Theme Park Insider

Weis Takes Over at Walt Disney Imagineering

January 15, 2016, 8:56 PM · Bob Weis is the new president of Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced today.

Weis moves up from an executive vice president position and assumes control of Disney's theme park design division from the team of Bruce Vaughn and Craig Russell, who held the titles of Chief Creative Executive and Chief Development and Delivery Executive, respectively. Weis has been helming the design of Shanghai Disneyland and before that oversaw the transformation of Disney California Adventure, including the additions of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street.

Weis also oversaw the creative development of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios and has worked on the Tokyo Disney Resort, including conceptual designs for Tokyo DisneySea.

Bruce Vaughn will be leaving the company following a transition period, and Craig Russell will be moving into a new role within the Walt Disney Company.

Replies (46)

January 15, 2016 at 9:42 PM · Sounds like an upgrade.
January 15, 2016 at 10:07 PM · Hmm...given the great work he did at other parks, be nice if he gets more done, especially Epcot.
January 15, 2016 at 10:10 PM · A big time upgrade. Nice!
January 16, 2016 at 6:03 AM · What a résumé! Agree that it is a big time upgrade!
January 16, 2016 at 7:34 AM · Tony Baxter is probably partying this weekend.
January 16, 2016 at 11:42 AM · Sounds good , hope that they start focusing on Epcot.
January 16, 2016 at 12:08 PM · He certainly has a great track record. The right man for the job.
January 16, 2016 at 1:06 PM · Never heard of him. Although anyone has to be better than those who have been in charge of the recent output of the past few years - Mine Train, Star Wars Bay, etc have been nothing short of a disgrace.
January 16, 2016 at 2:04 PM · Thank god. Congrats to Weiss. Perfect.
January 16, 2016 at 6:43 PM · California needs upgrade at bugs land, hope he can help
January 16, 2016 at 7:46 PM · Yay! He has done great things; the DCA transformation, Shanghai Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort, Tower of Terror at DHS, etc. So exciting! I hope they fix Epcot too.
January 17, 2016 at 4:43 AM · To be fair, if the top brass Bob Iger isn't investing in the parks ... you could have the late Steve Jobs in charge and nothing productive would come out.
January 17, 2016 at 5:07 AM · I never believed in the mantra "I plan, you do".
Disney will do much better with the same guy responsible for planing and executing.
January 17, 2016 at 8:57 AM · I look forward to seeing what this guy does. So Weiss, here is my wish list of Disney attractions I want:

-WDW's own version of Indiana Jones Adventure

-bring back Journey Into Imagination 1.0, but update the effects.

-Inside Out Epcot pavilion about how emotions affect our lives

-Iron Man ride replacing Disneyland's Innoventions

-Buzz Lightyear ride getting a Guardians of the Galaxy paint job.

-Journey Thru Inner Space: Ant-Man addition!!! (Can you tell that I love Marvel?)

-Disney Princess Dating Service!...ok, that one's probably never gonna happen...and probably shouldn't happen...but admit it, there was a time when you wished you could date a Disney princess. (Well, unless you're on the other side of the coin, in which case I apologize.)

January 17, 2016 at 11:26 AM · I saw somewhere that as part of this change Kathy Mangum was taking creative direction of Disneyland Paris, which I think Tom Fitzgerald was previously in charge of. Any idea if this means his role is changing as well?
January 18, 2016 at 12:01 AM · Anonymous poster writes: " ...Mine Train, Star Wars Bay, etc have been nothing short of a disgrace."

I Respond: Wrong.

January 18, 2016 at 8:38 AM · I love the person who wrote, Iger isn't investing in parks....ummmm, yeah that's just wrong
January 18, 2016 at 10:42 AM · Iger has been investing in Chinese parks. Disney hasn't opened an e-ticket attraction in Orlando since 2006.
January 18, 2016 at 1:32 PM · I completely disagree. Bob Iger has been an utter disgrace for Disney's theme park division. Sure, visitor numbers are remaining on a upward trajectory (due to new foreign markets like Brazil opening up), but his personal lack of investment in the parks means whoever the next CEO will have to clean up the mess Iger's lack of invetment , otherwise visitor numbers will start to fall.

It's only now that Bob Iger is in the motions of any sort of investment in the parks - if you look at his tenure since he took over - he has not developed ONE e-ticket attraction over at Orlando, and one sole e-ticket attraction in California. In eleven years of his tenure - he has the sole credit of ONE E-TICKET ATTRACTION in the whole of the USA. He has let Orlando rot to the chore - the state of Epcot, Hollywood Studios is a disgrace. His Fantasy Land project for Orlando, was more about land space rather than any significant investment; the sole new attraction for the area 'Mine Train coaster' was scaled back massively (due to Iger not wanting to spend).

And that is the crux of the issue with Bob Iger. He doesn't want to spend. Any investment eats into profits. Iger is as staunch a corporate numbers guy you will meet - the bottom line for him will always be profit. If he invests $200 million in an attraction it eats into his profits. So all the while Disney has small +2% type attendance rises he will see no reason to invest. The only reason he invested in California Adventure was because attendance fell.

The man has no love for the parks. He's no Steve Jobs, no Steven Speilberg, etc he's no visionary. He's a corporate man. He does love movies though, and even though he has precided over the most disastorous Disney investments like John Carter of Mars, Lone Ranger, Tomorrow Land, Prince of Persia, he got very lucky in a project he didn't really fully support - namely Frozen.

Look at the state of Epcot - no investment in the park at all. Look at what the OLC are doing for a Frozen attraction in Tokyo, and look at the cheap makeover Iger is doing at Epcot for Frozen. Look at Hollywood Studios, a park he has let ROT because of underinvestment.

So now all of a sudden we expect Avatar and Star Wars Land - both are going to be developed with the same lack of under investment, same time frame, and in the meantime parks will rot. Star Wars Land in the year 2034 because Iger doesn't want to invest to get the project finished quick.

An utter disgrace of a man for theme park division of Disney.

January 18, 2016 at 4:31 PM · What ever happened to John Lasseter having a big voice in all this? It seemed so promising at one point.
January 18, 2016 at 5:29 PM · Anonymous poster BB- is just adorable.

Regarding Mr. Iger's "lack of investment" at the resorts and parks ... Well, let me blow the dust off my list.

Disney Springs retail expansion and food and beverage expansion (both the current work underway and the more than a dozen additions announced last week).

Disney Springs - NBA Experience.

Disney Springs parking garages (with smart park features advising drivers where they can find available spaces).

Disney Springs - Civil construction (new bridges, the I-4 off ramp and additional roads, etc.).

Disney Springs - Pedestrian promenade (bridges).

Polynesian Resort - Renovation of public spaces and guest rooms.

Polynesian Resort - Renovation of children's recreation center.

Polynesian Resort - Luxury bungalows.

Polynesian Resort - New pool area.

Polynesian Resort - Trader Sam's lounge

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Boardwalk Hotel - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Caribbean Beach Resort - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Caribbean Beach Resort - Pirate Suite guestroom renovations.

Disney Yacht Club - Guestroom renovations.

Disney Beach Club - Resort renovation.

Disney Beach Club - Beach Club Villas.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Night Time Entertainment.

Disney Animal Kingdom - African village expansion.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar attraction #1

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar attraction #2.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar themed area development (floating mountains, etc.)

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar food and beverage.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Pizzafari food and beverage.

Disney Animal Kingdom - Avatar retail.

EPCOT - Soarin' expansion.

EPCOT - Frozen attraction.

EPCOT - Frozen character greeting.

Back of House - Laundry facility (along with other back-of-house construction).

Magic Kingdom - Hub hardscape Renovation.

Magic Kingdom - Ongoing paint and facade finishes Main Street USA.

Magic Kingdom - Jungle Cruise restaurant.

Disney Hollywood Studios - American Idol Theater renovation for 'Frozen' stage show.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Midway Mania expansion.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Toy Story land attraction #1.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Toy Story land attraction #2.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Toy Story land themed area development.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Toy Story land themed dining.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Toy Story land themed retail.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Star Wars land attraction #1.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Star Wars land attraction #2.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Star Wars land themed dining.

Disney Hollywood Studios - Star Wars land themed retail.

Yeah, Mr. Iger and his crew had better step up their game and start (ahem) investing in the Walt Disney World property.


January 18, 2016 at 5:39 PM · If you really want to know what Robert Iger has done for the company, check out this December 2014 article from 'Forbes'

It pretty much slams the assertion that he is cheap and only looking for profits.

January 18, 2016 at 6:37 PM · What happened to the remainder of the "upgrades" for Fantasyland's
dark rides?? In Disneyland {California}, they promised to upgrade
all 5 Fantasyland dark rides. They upgraded Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. The other 3, you don't hear about anymore. Have they
abandoned their plans for this area?
Not a word mentioned anymore.
January 18, 2016 at 8:33 PM · I don't know about not "only looking for profits" (there's got to be a reason why Frozen is still being shoved down our throats 2 years later), but TH is absolutely correct in that Iger is not timid when it comes to park investment and he definitely ain't cheap.
January 19, 2016 at 12:37 AM · Oh woopee Bob Iger is building shops. If you think Iger has invested his energy and monies in the parks you are in denial.

Quoting hotel upgrades and the build of shops isn't a pat on the back for Iger. You just have to look at the state of DHS,Epcot, no e-ticket attractions under his tenure in Orlando.

January 19, 2016 at 3:26 AM · Yes TH ... because we go to Disney for the shopping experience. So kudos for Iger for tapping into our psyche (rolls eyes).

If you honestly believe Iger is good for the theme park division, then i assume you are happy with the current state of DHS (it's been this way for the best part of Igers tenure), the current state of Epcot ? If you are, then it's pointless even debating with you.

January 19, 2016 at 9:15 AM · Iger has treated the Orlando parks like unwanted stepchildren. 15 years between e-ticket attractions doesn't cut it.
January 19, 2016 at 10:50 AM · TH Creative writes: Anonymous poster writes: " ...Mine Train, Star Wars Bay, etc have been nothing short of a disgrace."
I Respond: Wrong"

I respond: spot on Anonymous poster and I will even explain TH Creative why HE is WRONG.
Mine Train started as a very nice ride, Although low on capacity it had excitement and a story in there with about 4 show scene's. Due to endless cost cutting it ended up with 1 show scene, no story and a disapointing short ride with even less capacity. It took forever to build and when it was ready it didn't hit as hard as it's hype. It's just not Disney worthy.
Having the Star Wars ip for what seems forever Disney has always been to scared, incompetent or stupid to cash in on this ip. Now it bought it to compensate their lack of making a constant string of succesfull life action movies they finaly start doing a bit with it, but as a fan of Star Wars I have no intention to book a ticket to WDW to "exerpiance" the Star Wars Bay nor am I excited about Star Wars Land, a planet unknown in the Star Wars univers. Why would I want to see that? It's like building a nicely themed area for Potter but unknown from books and movies and tell that the nephew of Potter lived there. No that is not what a fan of the ip wants to see.
And I won't start about the Frozen travesty that is done to dead in the cheapest ways at WDW and now gets to ruin World Showcase.

January 19, 2016 at 12:08 PM · OT on Mine Train: " It's just not Disney worthy."

I Reply: An opinion that has no more value than my opinion. I think Mine Train is themed nicely for the area and is one of the best family coasters in Orlando.

OT writes: "I have no intention to book a ticket to WDW to "exerpiance" (sic) the Star Wars Bay nor am I excited about Star Wars Land, a planet unknown in the Star Wars univers (sic). Why would I want to see that?"

I Respond: Again, an exercise in subjectivity. Believe it or not, satisfying your individual tastes is not the standard by which every attraction should be measured.

January 19, 2016 at 12:28 PM · writes: You just have to look at the state of DHS,Epcot, no e-ticket attractions under his tenure in Orlando.

I write: What constitutes an E-ticket attraction is a matter of individual opinion. I would contend that a family with small children consider Mine Train and Little Mermaid "E-ticket" attractions. writes: "Yes TH ... because we go to Disney for the shopping experience. So kudos for Iger for tapping into our psyche (rolls eyes)."

I Respond: I am not sure who you mean when you say "we." Or are you one of those "confident" people who believe their opinion is universally accepted?

Hmmm ...

And my list identifies so much more than retail. It includes attractions, entertainment, themed dining, nightclubs and sport experiences. It also includes massive resort expansions and civil renovations to improve a guest experience. You seem to overlook those things which are (after all) a multiplicity of examples of how Mr. Iger has supported investment in the resort. It undermines your assertion that the "... crux of the issue with Bob Iger. He doesn't want to spend. Any investment eats into profits." writes: "If you honestly believe Iger is good for the theme park division, then i assume you are happy with the current state of DHS (it's been this way for the best part of Igers tenure), the current state of Epcot ? If you are, then it's pointless even debating with you."

I Respond: Regarding DHS, there is and has been plenty of room for improvement. But I give Mr. Iger's leadership the benefit of the doubt because of the company's most recent moves. A willingness to risk shuttering attractions in the park in order to provide the requisite space for one of the largest expansions in theme park history (featuring two of the most successful IPs in motion picture history) is by any fair measurement a bold move. Shuttering old attractions for new ones directly contradicts your assertion that he is letting the park "rot."

As for EPCOT, I have a great time when I visit during the Spring and Fall events. Further, I am patient enough to know that Tom Fitzgerald (the recently assigned WDI EPCOT chief) will have his day. He oversaw implementation of the 'Ratatouille' trackless attraction at EuroDisney. Makes me believe we may see a WDW version sometime down the road (by 2021 in time for the 50th, maybe). Likewise, there is the 'Soarin', expansion and the smaller improvements in Communicore -- again undermining your "let it rot" assertion.

January 19, 2016 at 12:47 PM · Incidentally, if you think the Disney Springs expansion is just the company building shops, you are either woefully misinformed or are purposely trolling by discounting what is a massive expansion of retail, food and entertainment. Disney Springs is going to be a HUGE hit.
January 19, 2016 at 12:52 PM · TH - you are actively supporting a guy, who has invested next to nothing in the theme parks. You go to great lengths to compile a list which consists of hotel upgrades, paths, roads, and shops he is building as a way to support him - completely forgetting about the whole heart of Disney - namely it's THEME PARKS!

You my friend are either on a wind up, or looking for Disney rewards. lol

January 19, 2016 at 2:58 PM · Iger's Orlando investments - too little, too late.

We're supposed to be thrilled that Iger is expanding Soarin' and Toy Story capacity? More capacity for those attractions wouldn't be necessary, if Iger had shown the Orlando parks a fraction of the love he has shown the rest of the world - Mystic Manor, Ratatouille, Pooh's Honey Hunt, etc, etc, etc.

January 19, 2016 at 3:43 PM · I, of course, agree with TH. Fellow anonymous poster, you do realize there's more to theme parks than just big e-tickets, right? Going to a theme park and only focusing on e-tickets is like watching an action movie and fast-forwarding to all the fight sequences...not caring about such things as story or character. There is a little thing called "simple pleasures." Simple pleasures aren't big or thrilling, they might not be heavily themed, or feature the latest, most groundbreaking technology. But what they do offer is joy and contentment. A wholesome experience you can enjoy with others. A nice, momentary relief from all the hustle of rushing between all the popular roller coasters or motion simulators. Just something simple and pleasant. A simple pleasure is getting wonderful scenic views of the Rivers of America in the Mark Twain. Or taking a romantic stroll with your special someone around the World Showcase Lagoon and admiring the beautiful architecture of pavilions like China or Italy. Or sitting around the beautifully-lit World Showcase Lagoon at night with your special someone and watching the fireworks of IllumiNations lighting up the sky. Or watching majestic African creatures roaming around a realistic interpretation of a natural African habitat in Kilimanjaro Safaris. Or seeing the bright expression on your child's face as he/she meets their favorite Disney characters. Or sitting back and listening as the Tiki Room birds sing their quirky little songs. Or spotting your favorite movie amongst so many cinematic legends during the final film of the Great Movie Ride. Or that delightful sensation you get when you first step on to Main Street on a bright morning and see the elegant Cinderella Castle accompanied by the delightfully sweet scents of Main Street's air fresheners. Or when you leave the Magic Kingdom after watching a brilliant fireworks display and admire just how even more elegant Cinderella Castle looks.

That's what Iger has been investing in: simple pleasures. The gift shops, the restaraunts, the New Fantasyland attractions...nothing big, nothing thrilling, (although 7DMT is quite thrilling for little ones)...just simple pleasures. But now that people have demanded (and quite passionately) new, big e-tickets, we're now getting new big e-tickets! And while I'm all for new big e-tickets, I think this represents the biggest problem with the theme park fan community today. A certain someone has built so many fun, action-packed, innovative e-tickets over such a short amount of time that they have spoiled us. Now, every time a major theme park makes a new investment, we expect it to include a big e-ticket with lots of thrills, revolutionary technology, and great attention to detail. And we tend to dismiss those simple pleasures and say that they're not worth anyone's time. Don't get me wrong, we should be able to tell when an attraction is good or not, but we still shouldn't just simply dismiss a simple pleasure just for not being big or thrilling. Some people can't enjoy big e-tickets due to health reasons; and simple pleasures give big e-tickets more value because of the fact that they're so much more big and thrilling. Being the best isn't worth it if there's no one to be better than.

Building new attractions is essential if you want to keep visitors coming back for more. But just because WDW hasn't built a big e-ticket in a while doesn't mean that the parks can't be fun. Whenever I go to any of the 4 parks, I see the exact opposite of something that's been "left to rot." I see an amazing park with better theming and atmosphere than most other parks out there and with tons of amazing experiences. And I know I'm not alone. If you look around at all your fellow guests, a sad face will pop out at some point, but for every sad face there's at least 10 other faces full of happiness and wonder. Not to mention the fact that Disney still has a much larger fanbase than any other theme park. If you look around on the internet, you will see that the number of Disney fan sites, blogs and forums is so high that even the most sophisticated mathematicians would get a headache. And it's not just because they appeal to so many demographics (though that does play a huge part), it's also because they're able to keep a lot of their attractions ageless through periodic refurbrishments and proper maintenance, something most parks fail to do. That's why Small World, POTC and Haunted Mansion still have unforgivingly long lines and still recieve much praise despite being open since the 60s while a Six Flags coaster that's only been around for 10-20 years loses much of it's former glory.

And quite frankly, it doesn't make sense that you would say that Iger isn't investing in the parks but still saying that he has built restaraunts/gift shops in the parks. Sure it's not a new ride, but it still counts as an investment, doesn't it?

Speaking of which, we have to talk about something you said that really made me angry. That if you go to theme parks just for shopping and dining that it's "pointless debating with them." That statement annoys me so much because it is just so disrespectful and close-minded. The key to having a successful, intellectual discussion is being open-minded towards different ideas or opinions and maintaining some level of respect for the other side. Because, at the end of the day, they're just ordinary people, like you, who live ordinary lives, like you, who have to take care of a family and deal with their own personal problems, like you. And, no, I don't go to theme parks specifically to shop and dine, nor do I think I know anyone who does. But if I did, why should I lower my opinion of them? Some of my family members like to do things that don't make sense to me, but they're still good people and I still love them. And, if anything, presenting yourself this way off the impression that you don't care about what everyone else wants, you only care about what you want. Besides, shouldn't the point of having a debate be that the other side doesn't like the same things that you do? So, really, if you can't be open-minded towards different opinions and only care about what you want, then maybe you're the one that's not worth having a debate with.

January 19, 2016 at 4:35 PM · If Walt Disney World fans are so unhappy over the lack of major new rides in the parks, might I suggest that they stop going to Disney World? Declining attendance at WDW would inspire an even more massive investment in the parks, I would think.

But people keep coming, and spending more, which tells Disney's management that the public approves of what is happening in Florida.

January 19, 2016 at 6:38 PM · contends that the developments I list "completely" overlook theme parks.

Unfortunately the anonymous poster completely overlooks the fact that more than half the projects on the list are construction projects located in the (ahem) theme parks.

BIG swing and a miss.

January 20, 2016 at 10:28 AM · Bob Iger's motto - "Go cheap or go home."
January 20, 2016 at 2:39 PM · motto: "Stay anonymous and troll mindlessly."


January 20, 2016 at 3:01 PM · 1) Essentially nothing new at EPCOT since Mission Space.
2) Much of EPCOT underutilized or completely closed.
3) Half of HS closed.
4) Almost no new E-Tickets since Eisner left.
5) Almost everything awesome or at least ambitious at Disney was built or conceived at least 10 or more Years ago (Pre Iger):
Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Fantasmic, American Adventure, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Festival of Lion King, Spaceship Earth, Everst, Test Track, need I go on?

Iger is an utter disgrace.

January 21, 2016 at 12:06 PM · TH Creative, I'm glad that you can laugh at your own lame jokes. Somebody has to.
January 21, 2016 at 3:08 PM · Actually nobody "has to."


January 22, 2016 at 4:44 AM · Re-

Has everything that I just said in my previous comment (this is my IP address when I'm not home) completely flown over your head? About simple pleasures and all that? That thing took a while for me to write, y'know. Put lots of effort into it. So it would've been nice to know that it made you at least had taken something I said into consideration! But nope, the fact that you keep citing e-tickets as your reason for hating Iger shows that you probably just ignored it and that I'm just wasting my time here.

January 22, 2016 at 8:46 AM · Every park needs a good balance of simple pleasures and E-ticket attractions, but, with the exception of New Fantasyland, every simple pleasure that you describe existed long before Iger became CEO.

New Fantasyland is great if you want to spend hundreds of dollars warping your child into believing that she's a princess, or if you want to spend hundreds of dollars on a meal that you could enjoy for $40.00 at your neighborhood restaurant. But New Fantasyland did next to nothing to relieve long lines and congestion at the parks.

Why are E-ticket attractions important? Because e-ticket attractions distribute crowds more evenly throughout the parks. By reducing overcrowding, E-ticket attractions make the simple pleasures more enjoyable as well.

What happens when Disney management fails to invest in new E-ticket attractions? Iger resorts to cheapskate remedies like paving over lagoons so more people can watch the fireworks display, little by little chipping away at the simple pleasures we both enjoy.

January 22, 2016 at 12:04 PM · Amazing that an article about Bob Weis turns into a flame war regarding Bob Iger.
January 22, 2016 at 3:40 PM · What is or is not an E-Ticket attraction is a matter of opinion. It is not determined by anonymous posters.
January 22, 2016 at 5:15 PM · Mr. Kausch writes: "Amazing that an article about Bob Weis turns into a flame war regarding Bob Iger."

I Respond: Welcome to TPI -- where anonymous Disney haters bash and troll by advancing baseless assertions.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

© Theme Park Insider®   About · Rules · Privacy · Contact
YouTube Facebook Twitter Instagram Email Newsletter