What Does the Future Hold for Disney Parks as Bruce Vaughn Returns to Imagineering?

The Walt Disney Company has already undergone several structural changes since boomerang CEO Bob Iger returned to the top executive position in November 2022. With Iger only returning under a two-year contract, his two major tasks during his time in the position are structuring the company in such a way that it will be set up for future success and finding a suitable successor for the next CEO.

Iger has already noted that the company’s focus in restructuring will be on creativity, which is vital to restoring what the Walt Disney Company is most known for. While Iger has previously commented on the importance of using Disney’s core products that have already proven successful, one of the latest moves focusing on Disney’s creative work has been the return of former Chief Creative Offer Bruce Vaughn.

 Bruce Vaughn, Walt Disney Imagineering Chief Creative Officer

Credit: Disney (image and logo)

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, Vaughn will officially return to the role on March 20, 2023. As Chief Creative Officer, Vaughn will co-lead the department with president of Walt Disney Imagineering, Barbara Bouza, with both execs reporting to Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, Josh D’Amaro.

Vaughn previously left his position at Walt Disney Imagineering in 2016 to pursue work as CEO and CCO of Dreamscape Immersive, and he worked with Airbnb beginning in 2021 as VP of Experiential Creative Products.

Ground breaking on Pandora World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

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What does Vaughn’s return mean for the future of Disney Parks?

We can’t speak to the future of Disney Park experiences in a complete sense until official updates come from the company, but we can take a look back at what was achieved creatively when Vaughn last worked in this role.

Vaughn last held the CCO position with Walt Disney Imagineering from 2007-2016, and we would be remiss to forgo sharing the incredible projects that the firm created during this time. The Magic Kingdom saw its largest-ever expansion with New Fantasyland opening in phases beginning in 2012, the reimagining of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs in 2015, and the early phases of work on Pandora – The World of Avatar, which opened in 2017.

Additionally, Disney Vacation Club properties were expanded at Walt Disney World throughout this time with the openings of Bay Lake Tower and Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows just to name a few, along with the launch of two Disney Cruise Line ships; the Disney Dream in 2010, and the Disney Fantasy in 2012. At the Disneyland Resort, Guests saw the opening of Cars Land and reimagining of Disney California Adventure in 2012, and work was underway for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on both coasts, which would open after Vaughn’s 2016 departure. Internationally, Shanghai Disney Resort also opened in 2016.

New Fantasyland Concept Art

Credit: Disney

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Currently, Disney is in the midst of opening the newest attraction at Walt Disney World with TRON Lightcycle / Run in the Magic Kingdom along with the reimagining of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland opening in 2024. A major renovation project is underway at EPCOT, which will include Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana.

But that is far from all that is currently in the works at Disney. During last year’s D23 Expo, fans were shown very early “Blue Sky” concepts for new experiences that are not yet greenlit but could happen in the future. Among these concepts were replacements for DinoLand, U.S.A. that could feature Moana (2016) or Zootopia (2016), and a look at what lies beyond Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, and whether it could include Coco (2017), Encanto (2021), or an area devoted to Disney villains. More recently, we learned that Avatar is coming to the Disneyland Resort.

Given the upcoming projects Disney has already shared, and all of the incredible new experiences that rolled out during Vaughn’s past years in Imagineering, Disney fans are certainly feeling optimistic for what the future of the Parks and Resorts will hold.

On returning to Imagineering to work with President Barbara Bouza, Vaughn shared, “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.”

We at Disney Tips will continue to monitor updates out of Walt Disney Imagineering and will be back with new information as it is available.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."