When George Kalogridis left his previous job in Anaheim, Disney’s California Adventure was barely a year old.
On Monday, Kalogridis, 55, toured a torn-up park undergoing a $1-billion renovation – and realized he’s now in charge.
Disney announced Monday that Kalogridis was named the new president of the Disneyland Resort, Orange County’s largest employer with 20,000 employees in two theme parks, three hotels and Downtown Disney.
Kalogridis took over after Ed Grier retired from the company on Friday.
From 2000 to 2002, Kalogridis was here as a vice president, to specifically oversee operations during the resort’s expansion – California Adventure, Downtown Disney and two hotels opened. Kalogridis most recently worked at Disneyland Paris.
On Monday, Kalogridis spoke to the Register in an exclusive interview.
Q. What do you plan to do in your new job?
A. I think in the first week, I’ll just try to make sure I reacquaint myself with the resort. I took a quick ride to Disney’s California Adventure, and I was able to see the new expansion in the works. That’s very exciting. Twenty thousand (employees are) a lot of people and that’s my focus.
Q. How much time do you plan to spend in the resort?
A. I suggest that if you spoke to cast members or guests that I have worked with … (you’ll find) I’m in the parks and hotels more than I’m not. I’m a visible person. I very much believe in, that’s how you operate best – if you are in the park and in the environment and understand what is important to cast members and your guests. My goal is to be very visible. And in my time with the company, that’s always proven to be something that’s doable.
Q. What is your first priority?
A. I think just making sure cast members can (put my) name and face together is really important to me. That will be priority No. 1.
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.
Q. How do you see your role with guests?
A. I hope, first of all, to be able to meet many of them. … My job has to make sure everything is in place for everyone to take care of the guests and the product.
Q. As Orange County’s largest employer, how do you see your role in the community?
A. It’s obviously an important role. … I think my experience tells me that we’ve got great relationships with the government, the city and the county and I’m confident that they will continue in the future.
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