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Profile
Joe Schott

With E440m to invest over the next five years, the future plans for Disneyland Paris couldn’t be more exciting, as COO Joe Schott reveals

Joe Schott is a happy man – with just cause. As chief operating officer of Disneyland Paris, with responsibility for the quality of the guest experience, he was very involved with last year’s 20th anniversary celebrations. The success of these saw a record 16 million visitors to the theme parks and the new evening show Disney Dreams! won several awards, including IAAPA’s Brass Ring. It has now become one of the highest guest rated shows at Disneyland Paris, with a 93 per cent satisfaction rating.

Despite this, he and the rest of the management team aren’t being complacent. Having had a tricky start when the park opened in 1992, they’ve learned that adapting, evolving and investing is the way forward. And with E440m (US$606m, £375.5m) set aside for maintenance and development over the next five years, there’s no shortage of plans.

First up is the ride Ratatouille, which opens next year. This is the park’s largest expression of that all important trend – an interactive, immersive experience. Guests will be taken into the world of the Oscar-winning Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille, which tells the tale of Remy – a talented Parisian rat who dreams of becoming a renowned French chef. Disney storytelling and state-of-the-art technology will come together in this romantic, larger-than-life, experience.

As part of the group’s long-term commitment to investing in high-quality guest experiences, it’s projects such as Ratatouille that will bring work and revenue to the area, which is the plan that they signed up to, back in the 1980s.

The original agreed upon structure between the French government and Walt Disney Company’s development team was not just to bring Disney to Paris, but to develop a world-renowned centre for tourism to create a strong vector for the social and economic development of the Eastern Paris Region. “That has, without a doubt, been the case,” confirms Schott. “The city centre that’s right next to Disneyland Paris continues to grow and has one of the top visited malls in France – if not in Europe. And 55,000 people are in work thanks to direct, indirect and induced jobs throughout France. This amazing, economic boost has happened because of our resort.”

This public-private partnership will lead Disneyland Paris, and its group Euro Disney, to continue development on its territory, with projects such as Villages Nature. “It’s a joint-venture with Pierre et Vacances, an independent French company [that owns Center Parcs in Europe]. We’ll start construction in the next year or so,” says Schott. “It’s going to be an amazing experience based on the Center Parcs format, but in a very Disney way.”

film Equity
Smaller, but still important, plans for the park involve taking advantage of Disney’s film base. “The industry’s becoming very adept at getting equity that matters to the guest,” says Schott. “We already have equity, which continues to grow stronger with the acquisition of Marvel and Lucas Films, so have to build on those, first in entertainment, then long-term in attraction experiences.”

As well as being on top of the light-hearted side of the business, such as the fact that Rapunzel’s dress outsells all others, Schott’s also involved in serious elements, including safety. The European Attractions Show was held in Paris in September and he took advantage of its location and his role as part of the European Advisory Committee for IAAPA to host a safety conference.

One example of what Disney’s doing is moving from paper documents to handheld devices when carrying out preventative maintenance steps. This electronically logs the time, place and date a check was performed. As well as providing a detailed tracking of what’s being done to meet ride legislation requirements, it also enables them to predict issues before they become problems. A campaign called Disney’s Wild about Safety gives children advice about how they can keep themselves safe.

Schott’s passionate about safety and works with SNELAC and IAAPA to help strengthen standards. “We’re heavily supportive from a Disney standpoint, but try not to be dominant. We want to be a collaborative member of the association, rather than the big dog,” he says.

Progress
Disney’s reluctance to dominate is echoed in Schott’s entire demeanour. He’s modest about his achievements, playing down his 32-year progress within the company, which started in 1981 with a weekend job at Walt Disney World Resort while he was at High School in Orlando. “My progression isn’t unique to me, it happens regularly throughout our organisation. At Disneyland Paris, 80 per cent of the managers and senior managers have been promoted from within the company,” he says.

Schott’s own promotions have seen him in the roles of vice president and executive managing director of Walt Disney Attractions Japan, where he oversaw the 25th anniversary celebrations, and director of park operations at Walt Disney World. He was also involved in the openings of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Paris. In 1992 he was opening task force leader, responsible for Main Street attractions. When he returned in 2009, it was as head of operations.

Casting role
This job includes making sure that of the 15,000 cast members (Disney’s name for its staff), those who work with guests are delivering. “My role is focused on the quality of the experience and making sure that for the 16 million guests we had last year, we maintain the quality of the organisation, the operation and the management of the resort. This includes seven hotels, two theme parks and the Disney Village,” he says.

“Fifty-two per cent of our guests are from Paris, the rest from other countries in Europe. So you can’t focus on one group or one language in the shows and operation. We have to do things much more visually and put a lot of thought into how that’s going to make individuals feel. We offer our guide maps in seven languages and many of our cast speak several languages. Even the breakfast buffet can’t be traditionally French. For example, it has to have bacon for the Brits. That organisation is quite complex.”

Catering to such a broad audience, while ensuring the French accepted the park as their own, was the initial challenge. The Florida Resort couldn’t just be picked up and deposited in Paris, as it had been in Tokyo, which the team learned the hard way.

“We didn’t open to a warm reception in France,” recalls Schott. “Many of the things we had to change were based on culture relevancy within the location. For example, the decision not to have alcohol in the park followed a US paradigm about conduct within the park. However, in France, wine as part of a meal is very common, so we developed our offer. “That’s a good example of recognising when changing direction has to be met with the right kind of implementation or your guests aren’t going to be happy – and they’re a vocal crowd.”

Getting to know what works in different countries and cultures is part of the appeal for Schott. “It’s taught me what’s unique about each place from an adaptation standpoint,” he says. “You can’t go into a situation believing you have the answer. You have to get feedback from the people who will decide if your business is successful ­– your guests and cast.”

Living in France has also shown Schott the importance of a healthy life / work balance. “In the US, we live our lives around the office,” he says. “Japan was even more extreme – it was six days a week. That’s not how the French look at the world, which gives you an appreciation of the quality of life and taking time to enjoy it and makes you a more thoughtful and balanced team leader.

“I don’t spend all my time outside the office looking for new ideas,” he points out. “But, instead of working 80 hours a week, it’s more like 60 hours now, including visits in the parks regularly, which is a much healthier approach for me.”

Schott isn’t the only advert for being healthier – the park is too. “Today, 21 years after opening, Disneyland Paris is a powerhouse,” he says proudly. “We’re the number one tourist destination in Europe because our adaptation has made us relevant to all those different audiences.

“It’s a European theme park now, not an American theme park.”


About Joe Schott
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy playing golf. I’d love to play at St Andrews in Scotland. Also, spending time with my sons is really important because I know that’ll change when they transition out.

What’s your favourite food?
Wherever I go, I try to find Mexican.

What drives you?
The pursuit of excellence.

What’s your favourite film?
I enjoy animation and have a deep affinity for old animated films from the Disney library and out of Japan.

How would you describe yourself?
I want to be known as having brought out the talent in those around me, rather than contributing individually.

How would others describe you?
I use humour to get results and make sure people aren’t always so serious. There’s probably no other business in the world where you can have an hour-long conversation about whether Buzz Lightyear would walk or fly in a particular situation. You have to laugh about that.

Meet and greet with Mickey Mouse
One of Disney’s most popular princesses, Rapunzel, with a young visitor
Last year’s 20th anniversary celebrations saw a record 16 million people visit Disneyland Paris
Schott says Disney’s adaptation in France has made it the top European theme park
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Jobs . News . Products . Magazine
Profile
Joe Schott

With E440m to invest over the next five years, the future plans for Disneyland Paris couldn’t be more exciting, as COO Joe Schott reveals

Joe Schott is a happy man – with just cause. As chief operating officer of Disneyland Paris, with responsibility for the quality of the guest experience, he was very involved with last year’s 20th anniversary celebrations. The success of these saw a record 16 million visitors to the theme parks and the new evening show Disney Dreams! won several awards, including IAAPA’s Brass Ring. It has now become one of the highest guest rated shows at Disneyland Paris, with a 93 per cent satisfaction rating.

Despite this, he and the rest of the management team aren’t being complacent. Having had a tricky start when the park opened in 1992, they’ve learned that adapting, evolving and investing is the way forward. And with E440m (US$606m, £375.5m) set aside for maintenance and development over the next five years, there’s no shortage of plans.

First up is the ride Ratatouille, which opens next year. This is the park’s largest expression of that all important trend – an interactive, immersive experience. Guests will be taken into the world of the Oscar-winning Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille, which tells the tale of Remy – a talented Parisian rat who dreams of becoming a renowned French chef. Disney storytelling and state-of-the-art technology will come together in this romantic, larger-than-life, experience.

As part of the group’s long-term commitment to investing in high-quality guest experiences, it’s projects such as Ratatouille that will bring work and revenue to the area, which is the plan that they signed up to, back in the 1980s.

The original agreed upon structure between the French government and Walt Disney Company’s development team was not just to bring Disney to Paris, but to develop a world-renowned centre for tourism to create a strong vector for the social and economic development of the Eastern Paris Region. “That has, without a doubt, been the case,” confirms Schott. “The city centre that’s right next to Disneyland Paris continues to grow and has one of the top visited malls in France – if not in Europe. And 55,000 people are in work thanks to direct, indirect and induced jobs throughout France. This amazing, economic boost has happened because of our resort.”

This public-private partnership will lead Disneyland Paris, and its group Euro Disney, to continue development on its territory, with projects such as Villages Nature. “It’s a joint-venture with Pierre et Vacances, an independent French company [that owns Center Parcs in Europe]. We’ll start construction in the next year or so,” says Schott. “It’s going to be an amazing experience based on the Center Parcs format, but in a very Disney way.”

film Equity
Smaller, but still important, plans for the park involve taking advantage of Disney’s film base. “The industry’s becoming very adept at getting equity that matters to the guest,” says Schott. “We already have equity, which continues to grow stronger with the acquisition of Marvel and Lucas Films, so have to build on those, first in entertainment, then long-term in attraction experiences.”

As well as being on top of the light-hearted side of the business, such as the fact that Rapunzel’s dress outsells all others, Schott’s also involved in serious elements, including safety. The European Attractions Show was held in Paris in September and he took advantage of its location and his role as part of the European Advisory Committee for IAAPA to host a safety conference.

One example of what Disney’s doing is moving from paper documents to handheld devices when carrying out preventative maintenance steps. This electronically logs the time, place and date a check was performed. As well as providing a detailed tracking of what’s being done to meet ride legislation requirements, it also enables them to predict issues before they become problems. A campaign called Disney’s Wild about Safety gives children advice about how they can keep themselves safe.

Schott’s passionate about safety and works with SNELAC and IAAPA to help strengthen standards. “We’re heavily supportive from a Disney standpoint, but try not to be dominant. We want to be a collaborative member of the association, rather than the big dog,” he says.

Progress
Disney’s reluctance to dominate is echoed in Schott’s entire demeanour. He’s modest about his achievements, playing down his 32-year progress within the company, which started in 1981 with a weekend job at Walt Disney World Resort while he was at High School in Orlando. “My progression isn’t unique to me, it happens regularly throughout our organisation. At Disneyland Paris, 80 per cent of the managers and senior managers have been promoted from within the company,” he says.

Schott’s own promotions have seen him in the roles of vice president and executive managing director of Walt Disney Attractions Japan, where he oversaw the 25th anniversary celebrations, and director of park operations at Walt Disney World. He was also involved in the openings of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Paris. In 1992 he was opening task force leader, responsible for Main Street attractions. When he returned in 2009, it was as head of operations.

Casting role
This job includes making sure that of the 15,000 cast members (Disney’s name for its staff), those who work with guests are delivering. “My role is focused on the quality of the experience and making sure that for the 16 million guests we had last year, we maintain the quality of the organisation, the operation and the management of the resort. This includes seven hotels, two theme parks and the Disney Village,” he says.

“Fifty-two per cent of our guests are from Paris, the rest from other countries in Europe. So you can’t focus on one group or one language in the shows and operation. We have to do things much more visually and put a lot of thought into how that’s going to make individuals feel. We offer our guide maps in seven languages and many of our cast speak several languages. Even the breakfast buffet can’t be traditionally French. For example, it has to have bacon for the Brits. That organisation is quite complex.”

Catering to such a broad audience, while ensuring the French accepted the park as their own, was the initial challenge. The Florida Resort couldn’t just be picked up and deposited in Paris, as it had been in Tokyo, which the team learned the hard way.

“We didn’t open to a warm reception in France,” recalls Schott. “Many of the things we had to change were based on culture relevancy within the location. For example, the decision not to have alcohol in the park followed a US paradigm about conduct within the park. However, in France, wine as part of a meal is very common, so we developed our offer. “That’s a good example of recognising when changing direction has to be met with the right kind of implementation or your guests aren’t going to be happy – and they’re a vocal crowd.”

Getting to know what works in different countries and cultures is part of the appeal for Schott. “It’s taught me what’s unique about each place from an adaptation standpoint,” he says. “You can’t go into a situation believing you have the answer. You have to get feedback from the people who will decide if your business is successful ­– your guests and cast.”

Living in France has also shown Schott the importance of a healthy life / work balance. “In the US, we live our lives around the office,” he says. “Japan was even more extreme – it was six days a week. That’s not how the French look at the world, which gives you an appreciation of the quality of life and taking time to enjoy it and makes you a more thoughtful and balanced team leader.

“I don’t spend all my time outside the office looking for new ideas,” he points out. “But, instead of working 80 hours a week, it’s more like 60 hours now, including visits in the parks regularly, which is a much healthier approach for me.”

Schott isn’t the only advert for being healthier – the park is too. “Today, 21 years after opening, Disneyland Paris is a powerhouse,” he says proudly. “We’re the number one tourist destination in Europe because our adaptation has made us relevant to all those different audiences.

“It’s a European theme park now, not an American theme park.”


About Joe Schott
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy playing golf. I’d love to play at St Andrews in Scotland. Also, spending time with my sons is really important because I know that’ll change when they transition out.

What’s your favourite food?
Wherever I go, I try to find Mexican.

What drives you?
The pursuit of excellence.

What’s your favourite film?
I enjoy animation and have a deep affinity for old animated films from the Disney library and out of Japan.

How would you describe yourself?
I want to be known as having brought out the talent in those around me, rather than contributing individually.

How would others describe you?
I use humour to get results and make sure people aren’t always so serious. There’s probably no other business in the world where you can have an hour-long conversation about whether Buzz Lightyear would walk or fly in a particular situation. You have to laugh about that.

Meet and greet with Mickey Mouse
One of Disney’s most popular princesses, Rapunzel, with a young visitor
Last year’s 20th anniversary celebrations saw a record 16 million people visit Disneyland Paris
Schott says Disney’s adaptation in France has made it the top European theme park
 


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ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
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