When it comes to the Walt Disney Company, most of the names that people know are the characters. The brand is about promoting Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Iron Man, and Luke Skywalker. The people behind the scenes are rarely given the spotlight unless they happen to be CEOs or happen to be named Disney. But there are so many people who worked to create the things we love, movies, TV, theme parks and more, and one of those greats has passed away. Jim Cora had a career that sounds like something out of an inspirational Disney movie, that started with five simple words, 'Tell him Walt sent you.'
Jim Cora started working at Disneyland in 1957, just after the park opened. He cleaned 3D glasses at the Mickey Mouse Theater. However, he began to rise through the ranks of the Disney company after a meeting with Walt himself. Walt reportedly told the young man to head over to find Disney University founder Van Arsdale France, which is when he told the boy to 'Tell tell him Walt sent you." From there Cora would begin a rise within the company that would eventually see him retire as the Chairman of Disney's International Parks. According to the Orange County Register, Jim Cora passed away on Sunday at the age of 83 following a short hospitalization.
Jim Cora worked his way up within Disneyland throughout the 1950s and '60s before being part of the team which implemented the "Disney Way of Leadership" program with the opening of Magic Kingdom in 1971. In 1974 he was an assistant to Dick Nunis, head of Walt Disney Attractions where he reorganized the management structure at Disneyland and became the head of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
In 1979 Cora became Managing Director of Operations for Tokyo Disneyland. Following that park's opening he was put in charge of site research and masterplanning for what would become EuroDisneyland, now Disneyland Paris. In 1987 he was named executive vice president and chief operating officer for Euro Disneyland Corporation.
In the 1990s Jimn Cora's attention returned to Japan and the new DIsneySea resort being planned. He was named president and then chairman, Disneyland International, the position he held until his retirement in 2001. That's certainly a long way to go from cleaning 3D glasses.
Jim Cora was involved in most of the Disney theme parks at one time or another and certainly left his mark. Even if you've never been to the Tokyo Disney Resort or Disneyland Paris, any theme park fan can appreciate the fact that every Disney theme park has a strong influence on all the others and that influence will certainly be missed. Cora is survived by his wife, Mimi; daughter Rene Wong and son Jim, two grandchildren, and his siblings Marilyn and John.