Rasulo out as Disney theme parks chief; Staggs to replace
Hollywood alpha gossip Nikki Finke is reporting
that Disney theme parks chairman Jay Rasulo is swapping jobs with Walt Disney Co. chief financial officer Tom Staggs.
Finke reports in an update that the move is a step in grooming Staggs for the COO post at Disney. Park cynics have said that Rasulo's always seemed more comfortable around spreadsheets than inside the parks, so it's a good switch for him, too. ;-)
Here's is Disney's corporate bio on Thomas Staggs.
Reaction? Ultimately, Rasulo's greatest legacy as Disney theme park chairman may have been, simply, that he wasn't Paul Pressler. That was enough to be judged a success. Pressler, Rasulo's predecessor, was reviled for the decline Disneyland suffered under his watch. Disneyland fans started a website to get Pressler promoted anywhere away from Disneyland, but, ironically, he ended up in charge of all the company's theme parks.
Staggs worked on the Pixar acquisition, which raises questions about how much more closely he might work with John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios and principal creative advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering. Lasseter is the de facto creative force driving decisions at the Disneyland Resort now, and having someone he's closer to in charge of all Disney theme parks might extend his influence in Orlando and around the world. (That would be a very, very good thing, IMHO.)
I don't know details how how well Lasseter and Staggs have worked together. But Lasseter and Rasulo weren't known for a close relationship.
I like where she writes: "And, with Disney theme parks and resorts expanding into Shanghai, etc, this is an area where Staggs could make a name for himself."
What I'm getting from most of the Disney boards is that things are extremely unlikely to get any better under Staggs and may likely get worse. Really, at this point it's quite hard to tell, as Staggs doesn't really have much track record on the creative side of Disney, let alone the Theme Park side. But as with having any Financial executive as Chair of Parks and Resorts, you can expect profit to reign supreme, and budgetary cutbacks to be the norm. That's not to say we won't get any new projects or that the current slate will be adversely affected, simply that the scale of future attractions may not be as grand. The park that will feel this the most is without question Shanghai, as that is the park whose budget is not yet set in stone. When that park opens in 5 years, it will have Staggs' full input on its design and cost.
Dan M writes: That's not to say we won't get any new projects or that the current slate will be adversely affected, simply that the scale of future attractions may not be as grand. The park that will feel this the most is without question Shanghai, as that is the park whose budget is not yet set in stone. When that park opens in 5 years, it will have Staggs' full input on its design and cost.
BTW -- Disney's 4th Quarter numbers are out. Theme parks reported a 17% drop in profit on 4% lower revenue. http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20091112-717719.html
I think it is very reasonable to suggest that Shanghai Disneyland will certainly be affected by this change in management. As for whether or not it is a change for the better or worse remains to be seen. You are correct in that the international parks are not solely financed by Disney. (Or in Tokyo's case financed by Disney at all). But my reasoning for this, is that from what I've heard, the budgets for the announced expansions state side are set in stone. I believe that from what I've read there is a lump sum of cash for both the Fantasyland Expansion and the DCA revamp. A certain amount of cash has been allocated for both, and while that sum remains the same, it continues to be divided between projects included in those respective expansions. For example, we have seen some budget cuts in the Paradise Pier refurb (No wrap-around boardwalk for Fun Wheel, No rethemed Carousel) because that money is instead financing the other projects like Cars Land or The Little Mermaid that might be seen as more valuable than the little things being done throughout the park.
^ What the Shanghai park has going for it is that the Chinese syndicate - 57% owners of the venture - saw exactly how the underbuilt Hong Kong park fared and are not about to make the same mistake.
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