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Jay Rasulo

Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

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Photo: Olivier Koning

As chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Jay Rasulo oversees myriad facets of the Disney empire, including its world-renowned theme parks, resorts, timeshares and cruise lines. In an exclusive interview with Hawaii Business, he talks about Hawaii, the differences and similarities between doing business here and in Disneyland Paris, and staying true to your business principles during a recession.

How has your experience been so far in Hawaii?

A: In terms of partnering, we have had so many people reach out to us and want to be part of the project — from the cultural side, from the design side, from the construction side — who really see us as being authentic in our desire to represent everything local about Hawaii and therefore have really been great partners. On the construction side, we are making great progress. There haven’t been any real impediments to our progress and we are moving forward. The folks at Ko Olina have been absolutely great in the development. And all the different areas of local government that you interface with on a big development have been extremely helpful and have been very diligent in seeing our permits through and answering our applications for permits. So far, we’ve found Hawaii to be a great place to do business.

Q: I know you worked at Euro Disney. How was that experience similar/different?

A: One of the aspects of Disneyland Resort Paris is that it is very, very multicultural. You’re telling stories to people from a lot of different countries. There are six or seven countries that make up the base of visitors who come to Europe and also a lot of Disney stories have European roots. So the people from the different cultures know these stories in very different ways. Here in Hawaii, I think we feel like we’re dealing with a single culture in the story we want to tell, and that allows us to go very deep and add layering in what we’re dealing with. So in some ways it’s different, and in some ways it’s very similar, which is the desire to listen and adapt to where you are, the setting that you’re in, and be sure that you’re in sync with it and that you’re part of a larger community. A lot of what we’ve heard upon arrival about the Leeward coast, about its history and about the Hawaiian people – they are incredibly rich material for us. In Europe, of course, it was a very different project in many ways. In Europe, we were the authors of the story. It was a Disney story and we were telling it in a foreign country. Here, we’re telling a local story through our storytelling techniques, but we’re not the creators of that story.

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Hawaii Business,December