Disney Legend Jim Cora Dies at Age 83

Disney Legend, who began his Disney career at Disneyland in 1957 as a part-time attractions host polishing 3D glasses at the Mickey Mouse Club Theater and retired 43 years later as chairman of Disney International, passed away on March 21st at the age of 83.

Cora’s influence at the company was vast,  stretching around the globe from Disneyland to Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, so much so that it took multiple windows dedicated in his honor on Main Street U.S.A. to capture all of his contributions.

According to the Orange County Register, Cora credited his rapid rise to company founder Walt Disney who set his career path in motion with a promotion into a training and development role. The boss sent the teenager over to the Disneyland administration building to find Disney University founder Van Arsdale France with the admonition: “Tell him Walt sent you. I think he may have something for you.”

Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and former Disneyland resort president Josh D’Amaro called Cora one of the company’s last connections to Walt Disney.

Very few people have a Disney legacy that reaches as far and wide as Jim Cora,” D’Amaro said in a statement. “His dedication to bringing Disney magic to people around the world was only matched by the passion he exuded throughout his career and for the many years that followed. I always loved hearing Jim’s thoughts about our business. He was one of our last connections to Walt Disney and he will be missed dearly.

In 1971, Cora instituted the “Disney Way of Leadership” program at the Magic Kingdom with the opening of Walt Disney World.

Prior to the 1983 opening of Tokyo Disneyland, Cora was named managing director of operations for the that theme park.  He was then promoted to vice president of Walt Disney Productions Japan, overseeing Disney’s operational and design standards.

After Tokyo Disneyland, Cora was put in charge of master planning and site research for Euro Disneyland, which would later became known as Disneyland Paris.

In the 1990’s, Cora was responsible for the creative direction of Tokyo DisneySea. He retired as chairman of Disney International in 2001. Cora was named a Disney Legend in 2005.

Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger Reiterates That He Will Leave the Company at the End of the Year

During his introductory comments during today’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders, Walt Disney Company Executive Chairman Bob Iger reiterated that he will leave the company at the end of his current contract on December 31st.

Just to remind everyone, Iger stepped aside from the role of CEO in February 2020, with Bob Chapek taking over the role. With this, he assumed the role of Executive Chairman and has directed the Company’s creative endeavors, while leading the Board and providing assistance to Bob Chapek during the transition period.

Iger’s comments are very significant because he has, on multiple occasions, reversed course and extended his stay at the company.

Imagineer Kevin Rafferty to Retire After 42 Years With Disney

Walt Disney Imagineering will be losing another legendary talent later this year when Kevin Rafferty retires after 42 years with the company.Rafferty, is the Imagineer who conceived, designed, wrote, and oversaw the creations of some of Disney Parks’ most memorable attractions and lands, announced in a memo to staff that he will retire from Walt Disney Imagineering, effective April 1, 2021

Following both the publication of his book, Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career, and the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway—the first-ever ride-through attraction to feature Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse—at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Rafferty says his nearly 43-year journey with Disney has reached its peak. “I wanted to go out at the top of my game, if you will,” he explains. “It just felt right.”

From D23 –

Rafferty will leave behind a legacy that few can rival—one that began with the incredibly talented Imagineers who mentored him who, in turn, led to the long list of those whom he inspired. “When I started, there were only two Disney parks in the world. It’s really been my honor, my pleasure, and my joy to be around and watch the expansion of the magic that Walt Disney Imagineering has made,” he says. “I’ve been there for all that. It’s been an amazing ride.”

 

Tony Baxter and Greg Hale Inducted into IAAPA Hall of Fame

On Tuesday, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) inducted Tony Baxter and Greg Hale into the IAAPA Hall of Fame.

Tony Baxter, who is a former Walt Disney Imagineering creative executive, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from IAAPA for his decades of work on some of Disney’s most memorable attractions.

Tony began his Disney career working as an ice cream scooper at Disneyland. He started working for Walt Disney Imagineering (then called WED Enterprises) in 1970. Over the next 43 years, he helped oversee and create such attractions as the Land, Seas and Imagination pavilions at EPCOT, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the major refurbishment of Fantasyland at Disneyland in 1983, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. He was also the executive producer who oversaw the design of Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992.

In 2013 Tony received the Disney Legend award at the D23 Expo as well as a window honoring him on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland. Even though he retired later that same year, Tony continues to consult with Walt Disney Imagineering on various projects and mentors the next generation of Imagineers.

Greg was also honored for his extraordinary accomplishments and contributions as a leader and innovator at Disney.

Greg, who is Disney Parks’ chief safety officer, leads a global team of ride design, operations, maintenance and safety professionals around the world that keep Disney on the leading edge of theme park safety, accessibility for guests with disabilities, and technology advancements.  Greg has also received a number of awards in recognition of his commitment to safety and for fostering innovative practices that increase access to Disney experiences for those with disabilities. He holds dozens of U.S. patents and is credited as one of the inventors of Disney FASTPASS Service. He has served on several industry safety boards and associations and has held a number of leadership roles within IAAPA, including as the organization’s chairman in 2017.

Walt Disney Company Announces Management Shake Up

The Walt Disney Company announced a couple of changes in their management yesterday.

Jill Estorino was named President and Managing Director of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products International, effective immediately.

Estorino has been been at Disney for 29 years, most recently as Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Sales, and will now overseeing parks and resorts’ international operations and development, including Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort with the Oriental Land Company, Shanghai Disney Resort and Disneyland Paris.

She replaces Michael Colglazier who was in the job for the past three years and has jumped to Virgin Galactic Holdings. The aerospace and space travel company announced his appointment earlier today and will assume this role effective July 20.

Disney also announced Jackie Swisher as the new Vice President, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Jackie Swisher will be replacing Phil Holmes who had previously announced his retirement this August, after almost 50 years with Disney, but the change appears to be effective immediately.

Guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios received a push notification through the My Disney Experience app that identified Swisher as the Vice President of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Previously, Swisher was the Vice President of Worldwide Safety Services at Disney Parks.

 

Disney Announces Leadership Restructuring – Josh D’Amaro New Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman

Earlier today, Bob Chapek, the Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company, announced today that Walt Disney World President Josh D’Amaro would be promoted to his former position as Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

The position of Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products has been vacant since Bob Chapek moved from the role into the position as Disney CEO when Bob Iger retired. Josh has been Walt Disney World President for less than a year, taking over from George Kalogridis in September 2019.

In his new role, D’Amaro will oversee Disney’s travel and leisure businesses, which include six theme park-resort destinations in the United States, Europe and Asia; a cruise line; a vacation ownership program; a guided family adventure business; and Disney’s global consumer products operations, which include the world’s leading licensing business across toys, apparel, home goods, digital games and apps; the world’s largest children’s print publisher; Disney store locations around the world; and the shopDisney e-commerce platform.

Succeeding D’Amaro as President, Walt Disney World Resort is Jeff Vahle, a 30-year cast member who most recently served as President, Disney Signature Experiences.

“I’m incredibly proud of the new leadership team at Parks, beginning with the segment’s Chairman, longtime Disney veteran Josh D’Amaro, and his newly announced team of Jeff Vahle, Ken Potrock, Kareem Daniel and Thomas Mazloum,” said Chapek. “These talented executives played pivotal roles while leading our exceptional cast members during the largest period of growth in the segment’s history, which included the expansion of our parks and resorts around the world, the addition of new attractions including two highly acclaimed Star Wars-themed lands, and a shift to more personalized experiences for guests. And I am confident that as they assume even greater responsibility and pursue new opportunities, these proven leaders will have an even bigger impact on the future of our company.”

In response to this promotion, D’Amaro stated –

“I want to thank Bob for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to following his record of driving innovation, value and growth at Parks.  I am honored to be able to lead this newly announced team of exceptional senior leaders as we assume our new roles and continue to deliver unforgettable experiences for our guests. Even during this challenging time, the enthusiasm of our dedicated cast members for what we do is unwavering, and my goal is to bring them back to work as soon as possible so they can continue to create that magic.”

Disneyland Resort President Rebecca Campbell will now become the Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer and International. Both Campbell and D’Amaro will report directly to Chapek.

 

Disney Announces ‘Lion King’-Inspired “Protect the Pride” Global Conservation Campaign

If you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom at all you cannot miss the fact that a lot of what Disney does there is related to conservation.  Over the years this has not only been a focus of the park but also the company in general.

Today, the Walt Disney Co. announced a global conservation campaign to raise awareness of the crisis facing lions and other wildlife across Africa, which was inspired by the upcoming release of The Lion King.

Named “Protect the Pride,” the campaign focuses on protecting and revitalizing the lion population, according to Disney.

Disney is lending support (and has already donated more than $1.5 million) to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN) Lion Recovery Fund (LRF), which aims to double the lion population across Africa by 2050 through efforts that engage communities to ensure a future for African wildlife and their habitats.

Disney plans to double the $1.5 million through additional grants, as well as participation from fans, for a total contribution of up to $3 million, according to the company.

“Disney is committed to supporting lion conservation efforts and we believe The Lion King is the perfect story to remind us of the role each of us has in ensuring a world where these majestic animals are treasured and protected,” Elissa Margolis, senior vice president, enterprise social responsibility for The Walt Disney Company said in a statement. “Conservation has always been a core value of The Walt Disney Company and that commitment is apparent in everything from our films to our theme parks and is why we created the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF).”

Recently, Disney assembled more than 80 of the world’s leading lion conservation experts, from 18 countries and representing more than 50 organizations, to develop strategies to address challenges facing lion populations and to ensure a future for the species during the the first Lion Footprint Forum at Walt Disney World Resort, according to the company.

Additional information about the LRF’s lion conservation efforts may be found at LionRecoveryFund.org.

Ron Miller, Former Disney President and CEO Dead at Age 85

Ron W. Miller, former President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company and producer of many Disney films, has passed away at the age of 85.

Miller came to the company via his wife, Diane Disney, Walt’s daughter. The two met at the University of Southern California.  They were married in 1954.

Miller told entertainment reporter Dale Pollock in 1984, “”My father-in-law saw me play in two football games when I was with the Los Angeles Rams. In one of them, I caught a pass and Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane let me have it from the rear. His forearm came across my nose and knocked me unconscious. I woke up in about the third quarter. At the end of the season, Walt came up to me and said, ‘You know, I don’t want to be the father to your children. You’re going to die out there. How about coming to work with me?’ I did and it was a wise decision on my part.”

Ron Miller, ran Walt Disney Productions in the early to mid 80’s. Among other things, he is the progenitor of the Disney Channel and Touchstone Pictures. He also greenlit and produced films like “Pete’s Dragon”, “Tron”, “The Black Caldron”, “The Great Mouse Detective” and “Never Cry Wolf”; seriously, check the latter out if you haven’t seen it, an excellent Carrol Ballard film. He also supported a young Tim Burton by producing the original live-action “Frankenweenie”.

After being forced out of the company by Roy E Disney and Saul Steinberg, he and Diane moved up to the Bay Area and opened Silverado Vineyards. He helped Diane, along with their children, establish the Walt Disney Family Museum at the Presidio in San Francisco. He has overseen the museum and associated foundation since Diane’s passing in 2013.

New Adventure from Star Wars: The Last Jedi Coming to Star Tours This Fall

Earlier this year Disney told us about a thrilling new adventure coming to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios that will place guests in the middle of an epic battle. The action takes place on the planet of Crait, which we got our first glimpse of in the teaser trailer of Star Wars: The Last Jedi earlier this year.

Today Disney has announced that this exciting new sequence, inspired by the latest film in the Star Wars saga, will debut at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on November 17, at Disneyland Paris November 22, and, as previously announced, at Tokyo Disneyland December 15!

Disney Files Patent that Would Alter Rides Based on Passenger Emotions

The Walt Disney Co. hasn’t ignored the emergence of auto-driving cars and what that may mean for the future of theme parks.

That’s why a new Disney patent, titled “Sensing and Managing Vehicle Behavior Based on Occupant Awareness” looks at a way to read riders’ emotions or pre-determined interests to customize ride experiences. For example, the patent states that via a camera on the vehicle or a wearable ID device — say Disney’s MagicBands — a ride system could read rider facial expressions such as being excited or bored, and then alter the course of the attraction to increase/decrease speed, spin more or less often, change the tone of display scenery and/or more to improve the ride for guests.

“The technology would allow rides to adjust show content appropriate for pre-teens, teenagers or adults; or for thrill-seeking and non thrill-seeking passengers. The control system may also operate the vehicle to address (e.g. even solve in some cases) motion sickness issues for passengers such as by adjusting speed or movement patterns of a vehicle. [Through RFID or some other identifying system] access one or more ride experience goals (or expectations) for the occupant. For example, the occupant may simply desire transportation while in the automated trackless vehicle and, hence, will not be wanting to interact with to be entertained by external display systems. In other cases, though, the occupant may have provided goals/expectations (e.g. by completing a questionnaire on a website or the like) that indicate they want to be educated during the ride, be entertained in a particular manner during the ride, be informed of sales on services or merchandise during the ride, and so on. In the same or other cases, the goals/expectations may indicate whether the ride experience” should be thrilling, as smooth as possible, or something in between, said the patent.

The technology may add more speed changes, spins and sharp corners for riders who seem bored or have provided prior information that they enjoy thrill rides. In addition, the patent states it may be able to sense passenger comfort levels such as temperature and alter the air-conditioning of the ride to make it more pleasant.

From the Orlando Business Journal