Disney Parks Management Shake Up Shakes Up Fans

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What began quietly with a job swap between Hollywood Studios VP Rilous Carter and Epcot VP Dan Cockerell has now exploded into a full Disney Parks management shake-up. In the days following, Walt Disney Parks and Resort president Al Weiss “retired” after 39 years with the company, prompting Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs to announce that the position would not be filled. Now, the plans become clear…

Walt Disney World president Meg Crofton now finds herself as president, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France. No longer is she only president over Disney World, but now over the Disneyland Resort & Disneyland Resort Paris as well. Crofton has been president of Walt Disney World since 2006 and has been with the company for over 30 years.

Karl Holz, president, New Vacation Operations and Disney Cruise Line, will take on a new leading role for Disney Vacation Club, in addition to maintaining roles at Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and Aulani.

What does this change mean for the Disney Parks and Resorts during this time of rapid expansion? Probably good things. Disneyland Resort & Disneyland Resort Paris have not been sound in theme park operations. Basic crowd for control for parades & shows at Disneyland are a nightmare, the way shops and restaurants are operated are appalling, and on too many occasions I have seen hourly cast members handle guests in the most un-Disney ways. Upkeep of the parks is no better in California either, I have seen my share of ride breakdowns and missing/non-working effects on the west coast. As for Disneyland Paris, the recent boost in funds for park upkeep are no doubt coming from management shake-ups there.

Some fans are heralding this as the beginning of another dark age for the Parks and Resorts, which is probably a little overdramatic. Under this management, Florida and California are seeing the biggest construction projects in their history and Disneyland Paris is slowly turning the corner on two decades of under performance. Without a doubt, the future of the Parks and Resorts will be announced at the D23 Expo, projects that will take us beyond Cars Land and the Fantasyland Expansion. I think only at that point can we judge if the direction is for better or for worse.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

15 Comments

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  • Let's hope that this turns out to be a good thing and not a bad thing. That way, maybe it can show Ms. Crofton in a better light to the pessimists.

    Now, if only the rumors about Disney selling off the parks can be put to rest…

    • I don't get that rumor at all.  It makes 0 sense from a business standpoint, a PR standpoint, and an investment standpoint.  If Disney is planning on selling off the parks to other groups, why bother making the huge investments we are seeing that won't see a payback for 10 years (and never if they sell them)?

    • That was considered one time back in 1985, but now the parks is too closely tied to the franchise movies that Iger wants the studios to produce more of that will have strong connections with the parks.  So, to sell off the parks would not make any business sense at all and not provide any benefit to the company now or in the future.  The only time a company sheds a division in a sell off is when that business unit is no longer delivering a good rate of return on the investments or doesn't help to support one or more of the other divisions of the company.  Trust me, the parks are solid on all accounts for the company and too large of a revenue stream to unload.  The company kicks itself that they did the deal they did with the OLC for Tokyo Disney.  Disney now would rather have wanted to own that property outright or have a large percentage stake in the property as a co-owner.

  • With the Crofton matter, you note: "Under this management, Florida and California are seeing the biggest construction projects in their history" 

    That's a inaccurate, to say the least. Besides the redo of DCA, the current management team of the past several years has overseen some of the least amount of construction in the history of Disneyland and WDW. 

    • Besides the Fantasyland expansion, there's almost no construction going on in Magic Kingdom.  Besides Star Tours 2 and Toy Story Mania, there haven't been many updates at Studios.

      I'll be the first to admit that the current management team has done a poor job with the resorts, and have had some missteps with maintenance, but I don't think it's fair to say they haven't made investments in the parks.

    • Over the last two years, work walls have been up on Main Street U.S.A., the Town Square Theater was constructed, the Tomorrowland Terrace was refurbished, signage & lighting throughout all of Tomorrowland was replaced, Space Mountain experienced a major refurbishment, the entire Winnie the Pooh facade was remodeled, the Fantasyland Expansion began, every facade in Fantasyland was refurbished, a wider path between Fantasyland and Liberty Square is being built, the Hall of Presidents had a major big budget overhaul, the Haunted Mansion was refurbished yet again, all of the Frontierland facades are now being repaired, Splash Mountain has had two major refurbishments, Tortuga Taver restored life and repaired a lot of the building that was El Pirata Y El Perico, the Enchanted Tiki Room is being restored, and both Jungle Cruise and Swiss Family Treehouse have had refurbishments to make them look vibrant again. This is only what happened at the Magic Kingdom. If we are going to argue that management from 2006 to now did nothing, I'm not sure that would be correct. What we have just went through were heralded as a turning point for Disneyland after years of bad management leading into the 50th anniversary. Why do the same rules not apply to the Magic Kingdom?

      • True these are good things for the MK, but these are cosmetic and in many cases a reaction to really deteriorated structure or facility.  However, for these handful of positive examples there are so many other growing examples of upkeep concerns and issues from animated figures badly needing attention to effects and technical support requiring work to either bring show elements back to their original intended operation or upgrade to new technology of today's standards.  See the problem with the mentality at WDW when it comes to upkeep is, and I'm not making this up, the leadership at WDW believes that people only come once every two to four years so there isn't a need to address everything now.  Someone who comes this year will hopefully see a facility, animated figure, or whatever the upkeep issue taking place now is fixed the next time they visit in 2 or 4 years.  That is a backwards way of thinking and an example of poor leadership at WDW.  DLR's situation was an entirely different scenario.  A scenario I don't have time to write a book on how that condition got to where it did by 2003 and then were all fixed by 2005.  However, since 2005 overall the parks and hotels and DTD have all been kept up very well.

        • "See the problem with the mentality at WDW when it comes to upkeep is, and I'm not making this up, the leadership at WDW believes that people only come once every two to four years so there isn't a need to address everything now."

          What you're saying makes total sense and is actually quite obvious when you look at the Florida property. Maintenance and cosmetic issues were all over the place and to me, it's all very clear. Management sees that turning to generic Disney branded merchandise, the elimination of countless little touches, which had always been deemed the "Disney touch," is a good way to cut cost and improve balance sheets. They don't see these little items as being important because exactly as you've stated, people visit every few years and they are so overwhelmed with the variety and "magic" of the property, maybe many won't see the problems, or just have the mindset that with so much, there are bound to be a few little problems here and there.

          When you speak of refurbishments, one of the key changes today is that the attractions had ongoing, quality upkeep before full refurbishments and that's quite obviously far from the case today. So, by the time the project gets refurbished, it's far more run down than in the past.

          I'm not a naive fanboy, as I see that being rampant online, but I'm a long-term business owner and the long-term business strategy that the management in Orlando has will cost them in the end. In a competitive marketplace, my business has to do things better than the competition whether that's customer service, value and quality of product, and lastly, the little touches. Back to not being naive, I have more leeway as I'm a privately held business and the Walt Disney Company answers to the market, which while it has always been in the profit business, it's full blown anarchy nowadays on Wall St.. Too hell with anything and everything outside of money.

          I've heard from many friends who are exactly the so-called every 2 to 4 year trip taker and they've literally been unanimous in telling my wife and I that the quality isn't there like it used to be. So, while their skewed and twisted market research gives them the answers that they want to hear, their paying audience sees what's really happening. The friends who've visited all have clearly pointed out that those little touches aren't there, you know, the ones that management doesn't think their every few years visitor notices or cares about. They do care. I know plenty of people who've shelved their next WDW vacation and are going elsewhere and they're high income people, so it wasn't a matter of it costing too much, rather what it costs for what I'm now getting.

  • You obviously live under a rock!  Your assessment of how things are going out in California couldn't be any further from the truth.  All of those things you are mentioning are what is being experienced on a daily basis at WDW, NOT DLR.  Pull your head out long enough to see the truth and then you can come back and correct your idiotic statements in this silly update about one of the worst decisions that Tom Staggs made in elevating this horrible leader from WDW over DLR and DLP.

    • As someone who has spent enough time on both coasts, my assessment is well thought out. Your responses with words like "idiotic" and the type of over dramatic garbage you try to spread are everything wrong with this fan community. You are entitled to your opinion like anyone else, but like most people making this argument, you are attacking people who you are probably not even sure what role they play in the day-to-day operations of the parks. I think you need to better examine the quality of WDW right now and the daily operations carried out at Disneyland.

      • I stand by my comments.  And likewise you don't know the role some who post here play in the day to day operations of the parks either.  It isn't me that has posted on various fan sites the numerous examples of the poor upkeep at WDW.  In addition, on the numerous inspections I've executed at WDW I am so disappointed on the growing list of things that are in need of repair.  I have never seen the overall property this bad in at least a decade or longer.  And apart from the college students who are part of the college program at WDW, I rarely find happy, helpful, genuinely nice employees at WDW compared to the opposite experience at DLR.  Again, that isn't just me saying this, but an overwhelmingly majority of comments from posters on various fan sites.  And lastly, there is no debate in knowing that the depth of talent based in Southern California in all areas of profession is much deeper and better than that of Orlando.  From entertainment, to the crafts area, to costumers, to graphic designers and so many other professions it is just a plain fact that the talent pool is so much greater in SoCal than in Central Florida.  Tom Staggs made a lazy decision in picking this "yes-woman" of a leader to assume part of Al's old role and keep this idiotic structure in place further slowly killing the moral and drive of the talented team at DLR and soon-to-be DLP.  The reality of it is whenever WDW leadership works with any of the other Disney properties here in the U.S. or overseas it is only a matter of time when the employees of that property quickly becomes disgruntled with how the WDW team treats them with their backwards way of thinking and condescending attitude.  WDW style and way of thinking and approach to leadership is not as well liked by many at all of the other Disney properties but none of this information ever makes it up to the levels like Tom because he was given filtered info from the recently "retired" Al Weiss and will now get it from incoming Meg.  It is frustrating that Tom doesn't pay more attention and talk to the lower ranks of employees to really find out just how poorly the WDW folks treat everyone else in the company when in reality they have so much to fix on their own property in Orlando.

    • Lol, thanks Philip for your concerns.  I'm actually quite soothed right now.  Just refuting statements that are not all that accurate nor are in line with the majority of the thinking out there as found on numerous fan sites.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions and I was only providing a rebuttal.

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