Some people dream about being part of the development of a new Disney theme park. As Senior Public Relations Manager for Walt Disney Imagineering, for Phil Vandermost it was a dream come true.
He joined WDI’s project team just as Disney was finalizing negotiations with the City of Anaheim to invest $2 billion in its new resort. In turn Disney would provide credit support to help Anaheim bond against future hotel revenues to finance a huge Convention Center expansion, and transform the surrounding streets into a lush, palm-filled garden district.
Managing information about street construction impacts, closures and detours was a constant challenge that Disney tackled in partnership with the city and the Anaheim Convention and Visitors Bureau. For Disney, Vandermost oversaw establishment of communications tools and infrastructure to keep the local businesses, residents and key opinion leaders in the loop.
Vandermost could frequently be seen canvassing the local neighborhoods delivering updates and information to the park’s residential neighbors. He oversaw design of the resort’s preview center, and helped develop outreach programs to encourage local spending to offset the impacts of construction and street closures.
And having a ringside seat for the construction of Disney California Adventure Park did not suck. Not in the least. Two-hour-long drives home from Friday afternoon meetings at WDI’s headquarters were often mitigated by the chance to oversee film crews as they collected B-roll of Imagineers testing new ride designs, completing massive art installations, and evaluating enormous scale models of theme park attractions to come.
Media relations? Sure. Pitching Architectural Digest on the new Grand Californian Hotel was a highlight, as was leading Engineering News Record and other national trade publications on full construction site tours. Crisis communications program development, and education of the hundreds of contractors in the field? Yep.
The dizzying range of professional experiences was eclipsed only by the opportunity to work with an enormously talented team of communicators at Disneyland Resort and Nelson Communications/Porter Novelli. The collective work earned the PR industry’s highest national honor, the Silver Anvil Award.