Tokyo Disneyland Park opened 30 years ago this week, on April 15, 1983. Jim Cora, who has been a friend and mentor to me, played a key role in the success of our parks in Anaheim, Orlando and Paris, but his most notable achievement with the Walt Disney Company is the work he did on the development of Tokyo Disney Resort.
Jim was hired in 1957 as a part-time attractions host at Disneyland park. He credits Walt Disney for his move from the Matterhorn Bobsleds to the Disneyland Administration Building. “Walt asked me if I had an interest in training,” Jim recalls. “Van France was just starting the Disney University, and he was looking for five guys.” Almost immediately, Jim began advancing within the organization.
In 1971, Jim assisted with the opening of Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort, implementing the Disney Way of Leadership program. In 1974, as staff assistant to Dick Nunis, president of Walt Disney Attractions, he redesigned the Disneyland park operating organization to the “area concept,” becoming one of three production directors for the park, responsible for Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
In 1979, Jim went international, assuming a role that would later define his career – managing director of operations for the Tokyo Disneyland project. In this capacity, he was responsible for all operational and management training for Tokyo Disneyland. In preparation for the opening of Tokyo Disneyland, Jim was promoted to vice president, Walt Disney Productions Japan, Ltd. He relocated to Japan and was instrumental in providing ongoing support and advice to Oriental Land Company (OLC, owner and operator of Tokyo Disneyland), as well as overseeing Disney’s operational and design standards. In 1983, Jim returned to California and assumed the position of vice president, Disneyland International.
In 1985, Jim was responsible for negotiating the agreements, master planning, and site research for the Disneyland Paris project and was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer for Euro Disneyland Corporation in 1987.
Jim became president of Disneyland International in 1995 and, four years later, chairman. He retired in 2001 after the successful opening of Tokyo DisneySea. He was named a Disney Legend in 2002 and was honored with a window on Main Street, U.S.A., that same year. The window, located above Disney Clothiers, Ltd., celebrates his extensive international experience; “Global Exports and Expats – Specializing in land and sea operations – Our motto: ‘The Sun Never Sets on Our Magical Kingdoms’ – Jim Cora, Master Operator.” Jim is one of the few individuals to be honored with a window in multiple Disney Parks, including Tokyo Disneyland.