Disneyland vice president Kris Theiler recalls hearing the siren of the Mark Twain Riverboat, the clatter of steam locomotive bells, and the clack of the Pirates of the Caribbean elevators for the first time after the park opened. The Anaheim location was closed for a year due to the coronavirus shutdown.
“Watching Disney close down has been very difficult for me and for many people,” Theiler said in an online video interview. “Without people, without smells and without sounds, it really isn’t Disneyland.”
Disneyland’s 412-day coronavirus closure that ended at the end of April has been followed by the theme park’s eight-month phased reopening that has brought more than 25,000 Disney employees and awaken the surrounding Anaheim resort area ravaged by the pandemic.
Disneyland’s Theiler’s leadership during the phased reopening earned her a spot on the Orange County Registry’s 125 most influential people through 2021 list.
The challenging past year at Disneyland has given Theiler more spins than a ride on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland.
Theiler will never forget seeing a visitor step into Disneyland again for the first time in more than a year along America’s Main Street with a stream of actors waving and applauding, Disney’s way of saying it to employees.
“It’s a symbolic and hopeful moment that we are turning the tide and getting out of this pandemic,” said Theiler, 56, of Long Beach. “It was just very emotional. I am so proud to be a part of it. ”
As vice president of Disneyland, Theiler is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the theme park’s attractions, entertainment, restaurants, and stores. She previously took on a similar role at Disney California Adventure.
“I am an integrator with the work of a lot of other people,” says Theiler. “I am not responsible for arranging flowers in the beds, making sure attractions are running, or picking up items in the store. But I was responsible for the entire operation and integration and made sure that from a collective point of view, we were ready to deliver the experience our guests were looking for. ”
As the boss of Disneyland, the challenge for Theiler was to focus on the big picture and the small details at the same time.
“That’s the fun side of running a park like Disneyland,” said Theiler. “This is a big operation, but at the same time we’re known for our attention to detail.”
The film draws on her realistic optimism and insatiable curiosity to guide Disneyland through the park’s phased reopening.
“I knew we were going to be able to work it out and work it out our way,” said Theiler.
Reopening Disneyland in a relatively short period of time required the Proponent to think differently and exercise a great deal of adaptability and flexibility.
“For me, there will have to be some degree if we’re not going to get things right the way we normally try to, but we’re going to get the big picture and the vast majority of things right,” said Theiler. speak. “It’s a nuance and a difference for me.”
Over the past year, Disneyland has undergone a tremendous amount of change caused by the pandemic.
“Without a doubt, it got us all thinking, ‘Do we really need a pandemic so we can see our business differently? ”” Theiler said. “We can and should often look at businesses with different eyes.”
Disneyland has faced an ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 health and safety restrictions during the phased reopening – from attendance limits, temperature checks, masks and social distancing to the return of out-of-state visitors and International travelers. At the end of July, Disneyland began requiring non-union employees Fully vaccinated fight COVID-19 if they want to continue their work.
A series of pandemic-induced attendance management innovations by Theiler and her teams changed the Disneyland experience forever – from reservation arrive Annual Magic Key Card to the new one Genie + line cutting service.
“Everybody has a mentality that is really, ‘We can do this,’” says Theiler. “I don’t think we can do that in a normal year. COVID allows us to do some of that in an accelerated way.”
Several Disneyland attractions have been cut for 2021 because of changes both large and small – including Snow White’s enchanting wish, King Arthur Carrousel, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. It’s a Small World that flooded just as it was preparing to reopen for winter break and activate feedback all hands got the classic boat up and running again in three weeks.
“I continue to learn in new and different ways the importance of looking for bearings,” says Theiler. “Our ability to continue to be upbeat, positive, and focused on our vision and mission for Disneyland is our greatest achievement.”
Disneyland restaurants and shops slow to reopen during the phased reopening with alcohol introduced at Blue water for the first time, new Plaza Point US Main Street resort store opening and waterfront seating added to new store Pelican’s Landing.
Entertainment returns to Fireworks are back! in time for the 4th of July, marching back on Halloween, Day of life finally to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Merriest Nites out-of-hours events around Christmas and live music appear throughout the park.
“It takes a moment to realize how much we have accomplished because you are where you are now,” said Theiler. “It was a lot. When I look back on a year, I’m most proud of the way the cast handled it. There have been many challenges associated with reopening and it continues. “
Over the course of the past year, Disney has tried to introduce more Diversity and Inclusion into theme parks, the workforce, and company culture.
The introduction led an effort to supplement the previous Four Keys — safety, courtesy, visibility, and efficiency — taught to Disneyland actors during Disney Way orientation training.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but we are using diversity, equity and inclusion as a filter for everything we do in a way we haven’t done before,” said Theiler. “It has opened up a world of great opportunities that were there before, but we just have a different emphasis than before.”
Theiler grew up in a bustling Wisconsin home with a pair of hardworking parents who set very high expectations for their six kids in an incredibly loving way.
“That instilled in me a great work ethic,” says Theiler.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin and working as an industrial engineer, Theiler went to California to visit a cousin and get away from the cold Midwest winters for a few months.
“I have no intention of living in California,” said Theiler.
During the winter break, her Wisconsin work ethic forced her to seek out a part-time job – and as fate would have it, one showed up at the Happiest Place on Earth.
“It was great to work at Disneyland,” Theiler recalls. “I have always loved that place and am intrigued by it.”
Theiler got a temporary job in 1995 as a secretary in Disneyland’s accounting department while she was deciding where to get her MBA. Before long, Theiler discovered Disneyland had an industrial engineering department, and before long, temporary gigs became a steady job as she earned her MBA at UCLA.
The footage eventually spearheaded the planning efforts for the Disney California Adventure expansion, and in the years that followed, Disney worked on theme park projects across the globe, from the New Fantasyland makeover at Magic Kingdom in Florida to the development of Shanghai Disneyland.
Midwest transplant volunteers with several Southern California nonprofits. As a board member of local chapters, Theiler held a Make-A-Wish fundraiser in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, raising $2.5 million in early December and works with the Orangewood Foundation to help 2,000 youth in foster care in Orange County prepare for independent adulthood.
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