

OF: Sounds great Philippe, I look forward to interviewing him. And thanks once again for coming.

PG: Thank you very much for having me.


OF: Well, thanks again to Philippe for coming to my home to record this one with me. It was a Saturday morning, since it was the one time I could grab him actually for an hour. And then he was off again, on the scooter he mentioned. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to grab a photo with him. So that's a shame. But for all the other images, please go to @mosaicofchina_* on Instagram and @mosaicofchina on Facebook. And there's also a WeChat group, so send me a note, and I'll add you there if you like. And on these platforms, you can see all the other images such as Philippe's object, which was that photo of Mickey Mouse on the Great Wall; his two favourite WeChat stickers: one was the angry chicken and the other was the baby pig; and lots of other goodies as well. One of these goodies actually was an interesting graphic I found on Wikipedia, which shows how China was split into five time zones, before it was made all into one time zone in 1949. So yeah, one for the geeks out there. I don't have any corrections from this chat, other than to say that at one point we mentioned the French Concession, which is a common slip, we of course meant to say the Former French concession. It came to an end in 1943, so definitely "former". And just in case it wasn't clear with Philippe's two favourite phrases in Chinese, so 周末愉快 [zhōumò yúkuài] means happy weekend. And 好久不见 [hǎojiǔ bùjiàn] means long time no see. And finally, yes, drinking warm or hot water is definitely a thing in China, and elsewhere in Asia too of course. According to Chinese medicine and the internet, drinking a glass of warm water helps the digestive system and supposedly aids blood flow. On the other hand, cold water slows down organ functions and causes muscles to contract. Well so there you have it then. And that was it the first episode I hope you enjoyed it.

Mosaic of China is me, Oscar Fuchs; graphics designed by Denny Newell; editing by Milo de Prieto. And if you like us, please rate and comment on iTunes, or wherever you download this podcast. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

*A different Instagram handle was mentioned in the original recording. That handle is now obsolete, and the updated one has been substituted.

Mosaic of China Season 01 Episode 01 – The Entertainment Prince (Philippe GAS, Disney Shanghai Resort)

Oscar Fuchs: Creator, Producer and Host of the Mosaic of China podcast

Oscar Fuchs was the Co-Founder and Managing Director of a global executive search firm dedicated to the Human Resources profession. He was born in the UK and has lived in Asia for 18 years, including 3 years in Hong Kong SAR, and 7 years in mainland China. In 2019 he sold his company, and launched Mosaic of China.

In China, the podcast can also be found at 苹果播客, 小宇宙 and 喜马拉雅.

Internationally, it can also be found at Apple, Spotify, and all other podcasting platforms.

Special Reports