The coveted position in California opened up after previous president Ed Grier stepped down last week, right on schedule at 3 years into the job.
For newly-promoted Kalogridis, this also ends a three-year reign. George became Chief Operating Officer (COO, or French title, Directeur Général Adjoint: Opérations) for Euro Disney SCA, operating group of Disneyland Paris, back in 2006 after Karl Holz was promoted to Chief Executive Officer.
In that time, we’ve seen new parades, new shows and no less than six new attractions — including of course, the formidable Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. We’ve also enjoyed a renewed focus on the resort’s upkeep and details, increasingly wonderful Cast Members, new initiatives like Extra Magic Hours and E-Tickets, and in pure number terms, the most successful years of the resort’s life to date.
Meanwhile, characters have taken over some of the magic of the original park, proper entertainment has been shunned in favour of street dance-alongs, attractions have been forced into reduced operating hours, hotel pools have stayed closed until 3pm, the official website has remained incredibly poor, and progress, generally, at Walt Disney Studios Park has been disappointingly slow and half-hearted. And of course, during his entire run as COO, George Kalogridis would never have seen the front of Disney Studio 1 — it being flanked first by Chicken Little and Cars advertisements, then later a “refurbishment” covering for the past 14 months.
Overseeing such a large programme of expansion should certainly have set him in good step for the continuing billion-dollar expansion and improvements still ahead at Disney’s California Adventure park, if his time overseeing the opening of that park didn’t already — he was their senior vice president of operations first, from 2000 to 2002. Further back, he has history in Paris as one of the original Cast Members on the pre-opening development team in 1988.
The past three years have been spectacularly successful for Disneyland Paris, and we can only hope that the incoming COO is somebody who knows exactly what Disneyland should be — (preferably the Californian or Japanese version, eh?) — and how to achieve that kind of quality more consistently in Paris.
Euro Disney SCA have yet to announce a replacement.
UPDATE (01:46 GMT) — The OC Register “Around Disney” blog has just posted an exclusive Q&A with George Kalogridis, with several interesting comments on the similarities between the California and Paris resorts and some operational tricks learnt in Paris. Here’s an excerpt:
Q. What have you learned from other resorts and your previous stint here that you can bring to the new job?
A. Probably, the one thing that’s most interesting is Disneyland Paris and Disneyland California are the two sites that are the most similar. Both have two theme parks, resort hotels and a retail-entertainment center. Both are in an urban environment. Secondly … in the last three years, I’ve opened a new major attraction each year in my time in Paris. So, I think I also have very recent experience opening a big new attraction. I see the same opportunity here.
Q. What lessons did you learn from the similarities of Disneyland and Disneyland Paris?
A. I think the dynamic of guest visitors and whether or not they choose to cross over to the other park and what makes them choose to do that. It’s an interesting dynamic. There’s no recipe for it. But it’s a big issue as to how you operate. I think we had some learning in Paris. For example, turning the direction of the parade made a big difference in terms of the crush exiting to get to the other park. Again, it’s not that it’s the right thing or the wrong thing here, but it’s learning. … I think the Paris site and this site are the only ones where guests can walk between two parks without a mode of transport.
And some good news for Disneyland Resort fans (and MiceAge columnists) — George states very specifically that “I’m in the parks and hotels more than I’m not. I’m a visible person. […] My goal is to be very visible. And in my time with the company, that’s always proven to be something that’s doable.”