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Top Disney Parks executive steps down

September 24, 2019, 12:35 PM · One of Disney's top theme park executives has left the company. Catherine Powell, the former Disneyland Paris chief who was promoted last year to oversee Disney's theme parks in the United States and Europe, has departed "to do something different," Bloomberg reported.

Disney is eliminating her position, so there will be no replacement. As a result, Disneyland President Josh D'Amaro, Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis and Disneyland Paris President Natacha Rafalski now will report directly to Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Bob Chapek.

No word anywhere yet if this restructuring will affect Michael Colglazier, the former Disneyland President who continues to be listed on Disney's website as the President of Disney Parks East Region — Powell's counterpart overseeing the Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney Resorts. The resorts that Colglazier oversees are all partially or wholly owned by other parties, unlike Powell's former portfolio of resorts, which are now wholly owned by Disney following the 2017 acquisition of outstanding shares of Disneyland Paris.

Powell's departure follows the path of former Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton, who was promoted to a similar position overseeing Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris in 2013, before she left the company in 2015.

What was supposed to be a triumphant year for Disney's U.S. theme parks has turned a bit disappointing for the company, as aggressive price increases coupled with the delay in its marquee attraction kept Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge from filling the parks in Anaheim and Lake Buena Vista, as Disney executives had expected. But it's hard to see how much responsibility for that could possibly be attributed to Powell, who was at Disneyland Paris for years before taking on a position in the Disney Parks hierarchy that's basically just been used as a bridge between a resort presidency and the exit door from the company.

Replies (7)

September 24, 2019 at 1:47 PM

Bob Chapek should have been kicked out of the company.

September 24, 2019 at 1:50 PM

Disney needed a scapegoat and Powell was it.

September 24, 2019 at 2:06 PM

This is a real blow - Powell did brilliant work in her relatively short time in Paris. I got to speak to her a couple times during her stint there, and she always spoke with genuine passion and understanding for what makes the parks tick. I was looking forward to seeing her rise further up the Disney ladder - it's a shame that won't now happen.

September 24, 2019 at 2:26 PM

Until the quarterly report comes out, can we really say if Disney Parks are being successful as of late? Yes, attendance has been noticeably down recently, but it was down last quarter, too, but Disney still reported an increase in profits. If that happens again this quarter, they will still mark it up as a successful period. They should, too, because they are a business, and, as in any business, the first priority is to make money for their executives and shareholders.

September 24, 2019 at 2:44 PM

@TwoBits Even when it hurts the company in the long term, the people working there and the guests?
There is also the thing that they presumably have been very creative with reporting their numbers for many, many years.

September 24, 2019 at 6:20 PM

Unfortunately she's probably the "fall guy (person?)" for Chapek, Iger, and Kennedy who botched Star Wars land. She'll land well someplace else, no doubt.

September 25, 2019 at 1:32 AM

I see the "Galaxy's Edge is a failure just like the new movies because all real Star Wars fans hate what Disney has done" crowd are in full force on various websites.

Speaking as a fan for 40 years, I can guarantee you that if GE was the OT totally and using Vader, Luke, Leia, etc, the fans would be going "so lame just using the same stuff, it's failing because Disney wasn't daring enough to try something new!"

Believe me, there's no satisfying segments of SW fandom.

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