No, we’re not talking about Splash Mountain. Though, it is a “big splash”. We’re talking about the big news the Walt Disney Company dropped on February 25, 2020, announcing Bob Chapek as the new CEO. For Disneyphiles it’s one of the moments you’ll always remember where you were when you heard the news. Many people knew it was only a matter of time before the original Bob, Bob Iger that is, would step away from his helm and fade to the background. Regardless of how you feel about the new Bob, Bob Chapek that is, there will be ripples in the water from this “big splash”. Let’s take a look at a few.
The Parks Say…
The Magic Kingdom was not excited about the news. To say the least. In the matter of a week, three of the park’s iconic attractions went arie in what could be labeled as Disney attraction civil disobedience. We’re looking at you, Jungle Cruise, PeopleMover, and Haunted Mansion. In a less tongue in cheek perspective of the Chapek announcement, the Disney parks will be directly impacted in a different way. With Chapek moving up to the CEO position it leaves a vacancy in Walt Disney Parks, Experience and Products role.
Say hello to Josh D’Amaro. If the Disney parks have a say in who would assume the role previously held by Chapek, we’re guessing they would vote for Josh. He is a beloved leader within the company by both guests and most importantly the cast members. After restructuring Adventures by Disney to what we know it as today, then reestablishing Disneyland as the “People’s Park”, Josh is now overseeing Walt Disney World. Or as we say, the last step in becoming a Disney global leader.
There is no information directly linking Josh to the position, but he is by far the fan favorite to assume the position. The longer Chapek holds off on making a decision the chances improve for Josh. Regardless, of who assumes the position, the new leader will have more of an impact on the day to day operations and overall strategy for the parks than Chapek. But, we’ll get more into that.
Bring On The IP?
There’s no doubt over the past 10 years we’ve seen Disney bring more Intellectual Property (IP) to the parks. From Toy Story Land to the opening of Frozen Ever After, and of course Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, every new experience is linked to a Disney property. The question becomes was this is an Iger or Chapek decision? Bob Iger is known for acquiring Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, as well as saying we need to see more “Disney ” in the parks. What is unknown is if Chapek feels the same way or was just following the lead of Iger. We can assume but only time will tell for sure.
What is known is Chapek’s desire to be more agile when it comes to reacting to box-office success. One of his pet projects is a concept known as the interchangeable attraction or the black box attraction. This would be a space where Disney could quickly swap out out IP for another when Disney hits a home run at the theaters. For example how Frozen was a huge hit. The question becomes how quickly could we see this concept become a reality.
A Grander View
What’s this new view? It’s everything. Everything Disney as a company has hand in. Traditionally, when your view and responsibilities grow it means you’re less involved in the day-to-day. This relates directly to the parks and leads us to believe whoever assumes the role of Walt Disney Parks, Experience and Products will have the greatest impact on what we experience as guests. Chapek will definitely provide guidance and direction, but will have less involves in the execution.
Time will tell. Whenever there’s a change at the top it’s an exciting time, as no one knows what to expect. In the DVC Duo, the change from Iger to Chapek has raised more questions than answers. Based on the 3-year deal what looks to be happening is Disney saying to Chapek “show us what you got”. This is the same deal Iger received when taking over Eisner and he made a “big splash”. Hello, Pixar! Followed by many more splashes over the years. What will Chapek’s “big splash” be? It’s a mystery, but we’re putting over money another Asian park. Can you say India? Well, that’s a story for another day and our “big splash”!