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Theme Parks: interview with Dan Cockerell, Vice President, Epcot, Disney

chad emerson theme park and disney interviewsDan Cockerell is currently Vice president at Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida. Chad Emerson caught up with him.

“Since our Cast is what makes our guest experience unique and they deliver the magic, I spend most of my time finding ways to support them in their roles.”

by Chad Emerson

Share with us how you got started with Disney and the leadership roles you’ve held.

I started as an intern in the Walt Disney World College Program the summer of my sophomore year at Boston Universitydan cockerell vp epcot at walt disney world. I worked at the front desk at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and once I graduated in 1991, I took my first job at Epcot in parking and I’ve been with The Walt Disney Company ever since. My career has spanned across a variety of roles throughout the theme parks at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. Before taking the role of VP of Epcot, I served as general manager of operations at Magic Kingdom and previously managed the Magic Kingdom merchandise department.

What do you find most rewarding in your professional life?

My most rewarding experience happens every time I see our Cast and leaders excel in their roles. Creating an environment that enables everyone to be their best is what I strive for, and when it works, it is fantastic!

How about some notable challenges?

At Walt Disney World, we are challenged everyday to balance the Cast and guest experience with the daily business operation. Finding the right balance is the trick.

You’ve taken a new position as Vice President, Epcot. How, in this new role, do you implement your leadership training?

Albert Einstein said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” I really believe that. People don’t care what you say, they care what you do. Since our Cast is what makes our guest experience unique and they deliver the magic, I spend most of my time finding ways to support them in their roles and making sure they can be as successful as possible.

Let’s say it’s a beautiful day in Central Florida. Share with us your perfect Disney experience.

A perfect Disney day for my family is spent at Epcot, naturally. Our day would begin with a ride on Mission Space (especially for the kids) and Soarin’ (for my wife and me), and then a stroll around World Showcase during the Food and Wine Festival. It wouldn’t be complete without cheddar cheese soup from the Canada kiosk for our kids and taking in all the flavors, sights and sounds of the 25 international featured kiosks and pavilions while we talk about old times… Finally, a nap would make it a dream come true!

See also:
To represent the amusement park industry, you must become a part of it: Lary Zucker on career, networking and litigation
Amusement Parks and Government: Blooloop Interview with John McReynolds, Universal Orlando
Believe it or Not: Interview with Tim O’Brien of Ripley’s

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