Disney’s Josh D’Amaro Speaks on the Power of Connections
At IAAPA Expo’s sold-out Lunch and Learn presentation, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, shared how the company has weathered the disruption of the pandemic and used the forced pause to reimagine its future.
D’Amaro likened the Disney organization to a big train that was barreling headlong down the tracks until COVID-19 derailed it. It gave the company a unique chance to jump off the train and view things in a new light. “I saw how things are connected and the power of those connections,” he said.
He emphasized that cast members, Disney’s term for its employees, are the centerpiece of the company’s storytelling. To help recognize their importance and invest in their future, D’Amaro shared some of the new initiatives the company launched, such as tinkering with its “Four Keys,” guiding principles that date back to Walt Disney. In addition to safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency, it added inclusion as the fifth key. By updating appearance guidelines to allow gender-inclusive hairstyles, nail styles, and more, it encourages cast members to “bring their true selves to work,” the chairman said.
To better engage with the locales in which it operates, he talked about the more than $50 million Disney donated to local, national, and international organizations, as well as the new “Magic Makers” program that recognizes people who have done outstanding work in their communities.
To connect with guests, D’Amaro ticked off many of the new attractions the company recently introduced or has in the works, such as Avengers Campus at Disneyland, a new “Zootopia” land at Shanghai Disneyland, the upcoming Disney Wish cruise ship, and the many developments at Walt Disney World Resort in conjunction with its 50th anniversary celebration.
Four performers treated the Expo audience to a rendition of “Go the Distance,” the song from “Hercules” that is featured in “Harmonious,” the new nighttime show at Epcot. Sung in a variety of languages, it demonstrates how the show honors many cultures.
D’Amaro also talked about the changes Disney is making to existing attractions, such as the “Jungle Cruise.” He said it was intimidating to think about making changes to the iconic attraction, but necessary to make it more inclusive, welcoming, and relevant.
The chairman surprised the audience with the announcement that Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland would be reimagined with more green space, a CenTOONial Park area, and a Dream Tree that takes its inspiration from Walt Disney. D’Amaro also announced a partnership with the makers of Minecraft and a new “Minecraft Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Adventure” video game. Finally, he shared new technology that Disney’s fabled Imagineers are developing, such as a realistic, walking Groot character.
“We’re going to need to think a little differently for how we create the future,” D’Amaro said. “I see a new chapter coming.”
Calling back to the train analogy, he added that the company would honor its legacy but do more than just follow tracks laid 100 years ago.
“We’ll need to build new tracks,” D’Amaro said. “And one day, I don’t think there will be any tracks. Then our possibilities are completely boundless.”