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Walt Disney Imagineering snags Chief Creative Officer Bruce Vaughn back from Airbnb
March 9, 2023

Walt Disney Imagineering snags Chief Creative Officer Bruce Vaughn back from Airbnb

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Walt Disney Imagineering, the workshop that makes all of the cool things you experience at the Disney Parks, is bringing back a veteran to co-lead the division. Bruce Vaughn was previously at WDI for 22 years, leaving for VR experience company Dreamscape before landing at Airbnb.

Vaughn will take the role of Chief Creative Officer and co-lead of WDI. This news is likely to be shockwave-level (in a good way) among Imagineers present and past and those of us who follow the Parks and the people that create them. 

Vaughn has been at Airbnb for a year and a half leading its Experiential Creative Product team. He was hired to develop more ‘immersive’ experiences at Airbnb, who had also hired former Disney Parks exec Catherine Powell to help them build out packages of excursions for Airbnb guests in an effort to go beyond lodging bookings. 

Vaughn previously co-lead WDI as Chief Creative Executive for 9 years where he worked on projects across the company — including the renovation of EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth early on in his career.

‘I’ve remained an Imagineer at heart, so I’m thrilled to join Barbara and reunite with this phenomenal global team of creators and innovators during this pivotal time,’ Vaughn said in a provided statement. 

Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Imagineering

Imagineering is a unique organization with a very different way of working. Leads inside the division pool resources across a group of people that blend a melange of art, engineering, organization, supply chain and storytelling into environmental works that are inhabited by millions of people a year. The internal process for creating and maintaining a flow of unique ideas balances fiscal restrictions, personalities and revenue goals against the much more nebulous questions of art and emotion.

It’s a startup that was born in 1952 and still manages to maintain a sense that the projects being built are somehow being formed organically from chaos. It’s a rare environment that draws really talented people, but has also been shedding them rapidly.

WDI has seen a huge shakeup in recent years under the company’s previous CEO, Bob Chapek. Long-time Imagineers which led huge projects and carried an enormous amount of institutional knowledge like Joe Rohde, Jon Snoddy, former Imagineering co-President Bob Weis and others have all moved on recently – along with a spate of departures surrounding Disney’s stop-start move of WDI to Florida.

Effective leaders of that organization have to understand them and how to perform that balancing act. Weis was co-President with Barbara Bouza – who joined WDI as co-President, Business Operations, Design & Delivery in 2020. Bouza will now be the solo President but co-lead of Imagineering with Vaughn in the CCO role. Both will report directly to Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks. He officially joins on March 20th.

‘With so many exciting projects under way and tremendous opportunities ahead of us, I look forward to partnering with Bruce to fuel creativity and deliver next-level experiences,’ said Bouza in a statement.

Disney is betting here that a veteran, respected, leader who previously worked as a co-lead will offset some recent brain drain and loss of history. Though it’s easy to ascribe every movement made since Bob Iger resumed the CEO role as ‘fixing problems’ – this move seems to be more of a maintenance and upkeep maneuver that will offset Weis’ departure and pair Bouza with an (almost) equally experienced leader for WDI.

D’Amaro sent an internal note to Imagineers today as well:


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