We have a brief MiceAge update for you today about the new head of Disney’s Parks and Resorts. The jury is still out on what this big change will mean for the parks. As Bob learns his new role, please be sure to share your advice for him in the comments below.
Bob Chapek was named Tom Staggs replacement as Parks & Resorts Chairman in late February, and Disney’s corporate machine kicked in to high gear immediately to make the transition for Bob as quick as possible. Last week he spent four days in Anaheim on his first official visit to the Company’s flagship park, and Parks President Meg Crofton and a bevy of executives joined him as he was led through every nook and cranny of the Disneyland Resort. The goal was to give Bob, who has been with Disney for 22 years but never got near the Parks division career-wise, a crash course in how Disney’s theme parks and hotels operate and how all the pieces fit together.
Over the several days he was in Anaheim there were hours of conference room presentations, daily walking tours throughout the property, and splashy PowerPoint shows from Imagineering and Marketing. Bob stayed on property for his multi-day overview, and his family was able to join him over the weekend for a more relaxed series of park experiences, while receiving VIP treatment for his family by zipping up the exit of any ride they pleased.
Bob was led around the parks for some of his visit by Parks President Meg Crofton, and Anaheim President Michael Colglazier. On Friday in particular, Bob witnessed first-hand the biggest problem Anaheim currently faces for both the Cast Members and the paying visitors; parking. With a big convention in town last weekend, parking was at a premium all over the Resort District and Cast Members were forced to park at Angel Stadium and be bussed in with the usual disastrous results. While a new 1,500 space Cast Member parking lot will be opening up on the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Ball Road by Memorial Day weekend, the Anaheim Convention Center will begin a major expansion next month that will remove over 1,000 spaces from its inventory by demolishing its large parking structure on Katella Avenue. The result is that the overall Resort District will only see its overall parking inventory grow by a few hundred spaces this summer, and the parking headaches will continue throughout the 60th Anniversary until Disney finally pulls the trigger on real solutions to its parking problem. Bob could only marvel at the logistics required to park 20,000 Cast Members, 75,000 park guests, and 50,000 convention-goers last Friday.
Bob’s walking tours in the parks included existing facilities specifically chosen to show the oldest Walt-era gems in Disneyland to the newest Pixar-era hits in DCA. Bob was given a thorough workup on the 60th Anniversary plans from Marketing, Entertainment, Merchandising, and Imagineering. Bob also got visits to the attractions closed for their 60th remakes; Soarin’, Matterhorn and Peter Pan. He was also ushered to the plots currently pegged for the next big expansion phases, from the evolving Star Wars plans for Disneyland to the Marvel roller coaster expansion slated for DCA.
While he may have a lot to learn about the theme park business, to his credit Bob comes off as a down to earth guy and a man’s man with a hearty handshake and Midwestern lack of pretense. His natural demeanor should buy him some good will with the troops, unless the Parks & Resorts clueless Internal Communications team convinces him to stick to their drab and meaningless corporate talking points and fabricated interview answers. As a long time Disney employee, Bob has been to the parks as a casual visitor in the past with his free passes and executive perks. But there’s also quite a learning curve for Bob to work through to go from occasional Disneyland visitor to Parks Chairman who will need a firm grasp on what the parks need to succeed in the years ahead.
All that said, Bob has the unfortunate baggage of coming from Consumer Products, and his resume looks a bit too much like a previous mall-based Parks Chairman who was less than successful; Paul Pressler. Old-timers in Anaheim and Glendale alike are nervously whispering the “Pressler” word when discussing Bob Chapek, and they’re hoping that Bob takes a much different direction than Pressler did. The 60th celebration is already locked and loaded, but Bob could still make an impact on the next construction phases for Anaheim with the Star Wars and Marvel plans for E Tickets and new lands. Hopefully, for the good of Disneyland and Disney’s other parks in North America, Bob will let the theme park experts who work for him do what they do best and he’ll stay out of their way while he learns the business.
A change in senior leadership often comes with a shift in priorities and projects. What are your suggestions and requests for Bob Chapek?