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tom staggs

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As a big Disney fan, and someone who studied business in college, I love reading about the inner workings of The Walt Disney Company. (When Tom Staggs and Jay Rasulo flipped roles, that was a big deal in my world.) Before, I’d sift through various blogs in order to find the stories I wanted. But now, a San Francisco-based startup delivers the news about the people behind the Disney brand in a way that puts Google Alerts to shame.

Newsle filters through the “social noise” to bring you the news you care about. It finds articles about yourself, your Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections, as well as any public figures you decide to follow. What’s really cool about it is that it can tell if it’s your friend “John Smith,” or some other “John Smith” that you don’t know. (For a more detailed description of the service and how it works, check out this write up for Huffington Post Tech.)

So if you want to follow along as well, sign up for Newsle, follow @Newsle on Twitter, and click the pictures below (the jump) to follow a few Disney executives.

I was fortunate enough to be the guest of Disney for the opening of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai’i. The place is fantastic.

Before the trip I wasn’t sure whether or not the magic of Hawai’i needed a touch of Disney’s, but the fit is seamless. The combined storytelling of the islands and the mouse make for an amazing adventure. Really. I’m already making plans to return with my family so that they can also enjoy all that Aulani has to offer.

Friday, August 19 was opening day of the D23 Expo (I’m working under the assumption that you are familiar with D23) and it kicked off with a bang. Or a mouse, as the case may be. It always starts with a mouse.

D23 crowdsWhile the expo was open to the general ticket-buying public, it did offer a number of perks specifically to official D23 members, such as discounted passes, special “members only” events and early admission. It pays to belong, people!

Friday’s itinerary started at 9:00 a.m. with two of the aforementioned members only events, namely the Disney Store Opening Ceremony and the Radio Disney Road Crew Dance Party.

Other events that morning included an art contest with Disney.com, vintage footage showcasing the history of the Disneyland Hotel (congrats, DH, on the new ranking!), meet and greets with artists Jim Salvati and Robert Olszewski of the Disney Store and Disney Dream, respectively, and characters from Disney Channel’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates.

Then it was time for the 2011 Disney Legends Ceremony, which was, as you might imagine, magical. However, not everyone was able to attend the ceremony, so they had to settle for other really cool things like The Wonderful Words of Disney… Behind the Page: Kingdom Keepers presentation with Ridley Pearson. I would have loved to have attended this event to discuss some of my issues with the continuity, or lack thereof, within the series, but alas, Mr. Pearson was spared my fanboy criticism, and is probably the better for it.

In a long internal memo today, Tom Staggs made official the organizational shakeup everyone knew was coming after Staggs took over the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts division. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it does flatten some of the levels of hierarchy that were said to have frustrated Staggs since he took over.

In short, current WDW president Meg Crofton expands to oversee all the domestic parks and the two parks in France. Karl Holtz, who a few years ago was rumored to be leaving Disney, is instead adding DVC to his DCL and Adventures by Disney responsibilities. Leslie Ferraro becomes executive vice president, Global Marketing and Sales combining those two closely related departments and Erin Wallace, executive vice president, Operations Integration also adds revenue management to her desk. The move also creates a new executive council under Staggs.

While Staggs’ reorganization did not cut any of the deadwood certain segments of Disney fans wanted to see go, I believe the general movement here is a good one. It will allow for efficiencies where they need to exist and independence, with oversight, as required for the parks. Combining marketing and sales is a no-duh in my book, they are both measured by the same final metrics (butts in beds and asses through the gates), so unifying them is good. The only move that looks questionable to me is giving the extra power of revenue management to operations. However, they are the yin and the yang of theme park operations. Having one person keep a close eye via her myriad of spreadsheets and minions (and I mean that in the nicest possible way), could be very positive.

Let’s keep a watch on this for the next 3-year planning cycle and see if there really is any improvement. Meanwhile, the pressure is kicked up a notch for these people to get things done or they too could be reorganized right out of a job.

The full text of Tom Staggs’ announcement is below the jump: