If Michael O. Johnson were a conductor, the tune he’d be coaxing out of the diverse divisions that comprise Walt Disney International would have to be “It’s a Small World After All.”
As the new president of Disney’s year-old international arm, Johnson oversees all of the giant studio’s overseas operations: theme parks, consumer product sales, film and TV distribution, etc. His job is to make sure these diverse operations and offices are working in concert with each other and with their Burbank-based parent.
According to Johnson, the biggest challenge is clearly communicating Disney’s strategic plan so that the different divisions, which are about 95 percent locally staffed, “get it.” He will spend almost half his time traveling to Asia, Europe and, to a lesser degree, Latin America to work directly with Disney’s international divisions on streamlining operations.
“We want to make sure that every company division is on board and helping out when we’re launching, say, a new animated feature,” he said.
To improve international coordination, Johnson is consolidating regional offices (which in the case of Tokyo were housed in seven separate facilities) together under one roof.
“We want people to work as a team, rather than as individual operating units,” he said.
Johnson’s other duties include devising marketing strategies and overseas acquisitions. He intends to step up activity in the overseas Internet market by tailoring Disney site content to regional tastes. He is currently scouting for Internet partners with connections to retail or telecommunications companies that could provide Disney with additional, localized business and marketing opportunities.
“We may also be in business with creative properties,” Johnson said. “We’re keeping our eyes open for the next Pok & #233;mon or Harry Potter.”
Johnson had previously served as president and managing director of Walt Disney International Asia since June 1999. Before that, he had been president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.