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!

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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

5 Theories on Thomas Staggs’ Abrupt Departure

An awkward pall hung over the April 4 premiere of Disney’s The Jungle Book reboot. Hours before CEO Bob Iger, 65, walked the red carpet in Hollywood, the company had revealed that his heir apparent, COO Thomas Staggs, 55, will step down. The move, which left many at the premiere shocked, threw a carefully choreographed succession plan into disarray as Iger’s contract expires in June 2018. Disney isn’t talking, but insiders and observers have theories.

Here are five:

1. Sheryl Sandberg wants the job

The Facebook COO has served on Disney’s board since 2009 and, according to some, has made it known she would like a CEO position that likely never will become available at Mark Zuckerberg’s company. While Sandberg, 46, lacks traditional Hollywood experience, she is savvy in digital media, which could be crucial as Disney faces a declining cable business.

2. Staggs lost the board

Some insiders say Disney board members ultimately believed Staggs, who came from the company’s parks division, lacks the creative experience in TV or film needed as CEO. “This would speak to the Disney board’s view of the importance of these businesses,” says Macquarie Group analyst Tim Nollen.

3. There’s an internal candidate

Many have focused on the possibility that Disney will look outside the company for a new leader (Chase Carey? Steve Burke?). But there are internal contenders, too. Bob Chapek, 57, who replaced Staggs atop the parks unit and once ran consumer products, is considered an Iger favorite, as is Ben Sherwood, promoted in 2015 from running ABC News to co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. Sherwood, 52, certainly has creative experience.

4. Staggs took the fall for Iger’s frustration

Running parks from 2010 to 2015, Staggs was the primary executive on Disney’s Shanghai resort, one of Iger’s key legacies. Disney and its China partners had planned to open the $5.5 billion park by the end of 2015, but they pushed it to June, when portions reportedly still will be unfinished. In addition, Disney’s parks division was the source of a major PR flap when it allegedly laid off 250 tech workers at its Orlando resorts in 2015 and replaced them with foreign workers using H-1B visas. Some of those laid off are suing, which is said to have enraged Iger.

5. Iger just wants to stay

It could be that simple. Iger’s post-Disney plan was set to include helping build an NFL stadium in Southern California for both the Raiders and Chargers, and he’d have an ownership stake in one. But the NFL rejected the proposal in favor of a rival plan, leaving Iger with one fewer option after he’s through running Disney.

From The Hollywood Reporter

 

How Disney COO Tom Staggs Sees the Company’s Present—and Future

Staags & Minnie Mouse

Tom Staggs faces the unique challenge of filling a role that the world’s biggest media company has done quite well without for a decade.

When he was named chief operating officer of Walt Disney Co. a year ago, he took on a job that was last held in 2005 by Robert Iger, before he was promoted to chief executive. Now Mr. Staggs is the leading internal candidate to succeed Mr. Iger, who has said he will retire in 2018.

A 26-year Disney veteran who before becoming COO most recently served as chairman of the company’s parks and resorts business, Mr. Staggs has remained quite involved with the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort, which opens June 16.

He is also significantly involved in planning for the future of television at Disney, a key question for the company since its stock began tumbling last August when Disney said that profit growth for its cable business, led by sports juggernaut ESPN, would be lower than expected.

The Wall Street Journal spoke with Mr. Staggs at his office, across a lobby from Mr. Iger’s, at Disney headquarters in Burbank, Calif. Edited excerpts follow.

The long view in Shanghai

WSJ: Are there specific tasks you have taken on as COO? How have you and Bob Iger divided responsibilities?

MR. STAGGS: It’s basically a dual-report system across all the businesses. Our approach has been somewhat fluid, making sure that separately or together we’re focusing on businesses and projects as need be and to be the most effective we can be.

WSJ: How will you measure success in Shanghai?

MR. STAGGS: We’ll really be looking forward to the initial reception, but at the same time we build these parks for generations. We won’t judge where we are a week out, a month out, or even a year or two out.

Clearly we are planting an important flag for the Disney brand in China. We want to make sure people recognize the quality of what we provide. And hopefully it will be an aspirational kind of experience for people in China the same way it has been aspirational for people here. And therefore it represents the brand in a way that is broader than just that individual park.

WSJ: To what extent are you concerned about the state of the economy in China?

MR. STAGGS: This is a very long-term proposition, so what’s going on in the economy at any given moment is not a big concern for us. We look at the trends over the long term and continue to be as bullish as we’ve ever been in terms of the number of income-qualified people, the prospect for continued growth of the middle class in China, etc.

Focus on television

WSJ: What has been taking a lot of your time outside of the parks business?

MR. STAGGS: I have spent a great deal of time on media networks recently, focusing on the future of television.

WSJ: Is TV moving toward a more direct relationship with consumers? Does that require a change of thinking?

MR. STAGGS: It’s not so much a change of thinking. For the past few years, our business has been leaning toward the brands and products consumers seek a relationship with. There is an increasing opportunity to take advantage of the strength of those brands and to reach consumers more directly.

We just mentioned on our last earnings call, however, that we think for the foreseeable future the bundle of programming is going to be the predominant way people get their television. Some people might view that as a contradiction. It’s not. That bundle can be strong even as we’re taking advantage of opportunities to have direct relationships with consumers.

WSJ: Clearly there are benefits across Disney from owning Marvel or “Star Wars” that few other companies can match. And that may be only more true in the digital world. Is the same true of ESPN, or is that more of a stand-alone business?

MR. STAGGS: One of the things this company does well is nurture and manage high-quality branded franchises. The nice thing is, quite a lot of them are highly interconnected in terms of cycling through many of our businesses.

But as a high-quality branded entertainment franchise, ESPN has real synergies with the rest of what we do and our expertise as a company.

WSJ: What are the most important synergies?

MR. STAGGS: Understanding how to manage a brand is not simple. There’s ESPN The Magazine, on television, radio and digital. Managing all of those touch points is not a simple construct, and it’s something we happen to do well.

By having that scale, we have been able to invest in a technology platform that allows us to publish across all those areas seamlessly. Also, I believe if you look forward as we increasingly establish those direct-to-consumer relationships, that expertise in consumer engagement will be a skill set that’s transferrable around our business, even if you’re not handing off an ESPN consumer to other Disney businesses.

WSJ: As you package Disney content in different ways online, do you see it all going together, or is the Marvel consumer different from the animation consumer and so on?

MR. STAGGS: We find it’s not sliced as finely as your question might imply. People tend to like Disney. They have their favorites, to be sure. Generally, if you’re a big fan of “Frozen,” that leads to a desire to engage the characters, the music and the franchise in other ways.

We want to make sure there are as few barriers to that deeper engagement as possible. That’s one of the tricks in designing the notion of what’s direct-to-consumer, what’s in movie theaters, what’s in [cable] bundles, etc.

From the Wall Street Journalhttp://www.wsj.com/articles/how-disney-coo-tom-staggs-sees-the-companys-presentand-future-1456110344

Disney/ABC TV Names New Network President

Channing-Dungey

Disney/ABC Television Group shook up its leadership Wednesday, naming Channing Dungey as its new president of ABC Entertainment, making her the first black person to ever lead a major broadcast network.

Dungey, who was the executive vice president of ABC drama development, helped develop series such as “Scandal,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Quantico,” “Criminal Minds” and “Once Upon a Time.”

“Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record of developing compelling, breakthrough programming that resonates with viewers,” said Ben Sherwood, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group.

Dungey replaces Paul Lee, who stepped down from the position. Some industry pundits said Lee has clashed with Sherwood in the past.

“Leading ABC has been a fantastic experience,” Lee said. “I’m especially proud of the incredible team I built and the strategic, creative vision we established and successfully executed for both the network and studio.”

Dungey began her career as a development assistant for Davis Entertainment at 20th Century Fox. She worked as a story editor at Steamroller Productions, working on films such as “Under Siege” and “On Deadly Ground.” She later moved to Warner Bros., working on films including “The Matrix,” “Twister,” “City of Angels,” “Space Jam,” “Heat” and “Bridges of Madison County.”

She went on to work as senior vice president at the Material film production company, becoming president in 2001. She joined ABC in 2004.

Bob Weis Named New Head of Walt Disney Imagineering

Bob Weis, executive vice president of Disney's creative division, talks about the new World of Color show that will debut at California Adventure in 2010. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: n.disneywater.0716 - 7/16/09 - Photo by JOSHUA SUDOCK, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - Disney invited members of the press to a preliminary briefing on their new water show, currently in production, at California Adventure called "Disney;s World of Color." The show features new projection technology, LED light effects, lasers, flame throwers, Disney characters and a whole new musical score. It will debut in the spring of 2010.

 

The Walt Disney Company has named Bob Weis the new president of Walt Disney Imagineering, the arm of the company that oversees the design of its theme parks, cruise lines and resorts around the world.

The appointment was announced in a memo today by Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Weis is heading up the company’s efforts for the Shanghai Disneyland Resort. Before that, he was the creative lead on the expansion of Disney California Adventure, which culminated in the addition of Cars Land at the theme park.

He was also the creative lead on the Disney/MGM Studios, now called Disney’s Hollywood Studios, that opened at Walt Disney World in 1989, and oversaw the development of the Tower of Terror.

Weis also worked on Tokyo Disneyland in the early 1980s.

He left the company for a while, and worked with others on a variety of projects. Bruce Vaughn, the former Chief Creative Executive at WDI will help Weis with the transition, before leaving the company to explore other opportunities. Craig Russell has served as a co-executive leader of the company, and will take on a new role focusing on project execution and integration around the world, according to the memo from Chapek released by the company.

From the Orange County Register

Disney CEO Bob Iger to Be Inducted Into Toy Industry Hall of Fame

Bob Iger

Disney CEO Bob Iger will be inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, the Toy Industry Assn. announced Wednesday. The group recognized the Disney chief executive for “significant contributions to the industry and the impact his work has had on the lives of children worldwide.”

The honor makes Iger one of 70 recognized by the trade association, including “Muppets” creator Jim Henson and “Star Wars” godfather George Lucas. The Hall was created in 1984 and Iger will become the newest member on Feb. 12, when the association holds its annual Toy of the Year awards celebration at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The organization cited Iger for running the world’s largest media company and creating “adored brands around the globe.” Disney already had many winning franchises, but expanded them markedly with the acquisitions of Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009) and Lucasfilm (2012), the association noted. The group said that Iger has also assured Disney’s toys were available across multiple platforms.

“Just about every child around the globe has been touched by the magic of Disney,” said Toy Industry Assn. CEO Steve Pasierb. “Mr. Iger has done an impressive job of building on Disney’s rich history and growing their storytelling portfolio, creating new experiences and unforgettable memories for generations of kids to come.”

From James Rainey of Variety

Walt Disney Company Reports Record Net Income in Q3 2015 Earnings Report

The Walt Disney Company

The Walt Disney Company recently reported record quarterly earnings of $2.5 billion for its third fiscal quarter ended June 27, 2015 compared to $2.2 billion for the prior-year quarter.

“We’re very pleased with our performance in the third quarter, with record net income and diluted earnings per share of $1.45, up 13% from the prior year,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “The strong results across our many diverse lines of business demonstrate the power of our unparalleled brands, franchises and creative content.”

The report goes on to detail performance in the Parks and Resorts division.

Parks and Resorts revenues for the quarter increased 4% to $4.1 billion and segment operating income increased 9% to $922 million. Operating income growth for the quarter was due to an increase at our domestic operations, partially offset by a decrease at our international operations.

Higher operating income at our domestic operations was primarily due to volume and guest spending growth, partially offset by higher costs. The increase in volumes was due to attendance growth at our theme parks and higher occupied room nights at Walt Disney World Resort and our Aulani resort in Hawaii. Guest spending growth was due to higher food, beverage, and merchandise spending, increases in average ticket prices at our cruise line and Disneyland Resort and higher average hotel room rates. Cost increases were due to labor and other cost inflation, costs for the 60th Anniversary celebration at Disneyland Resort and higher pension and postretirement medical costs, partially offset by lower marketing costs at Walt Disney World Resort.

Lower operating income at our international operations was due to lower attendance and occupied room nights at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, higher operating costs at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and higher pre-opening expenses at Shanghai Disney Resort. These decreases were partially offset by higher average ticket prices, increased food, beverage and merchandise spending and higher volumes at Disneyland Paris.

Melissa Valiquette Named Epcot VP as Sam Lau Moves to a New Role in Asia

WDW Melissa Valiquette

Epcot’s Vice President Sam Lau is leaving Epcot for a newly created role in Asia. Lau had been in that role for just over a year.

Lau is being succeeded by Melissa Valiquette, with Sam taking up the position of Vice President for New Program Development, Asia.

Valiquette is a 20 year Disney veteran, having held roles in front-line park operations at Epcot and Magic Kingdom, and also at business units behind the scenes.

Melissa was also a Walt Disney World Ambassador back in 1997.

As the new Epcot VP, she will continue to report to Jim MacPhee.

Christine McCarthy Named New Disney Chief Financial Officer

Christine McCarthy  EVP, CRE Alliances & Treasurer The Walt Disney Comapny

 

Christine M. McCarthy has been picked as Disney’s new chief financial officer, marking the second time in recent weeks that the entertainment conglomerate has chosen a woman for a key post in its top executive ranks. The Walt Disney Company also named Kevin Mayer chief strategy officer, in a dual announcement by CEO Robert Iger.

McCarthy fills the spot vacated by Jay Rasulo, who announced earlier this month that he would leave the company, effective Tuesday.

Disney in May promoted Leslie Ferraro to the head of its consumer products operation, and that unit was merged this week with the company’s interactive division — putting Ferraro and a fellow executive in charge of a wide array of products and services from toys, to video games and beyond.

“Christine has done an incredible job as Disney’s treasurer over the past 15 years, and her strong leadership and keen financial acumen make her an ideal chief financial officer,” Iger said in a statement about his new CFO. “She is highly respected in the finance sector, and in this new role she will have even more impact on creating value for Disney shareholders.”

Iger also praised Mayer’s previous work in corporate strategy and business development during a time when Disney has been booming. He credited the executive with filling a key role as the company acquired three highly valued subsidiaries — Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.

McCarthy will report to Iger while Mayer will report jointly to both Iger and Tom Staggs, who was elevated earlier this year to chief operating officer. That position makes Staggs the heir apparent to the chief executive’s office.

McCarthy said in a statement that she was “humbled and honored to be entrusted with the role of CFO of this incredibly dynamic company.” She praised Iger for the company’s financial performance. She most recently worked as executive VP, corporate real estate, alliances and treasurer. Among her team’s responsibilities were corporate finance, capital markets, financial risk, international treasury and investments, credit, and risk management.

Mayer served since 2005 as an executive VP for corporate strategy and business development. In his new assignment as chief strategy officer he will oversee strategy and business development, along with acquisitions, innovation, enterprise IT, brand and franchise management and global corporate alliances.

Prior to his most recent stint at Disney, Mayer had been a partner at L.E.K. Consulting, heading a global media and entertainment practice and, before that, chairman and chief executive of Clear Channel Interactive. He first came to Disney in 1993 as manager, strategic planning, spearheading strategy and business development for all of Disney’s interactive and television operations. He holds an MBA from Harvard.

McCarthy had previously been an executive VP and CFO of Imperial Bancorp and held other executive posts at Imperial and another bank. She holds an MBA from UCLA and serves in several non-profit posts, including as a trustee of the Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena and as a mentor for the National Math and Science Initiative’s STEM program. She was named this month as Treasury Today magazine’s Woman of the Year.