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Disney cuts jobs at theme park division

Passers-by walk in front of the World of Disney store in New York January 19, 2006. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Disney Parks and Resortsissued pink slips Wednesday, with more are on the way, courtesy of a reorganization designed to eliminate redundancies at a unit that employs 80,000 workers.

Disney wouldn’t say how many people were laid off or how many more layoffs are expected.

The reorganization, said Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo, is not only a response to the weak economy but also a way to further the successful results of a shake-up four years ago.

Rasulo said a reorganization in 2005 led to speedier delivery of theme-park shows based on “High School Musical” and to the simultaneous openings of “Toy Story Mania” at parks in Florida and California, and he seeks more of the same.

With Wednesday’s announcement, resort development will merge with attractions and entertainment development and be led by Bruce Vaughn, the chief creative executive at Imagineering, Disney’s main creative planning and development unit, and Craig Russell, the chief design and project delivery executive.

Not mentioned by Rasulo was animation heavyweight John Lasseter, though insiders say he will remain principal creative adviser to Imagineering, a role he assumed when Disney purchased Pixar in 2006.

Business development and real estate teams will combine, and the teams operating infrastructure at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland Resort will merge. Heads of the new departments are expected to make further cuts in staff in the months ahead.

“Organization changes require difficult decisions, including the elimination of some roles,” Rasulo said in a memo to employees. “These decisions were not made lightly and we know this will be a challenging transition. The people affected are our friends and colleagues, and they have made valuable contributions.”

The reorganization comes just weeks after Parks and Resorts offered voluntary buyouts to 600 executives amid a 4 percent decline in quarterly revenue to $2.7 billion and a 24 percent drop in operating income to $382 million.

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