A native of Enid, Oklahoma , Rich Taylor was vice president of Walt Disney entertainment and costuming at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida for a decade, responsible for leading a team that created, developed, produced and operated all new live entertainment for the world’s No. 1 tourist destination.
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Taylor joined Disney in 1980 and held 14 different management positions, including corporate director of creative development and communications, manager of special events, manager of creative show development, manager of creative development and communications, division manager of talent casting and resources for Walt Disney World creative entertainment. He was also director of entertainment for Disneyland Paris, where he headed up the conceptual creative design and show development groups.
Described by University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren as “one of the University’s most outstanding graduates”, he is currently Dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University.
Blooloop’s Chad Emerson caught up with him.
Share with us how you got started in the amusement industry and some of the key positions that you've held.
Rich Taylor (left): I sent a resume to WDW in 1980 and was hired as a stage manager in Magic Kingdom. Back then Disney's Florida property only had one theme park and 2 hotels. With 47 square miles of land I was blessed to come on board at the beginning of tremendous growth. Over my 26 year Disney career I held 14 management roles all in Entertainment. I worked in Operations, show development, talent casting, special events and communications and planning. I was selected to be the first Director of EuroDisney (as it was called then). In 1997 I became Vice President of all Entertainment in Florida and over time that division grew to include costuming and all operations. Over 4, 500 cast members were a part of our team at WDW during the Golden Age of Disney Entertainment. I retired from Disney in 2007 and am now the Dean of Fine Arts at the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma…my alma mater.
You were involved in a wide variety of entertainment projects while at Disney. Which one did you find to be the most technically challenging?
Taylor: Probably Illuminations (show director /creator Don Dorsey) at Epcot or Fantasmic (directed and created by Barnette Ricci) at Disney MGM Studios. Both had cutting edge prototype technology for their time and because of the great story and heart of each show…they have stood the test of time. Each had amazing creative and production teams. Illuminations required 60 computers to control the show…and that was 12+ years ago. Fantasmic required building the facility and Show. A partnership between Entertainment and Imagineering.
What about the most artistically challenging one?
Taylor: Maybe the parade we did for Epcot in 2000 (Tapestry of Nations) that was also featured in the Superbowl halftime show we created that year. Michael Curry did puppets, Gary Paben show directed and Gavin Greenaway did music. It was a spectacle performed nightly with puppets and drum units all around world showcase. Over 300 in the cast each night. Ah..the good old days. It had great passion and heart and magic.
What are some of the key strategies to making an entertainment offering successful within a theme park setting?
Taylor: We boiled it down to 4 words. It needed to be Unique, the Best, have Emotion and be Disney. You had to give guests what they expected but exceed those expectations with multiple surprises. You had to tell a story and touch their hearts
Last question. It's a beautiful at any Disney park. Which one would you visit and what would that day involve?
Taylor: I think Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. They are the most beautiful and largest Disney parks. So well maintained and the shows are stunning and huge. I miss my dear friends there and in All the Disney parks around the world.
Oh …one last thing. Don't miss seeing the new "World of Color" at Disney's California Adventure. Steve Davidson's creative and technical marvel. I remember him pitching the show 6 years ago. It is truly unbelievable. Happy 2011 to all!
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