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A life enriched in Shanghai for Joe Schott at Shanghai Disney Resort
By:Wu Qiong  |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2020-09-30 18:40

Hailing from Florida Joe Schott has always been familiar with Disney. When he was seven years old, his mother took him to a preview night for the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. The moderator and some of the attractions inside created a really warm feeling in his heart. A few years later, when he was in high school, Schott started a part-time job working at Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort.

Now he is president and general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort. The 38-year veteran of The Walt Disney Company has worked in Orlando, Tokyo, Paris and Shanghai, making Disney an integral part of his life.

As he said, coming to Shanghai is one of the best decisions he has made in his life. Together with the partners and the cast members, he has brought magic to this place, and his life has been enriched here.

(Joe Schott, president and general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort)

Telling Disney stories in China

Joe Schott first travelled to Shanghai in January 2016 to help manage the pre-opening operations for Shanghai Disney Resort. As a veteran who had been on the ground for a lot of different resort opportunities, he was confident about the future of the new resort. “I could imagine it could be really amazing several years from now.”

But he also admitted, “Its opening reception and the warm welcome that we got from the people here, I just couldn't imagine.”

(Joe Schott interacts with tourists at Shanghai Disneyland)

Joe Schott joined the Shanghai Disney Resort management team in early 2018 as Senior Vice President of Operations. Under his leadership, the resort has been welcomed by an increasing number of guests and is on a track of healthy development in the local market. It keeps adjusting operational measures and rolling out various tourist products. In 2019, less than three years after its opening, the ambitious resort announced its expansion plan for the eighth themed land, Zootopia.

“Recognize the expertise that you bring is not going to be your success. Your success is going to happen through the people that you work with,” said Joe when summarizing his work experience over the past years. Having been in different working environments, he is good at learning and listening to others’ feedback.

As he said, no matter where it is, the story of Disney is exactly the same, but to be a good story teller, it is necessary to create new ways of storytelling to appeal to different audiences. That is why he and his team have to take feedback and make sure they are always changing to meet the needs of the consumers. That seems to be a cycle: learn, accept and adjust. And Joe Schott finds enjoyment in it.

After noting Chinese tourists’ high-tech savvy, Joe Schott and his team decided to optimize tourists’ experience using new iterative technologies, making Shanghai Disneyland one of the most high-tech Disney parks in the world. For instance, tourists can book tickets, read the e-map, and check real-time queue times and performance schedules on a mobile app. Digital payment is also available at Shanghai Disney Resort.

Bringing joy and magic back

On the morning of May 11, 2020, Shanghai Disneyland began a phased reopening with a special ceremony called “It’s Time for Magic”. That moment, as Joe Schott recalled, is the most impressive in nearly 40 years of his work at Disney.

(The reopening ceremony of Shanghai Disneyland)

During the COVID-19 outbreak in China, the management team of Shanghai Disney Resort kept working every day to get fully prepared for the reopening. A multitude of details needed to be taken care of. Health and safety concerns needed to be addressed, but also a high-quality travel experience needed to be ensured.

“We knew that we were going to be the first Disney park in the world to reopen and we had to set the base for what every other Disney park would follow. But we also knew we would be setting the bar for the rest of the industry as we got into that. So we took that responsibility very very seriously.”

Days after the reopening, to bring joy and happiness to more children and families, the Disney Fun House was inaugurated at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center on International Children’s Day. “Disney embodies hope and happiness, including during tough times,” said Joe Schott.

(The Disney Fun House at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center)

As the epidemic has come under control, “this is the place that you could find joy and magic in your life once again.” According to Joe Schott, the resort has got some really special surprises coming up for its 5th birthday next year. “We’re very excited about our prospects and of the magical worlds that we can bring to life here in Shanghai Disney Resort,” he added excitedly.

Enriched by the city

“I’ve really enjoyed being part of Shanghai,” said Joe of his three years living in the city, adding that he is fascinated by the amazing city.

He is a fan of Shanghai’s food and cityscape. He fell in love with xiaolongbao at first taste. On weekends, he likes to walk around the town with his wife. His favorite places in Shanghai are three intertwined roads in town: Julu Rd, Fumin Rd and Changle Rd. He finds that there are stories behind each door, with history and modernity intertwined in a fascinating way.

“I couldn’t imagine the types of things that I would be learning in the course of time [if I hadn’t come to Shanghai]. Certainly we couldn't imagine going through a challenging circumstance the way that we did.” In September 2020, he was bestowed with the Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award, one of the highest honors to expats in Shanghai.

Walt Disney once said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” At Shanghai Disney Resort, there are 12,000 cast members, and local talent has contributed a lot to the resort’s construction and development. Speaking of his Chinese teammates, Joe Schott thinks they are fantastic. “I know that I need to bring out the best in the organization. I'm not going to have the local flavor. I need to depend on the team to really be able to do that. I think the team really understands how to do it in a distinctly Chinese way,” he added. “Those are the types of things that I need them to be able to give me feedback on. I have to listen really intently to the things that they have to say.”

“I feel like my life has been enriched by the number of people around me that have provided me with a fresh perspective and hope and optimism in my life. I think I'm much better for it.”

(Photos provided by Shanghai Disney Resort)