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  • The path to a being a senior executive for Disney

    Aloha,

    A serious question so please refrain from the jokes and negative comments.

    What is the career path to become a senior executive at Disney where you can actually make a positive impact on customer satisfaction? Just what are the required professional qualifications?

    I sincerely ask because as we start a new decade, the glide slope at Disney for actually fulfilling Walt's theme of "plusing up" the customer/guest experience has become extinct. I think there are many of us who read this Board that would serve very admirably in a senior executive position. Plusing up the experience while maintaining profits to re-invest into DLR.

    Anxious to read the responses because I sincerely don't know, but do care as I observe the continuous downward trend.

  • #2
    Originally posted by guynhawaii View Post
    Aloha,

    A serious question so please refrain from the jokes and negative comments.

    What is the career path to become a senior executive at Disney where you can actually make a positive impact on customer satisfaction? Just what are the required professional qualifications?

    I sincerely ask because as we start a new decade, the glide slope at Disney for actually fulfilling Walt's theme of "plusing up" the customer/guest experience has become extinct. I think there are many of us who read this Board that would serve very admirably in a senior executive position. Plusing up the experience while maintaining profits to re-invest into DLR.

    Anxious to read the responses because I sincerely don't know, but do care as I observe the continuous downward trend.
    The short answer to your question is in the history of the shift in Disney's management culture beginning in the mid-80s. Michael brought in a "professional Wall Street management class" approach that overrode (and in fact mocked) the Studio's previous "up from the ranks" culture. The Walt-founded emphasis on putting the audience and theme park customer first was replaced with a focus on product marketing and profit maximizing -- a management culture that interacts with its customer base not personally, but in the abstract of numbers. As Michael's protege, Bob has doubled down on promoting top executives who have demonstrated their affinity for that culture. Executives who demonstrate too great a desire to "plus the customer/guest experience" have no chance of being promoted to the top tier.
    "Disneyland is often called a magic kingdom because
    it combines fantasy and history, adventure and learning,
    together with every variety of recreation and fun,
    designed to appeal to everyone."

    - Walt Disney

    "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides."
    - Michael Eisner

    "It's very symbiotic."
    - Bob Chapek

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Mr Wiggins View Post

      The short answer to your question is in the history of the shift in Disney's management culture beginning in the mid-80s. Michael brought in a "professional Wall Street management class" approach that overrode (and in fact mocked) the Studio's previous "up from the ranks" culture. The Walt-founded emphasis on putting the audience and theme park customer first was replaced with a focus on product marketing and profit maximizing -- a management culture that interacts with its customer base not personally, but in the abstract of numbers. As Michael's protege, Bob has doubled down on promoting top executives who have demonstrated their affinity for that culture. Executives who demonstrate too great a desire to "plus the customer/guest experience" have no chance of being promoted to the top tier.
      Thanks, capitalism.

      Comment


      • #4
        The themed entertainment industry isn't very big, and first you have to get in - as with the movie industry, it's all who you know, and everyone knows each other and talks to each other, company to company. So hopefully you have close friends working in it, or better yet, you were born into it. The nepotism is strong...

        Then your work really begins. You'd better have worked as an executive at another large company bringing things in under-budget and ahead of schedule all the time, play a lot of golf, run a lot of marathons or triathlons, be ridiculously charming and charismatic, be able to spin all your decisions (good or bad) positively, know the current executives from a past life...

        You know, the usual corporate shtick.

        Oh, knowing stuff about the Disney Company history? BAH HAHA, keep that junk in the orientation. That's for the hourlies and cubicle farmers.

        Comment


        • #5
          Not sure how Disney operates but at my company the execs come in from the outside. There is no working your way up. You just need to be able to turn a profit and spin conversations in a positive way at all times for the brand
          These are some of my favorite TRs I have posted

          DL 55th BDAY trip report
          My company had a special night at the park
          WdW trip report with WWoHP
          NYE 2011 trip report
          Mice Chat 7th anniversary
          Leap year 24 hour report
          New DCA trip report
          NYE 2012
          HKDL trip report

          Comment


          • #6
            Aloha,

            I sincerely hope the replies to date are not true. For everyone's sake. In the best interest of the Disney empire and the Parks, there should be a career path throughout the Disney Corporation and various departments. Doing so would maintain the corporate knowledge and technical expertise and build a solid and robust culture leading to consistent excellence.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by guynhawaii View Post
              Aloha,

              I sincerely hope the replies to date are not true. For everyone's sake. In the best interest of the Disney empire and the Parks, there should be a career path throughout the Disney Corporation and various departments. Doing so would maintain the corporate knowledge and technical expertise and build a solid and robust culture leading to consistent excellence.
              The sad fact that they are true is at the core of the heartbreak that the Eisner and (especially) Iger regimes have caused many longtime Disneyland fans.



              "Disneyland is often called a magic kingdom because
              it combines fantasy and history, adventure and learning,
              together with every variety of recreation and fun,
              designed to appeal to everyone."

              - Walt Disney

              "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides."
              - Michael Eisner

              "It's very symbiotic."
              - Bob Chapek

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by biggsworth View Post
                Not sure how Disney operates but at my company the execs come in from the outside. There is no working your way up. You just need to be able to turn a profit and spin conversations in a positive way at all times for the brand
                And sadly that appears the case in regarding recent presidents of TDA. While multiple predidents have had a background in Disney Parks (George Kalogridis, Michael Colglazier and Josh D' Amaro, to name recently), they all have one thing in common. They didn't originate from the Disneyland Resort.

                And I'm not blacklisting any non-Disneyland executive. However, the last Disneyland President, who originated from the D-land was Jack Lindquist...30 years ago.

                The only close exception was the controversial Cynthia Harriss, who was a VP in Disneyland before being President. (However, she had a business background, before joining Disney and was involved with the Disney Store, so view this as you may).

                It's also not promising that when Josh went back to Florida, none of the big 4 resort VPs(Mary Niven, Kris Thieler, Patrick Finnegan and Elliot Mills) were selected as Resort President. Instead another outsider, Rebecca Campbell, was picked.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The days of 'working your way up from the mailroom' by merit and hard work are dead. Nowadays you have to either know someone (contacts or nepotism) or you have to have done something truly spectacular (by which I mean 'hugely money-making') in the field to draw attention to yourself.

                  My son is an executive in a very large entertainment company. Although he was eminently qualified for his position, he got it because he was already in the industry in a minor way and 'knew someone who knew someone' and that someone really pushed for him to get the job.
                  "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.​"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by denyuntilcaught View Post

                    Thanks, capitalism.
                    That’s not capitalism’s fault. It’s individual greed within people’s fault. Capitalism is working as it should by allowing competitors to develop a better product which they have. Eventually it will catch up to Disney and they will change.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mastersarge View Post

                      That’s not capitalism’s fault. It’s individual greed within people’s fault. Capitalism is working as it should by allowing competitors to develop a better product which they have. Eventually it will catch up to Disney and they will change.
                      I’m a perfect world market forces work just like in a perfect world true communism works. Problem is in both cases people are involved and nepotism takes over.

                      problem with capitalism is that in the end game which is where we are now certain market forces, Disney, have grown so massive that they are no longer bound by market forces. If someone makes a better product they can just buy them out or force them out. it would take an EXTREME shift to ever unseat Disney just by virtue of their size

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        1. They can’t buy someone out unless that someone is willing to be bought out and 2.capitalism is still the best system in the history of mankind to provide opportunity and choice and it has moved more people out of poverty than any other system in history. So, I’m a free market works better than communism in any world person.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Mr Wiggins is right. For the most part working your way up through the ranks at virtually any entertainment/media company these days just isn't possible anymore, certainly not like it was back in the day.

                          When I started with the Lucas empire (no pun intended) in 1993 I was hired at LucasArts as a customer support representative. If you bought a LucasArts game and you couldn't get it to run on your computer and you were all angry about it and you called the phone number in the back of the manual to complain and/or seek help, I was the poor guy who answered your call. I did that for a year then submitted my art portfolio to the art director. She brought me into the Art Department at the very bottom of the ladder and I worked my way up to Visual Effects Superviser and Senior Artist. Then I transferred over to Industrial Light & Magic to work on the effects for the Star Wars prequels, the Jurassic Park franchise, and other films. That led to me being elected and re-elected to the Board of Directors of the Visual Effects Society and opened so many doors for me beyond Lucasfilm.

                          But I fear that sort of pathway simply does not exist anymore in the industry. You can rise so far and then no further. When I was with Lucasfilm, LucasArts, ILM, and the other Lucas companies people rose from the ranks to even the highest positions. I saw that at similar companies as well. I don't see that happening anymore.

                          When a company gets as large as Disney I can understand bringing in proven top execs from outside for the highest level jobs (CEO, CFO, etc.), but for the heads of divisions (feature film, animation, television, theme parks, etc.) Why wouldn't you promote from within?

                          Well, Mr Wiggins has already pointed out exactly why. It's because the entertainment industry is no longer customer-centric. It has become product-centric. It has gone from "What does the customer want" to "How do we entice the customer to want what we are selling?"

                          Is there hope? Possibly. I predict that certain divisions will have people be promoted from within (like Dave Filoni at Lucasfilm). Certainly some divisions such as Pixar still promote from within. For this to return at the parks, it's going to have to take a major catastrophe in order to shake up the whole product-driven philosophy. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen. Sorry to be pessimistic. I'm not a pessimist by nature. This is just the reality I see at the present time.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by denyuntilcaught View Post

                            Thanks, capitalism.
                            Because other economic systems, socialism, communism, feudalism have been proven better? It’s because of capitalism we even have a Disneyland for people to complain about.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Aloha,

                              Great post Dark Lord. Appreciate the background info. You need to post more often.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Pretty much agree with Dark Lord. My experience is the same with my company. This is why I'm in process of switching careers to be my own boss. I still love Disneyland it just sucks they can't get out of their own way with the parks. They don't need to promote a good product of they make it correctly lol
                                These are some of my favorite TRs I have posted

                                DL 55th BDAY trip report
                                My company had a special night at the park
                                WdW trip report with WWoHP
                                NYE 2011 trip report
                                Mice Chat 7th anniversary
                                Leap year 24 hour report
                                New DCA trip report
                                NYE 2012
                                HKDL trip report

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by guynhawaii View Post
                                  Aloha,

                                  Great post Dark Lord. Appreciate the background info. You need to post more often.
                                  Thank you, I will definitely try to post more often than I do.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by C. Andrew Nelson View Post
                                    Well, Mr Wiggins has already pointed out exactly why. It's because the entertainment industry is no longer customer-centric. It has become product-centric. It has gone from "What does the customer want" to "How do we entice the customer to want what we are selling?"
                                    Before I say anything, let me just say thank you for the wonderful post Andrew and that I agree with lots of it. Specifically the bits about what it takes to move up the ladder nowadays. My advice to anyone seriously wanting to become a senior executive in say, "Field A" at Disney would to be to try and become a senior executive in the same field over at another company first. Or even in a different field, they don't seem too picky about hiring the "right" person for some pretty important jobs. This, or simply know someone who can get you placed. After all, these days it's not about what you know, it's about who you know.

                                    But to your point about the whole, anti-customer and product-centric-ness of everything, I'm inclined to slightly disagree. I'd argue that in many cases, Disney/Hollywood/the entertainment industry in general goes exactly to what the customer wants, or what they think they do. It's why sequel-itis is such a thing and why a company like Universal would be more inclined to create, say, Jurassic World: 7 than green light a new indie script.

                                    -and here is where I guess one's personal perception of things comes in; is that totally the wrong thing to do? Let's establish a point that some members on the board have made for the sake of discussion; Galaxy's Edge under-performed because it didn't give the customers what they wanted and bad word of mouth spread. By making this point, one is also making the point that the customer is informed and intelligent enough to make their own decisions and go when they see something that they want. So by this logic further, when something is empty it must be a miss and when something is packed, it must be a hit. So if something along the lines of let's say, Mission: Breakout opens and lines are massive, then in Disney's and in some folks eyes, this must be a hit despite some arguing it may just be a cheap overlay. But if it were bad.. why would there be such a crowd for it? We can't just assume that every single person in line was "tricked" into being there, that goes against the very first point established which is that folks have a level of intelligence when deciding when and where they want to go.

                                    So if customers are responding to things that are same-y, Disney or any company is going to give it to them. "The customer is always right". I think that in many cases this logic is certainly disappointing. In many cases I would like to see companies try somethingnew/take risks rather than recycle the same products/IPs but doing so would, at it's core, goes against "what does the customer want?" because they are technically incapable of wanting something they don't even know about.

                                    But the customer is smart enough to decide if the product in front of them is worth it or not, to them. If they don't want it or they don't feel a product is worth it, they won't show. -and of course any business is going to try and entice folks into what they are selling. At some point I'm sure that even Walt had to do that with "at the time outlandish ideas" like a clean park.

                                    Sure, there are many, many, many things that are black and white that are wrong with today's Disney and aren't really a matter of perception. In many cases we see them charging more and offering up less but when it comes to the core experience of the park itself, many of it's attractions, etc. it's all about what your own personal belief is and how you want to distort whatever is in front of you to serve a narrative that you want to tell. A person may argue that customers are informed, intelligent free thinkers when pointing to the less than stellar attendance of something like GE this summer but in the very next breath attempt to sell me that folks are just "being tricked" into enjoying something like Mission: Breakout or Pixar Pier. The logic just doesn't track for me.

                                    I think the real reality is just that we all have our own idea of what we would like to see offered up in the parks. We are all customers, after all, which means we all technically have to be right, but only for ourselves. Not every one of us is going to get what we want, we are all going to win some battles and lose others.

                                    But Disney has access to some of the best minds in the business. I don't always agree with their decision making but I can at least, at times, understand how they arrived at where they did. Yes, I agree that there is too much emphasis on product pushing and placement but I don't fully agree with the notion that they have (at least fully) stepped away from the concept of giving the people what they want. The parks are as busy and popular as they are today for this reason alone. Now, should things always be this way? I don't think so, it's nice to see them step out of their comfort zone innovate and try new things. But as long as folks are responding well to something financially critically, etc. then all logic points to folks "wanting" it and it makes sense for Disney to pursue that path, at least most of the time.

                                    But every now and again they need to try and break free. This speaks to the whole, "a customer doesn't really know what they want/what they could be missing" unless one takes the chance to create it. This is part of the reason why I loved the notion of GE so much, because instead of playing things safe with tried and true customer-favorite characters like Vader, Luke, Han, etc., they attempted a fully interactive, canon, living story that you could be a part of using more obscure characters. The execution wasn't perfect, things were obviously cut but the "lukewarm" reaction its received is disappointing not just because I'm a fan, but because Disney is probably going to fall back into the rut of creating quick and cheap overlays like Mission: Breakout and Pixar Pier for a while.

                                    The whole concept is truly a conundrum because at the end of the day, it really all depends on what side of the fence you land on/what your mindset is. Some folks might see "giving the people what they want" as a bad thing, because statistically and logically, what customers have responded to may not be so great to them. There's no way to truly listen to every single customer's desires so someone is going to let left out in the cold no matter what, in those instances, it makes sense for it to be the folks that Disney research sees as the minority. On the flip-side, "how do we entice the customer into what we are trying to sell" could be seen as exactly the kind of mindset that an up and coming, go-getter with lots of fresh, new ideas needs to have in order to try and make their vision a reality.

                                    Or those two scenarios could be flipped. Again, it all depends on your what you want as a customer and which side of the fence you're on. There's truly no right or wrong answer in many scenarios. If the offerings of the current park are enough to drive some folks away/not feel it is worth it, then those folks have every right to step away and fight for what they believe they should see. But as long as an even greater number of folks who "know what they want" continue to fill the parks, chances are the first batch may be fighting a losing battle. Neither side is wrong, both are customers. Both "giving the customer what they want" or "how do we entice the customer into buying what we are selling" can be both good and bad, depending on the context of use.

                                    It all depends on the one reading this.

                                    TL;DR: Life, opinions and business are complex. Not a single one of us has all the answers and so many cogs spinning in so many different places probably makes for a machine more complex than any one of us truly realizes.
                                    Last edited by Blurr; 01-07-2020, 02:53 PM.
                                    "I take no side. I am beyond your worrying and wars. I am unseen. Unknowable. Like a rock in the river."

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Bottom line, today’s top Disney execs are brand-acquisition-and-marketing experts who research what is already popular, buy it, then use their film studio, theme parks, consumer products and publishing to market it. They have no more imagination than the top amusement park execs Walt consulted during the development of Disneyland, who assured him he would go broke unless his park followed the same business models that had already proved successful.

                                      As has been said many times, if today’s top Disney execs had been running Disney in the 50s, we wouldn’t be having this conversation: There would have been no Disneyland.
                                      "Disneyland is often called a magic kingdom because
                                      it combines fantasy and history, adventure and learning,
                                      together with every variety of recreation and fun,
                                      designed to appeal to everyone."

                                      - Walt Disney

                                      "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides."
                                      - Michael Eisner

                                      "It's very symbiotic."
                                      - Bob Chapek

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by denyuntilcaught View Post

                                        Thanks, capitalism.
                                        You realize Walt was a capitalist, right? And it seemed to work pretty good for him--and us.

                                        How many Disneyland-like ventures were developed in communist China or Cuba or North Korea or Vietnam? Communism, in fact, has turned into one of history's epic fails.

                                        Comment

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