Walt Disney Imagineering has introduced it’s bringing again Bruce Vaughn to co-lead the inventive unit, introduced Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro. On this submit, we’ll cowl the information and supply commentary about his shock return to WDI, Vaughn’s previous monitor report, and what he’s been as much as since departing Disney.
Let’s begin with that final level. Bruce Vaughn left Imagineering again in 2016 to change into CEO and CCO of Dreamscape Immersive, an organization that creates location-based digital actuality experiences. Following that, he joined Airbnb in 2021 as vice chairman of experiential inventive product. At Airbnb, Vaughn led a staff answerable for designing immersive choices for Airbnb stays and experiences, which included fellow Disney alum Catherine Powell, who was beloved by followers throughout her time because the chief of Disneyland Paris.
Vaughn had labored at Imagineering in management roles for 22 years, with mission credit that included DisneyQuest and the Spaceship Earth refurbishment. Previous to his departure, he was one of many co-heads of Imagineering as Chief Artistic Govt for 9 years. Throughout that point, notable tasks included Shanghai Disney Resort, New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom, Pandora – World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom, and early improvement on the overhaul of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Upon returning, Vaughn will take the position of Chief Artistic Officer. He’ll begin on this position efficient March 20, 2023 and can co-lead Walt Disney Imagineering alongside present President Barbara Bouza, with each leaders reporting on to Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro.
“I’ve remained an Imagineer at coronary heart, so I’m thrilled to affix Barbara and reunite with this phenomenal international staff of creators and innovators throughout this pivotal time,” Vaughn mentioned in a press release. “With so many thrilling tasks beneath approach and great alternatives forward of us, I stay up for partnering with Bruce to gasoline creativity and ship next-level experiences,” Bouza added.
Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro despatched an inner word to Imagineers saying Bruce Vaughn’s return:
As Bob Iger usually says, creativity is the center and soul of who we’re and what we do at Disney. The truth is, as we have a look at our firm’s 100-year historical past of bringing charming and memorable storytelling to life, the constant thread that binds us collectively as an organization throughout all segments is our means to drive innovation by means of inventive tasks.
In Disney Parks, Experiences and Merchandise, we proceed to spend money on new endeavors that ship probably the most compelling experiences, immersing our visitors around the globe within the tales they love most. Previously few years, we’ve got discovered ourselves on the crossroads of a wave of latest know-how and a seemingly limitless quantity of latest tales and franchises, permitting us to develop groundbreaking new experiences. In fact, none of this involves life with no robust dedication to creativity and innovation by the superb staff at Walt Disney Imagineering.
With this in thoughts, I’m happy to share that efficient March 20, Bruce Vaughn is returning to Walt Disney Imagineering because the Chief Artistic Officer. Bruce will co-lead the group with WDI President Barbara Bouza, with each leaders reporting on to me.
Collectively, Bruce and Barbara will accomplice carefully to attach visionary inventive pondering with mission alternatives and flawless execution and supply. With important developments beneath approach and extra on the horizon, this devoted focus towards creativity and innovation will assist us ship next-level experiences nicely into the longer term. To greatest accomplish this, they are going to be working collectively to swiftly establish the best option to construction Imagineering.
Lots of you will have had the chance to work with Bruce beforehand. He has a deep historical past with Imagineering, serving for greater than twenty years in management roles together with with WDI R&D, in addition to co-leading the whole WDI group as Chief Artistic Govt for 9 years. Bruce left Disney in 2016 to change into CEO and CCO of Dreamscape Immersive the place he labored with groups to advance digital actuality applied sciences for mainstream location-based leisure, and most not too long ago was with Airbnb the place he developed and led the Experiential Artistic Product staff.
Please be part of me in welcoming Bruce again to Disney.
By way of commentary, I’ll begin by saying that I’m shocked by the constructive response to this information on social media. This has me scratching my head, as a result of Bruce Vaughn was not precisely beloved throughout his time at Walt Disney Imagineering, at the least amongst followers.
As with the return of Bob Iger, I think this response is extra about the established order being so dangerous and morale being so low that any change is well known. Form of a “issues can solely get higher from right here” combined with “issues had been higher when he was right here earlier than.” From these views, followers usually are not precisely unsuitable. The corporate as a complete and Imagineering particularly had higher runs through the prior tenures of Iger and Vaughn.
With regards to Bruce Vaughn, particularly, my data is comparatively restricted. I’ve heard tales and gossip over time, each constructive and damaging, however nothing to obviously peg him as a part of the issue or resolution. My understanding on the time was that his departure was tied to price overruns and delays at Shanghai Disneyland–that he was basically the autumn man–however that’s totally rumor and supposition.
Timing-wise, Vaughn ascended to the highest of Imagineering in 2007, months earlier than the announcement of the Disney’s California Journey overhaul and solely a pair years earlier than New Fantasyland was greenlit for Magic Kingdom. These main tasks precipitated a decade-plus of main improvement within the home and worldwide parks. By way of spending on the parks, Vaughn’s monitor report speaks for itself.
One probably fascinating angle of this information is that Vaughn was ousted shortly after Bob Chapek ascended to the position of Parks Chairman, and is returning shortly after Chapek’s downfall. That could possibly be totally coincidental, or not. If it isn’t, my honest hope is that that is the beginning of the return of earlier leaders who (allegedly) butted heads with Bob Chapek or in any other case had been considered as threats.
Talking of homecomings, I’d like to see Joe Rohde, Bob Weis, Tony Baxter, Kevin Rafferty, and different Imagineers introduced again. Walt Disney Imagineering has been hit arduous within the final a number of years, and it’s unimaginable to say how lots of the current high-profile retirements have really been “retirements” (with heavy air quotes).
Turning again to Bruce Vaughn, I did attend a D23 Expo panel at which he spoke in 2013, and I can’t say I used to be notably impressed. Vaughn displayed a sure vanity all through, uttering the notorious “nobody can contact us” line about Imagineering when dismissing improvement at Common. The last decade or so since actually has not vindicated him.
With the good thing about hindsight, Vaughn now strikes me as the beginning of the pattern away from Imagineers with spectacular portfolios of inventive contributions and tasks. That was previous to the present “influencer period,” so he was not that, however he does appear to suit the mildew.
However, I’m prepared to take a wait and see strategy on the return of Bruce Vaughn to Walt Disney Imagineering. I’ve been saying for months now that I believe Imagineering is on the precipice of its subsequent huge improvement cycle for the home parks, and Disney could possibly be bringing him again not for his inventive chops, however as a result of he’s a superb chief and mission supervisor.
In equity, that’s each bit as wanted as sensible creatives who can dream up ingenious and envelope-pushing points of interest. Imagineering has change into infamous for bloated budgets and mission delays, and there are many situations of current tasks missing a coherent imaginative and prescient and focus. Creatives want guardrails, and maybe Bruce Vaughn is the kind of chief that may present that. I actually have no idea.
Finally, that’s the place I’m at with this and why I’m withholding judgment. Whereas I can perceive the inclination in direction of pleasure or this being constructive information because it suggests that Imagineering is gearing up for one thing, they’ve additionally been so gutted within the final 3 years that I’d must see much more like this earlier than getting too excited. I’d additionally choose to see true creatives with institutional data and clearly-defined portfolios. (It’s additionally potential that Vaughn’s return has nothing to do with substantive tasks, however relatively, to facilitate Imagineering’s relocation from Glendale to Lake Nona, Florida.)
Then once more, Bruce Vaughn was on the high of Walt Disney Imagineering through the improvement of the unique Pandora – World of Avatar (one other notorious ‘second’ of his was being Photoshopped out of groundbreaking images for that!). Maybe Imagineering is getting the gang again collectively for spherical two at Disneyland, and Joe Rohde would be the subsequent re-hire. All issues thought-about, I’m excited for the last decade to come back at Walt Disney World and Disneyland…and I actually hope this performs into that!
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What do you consider Imagineering bringing again Bruce Vaughn? Assume this will likely be a constructive or damaging–or a mix of each–for Imagineering and Disney followers? Ideas on this being WDI laying the groundwork for giant improvement plans which can be on the horizon? Do you agree or disagree with our evaluation? Be happy to share your perspective, however maintain the feedback civil. This isn’t the place for politically-charged arguing, tradition wars, antagonism, private assaults, or low-cost photographs. We will likely be heavy-handed in deleting any feedback that cross the road, regardless of viewpoint.