J. Jeff Kober: My First Three Decades of Disney
This month marks the 20th anniversary of Performance Journeys, the company I founded not long after I left The Walt Disney World Company. In celebration of that event, I wanted to share how my career has tied in with Disney over the decades. In the weeks to follow I will share a three part series of my history, to include my years working as a leader for The Walt Disney World Company, as well as my years following as I shared best practices of Disney around the globe. This podcast that you will listen to today is a re-play of one I recorded back in June of 2022. Many listeners don’t know my back story, so I thought it would be well to provide that context again as a preface to the ones that I will share later. The thing that is found in all of these decades is a love of Disney that perhaps you can relate to as well.
The following are images, video and references made during the podcast.
Visiting My Office
As part of this overview, we visit my office in this video. It serves as a framework for my approach to business and to my years with Disney
Disney & The Kid
Below is a photo from the first summer I came to Disneyland after finding the National Geographic Magazine. It was the summer of 1972 according to the date on the film border. This is one of the rare photos I have of my mother and I, taken probably by my dad. It is of course, the Skyway from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland.
I loved my early years as a kid from Phoenix growing up at Disneyland. Here is my brother Phil and I in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. I believe this was the first year I raised the money to go to Disneyland.
Film seemed expensive (I bought Disneyland postcards instead) but I do have a few photos of me with the gang. Here I am with Chip ‘n’ Dale.
I mentioned my father giving me a Time magazine showing the opening of Walt Disney World. I have hung onto this magazine, though it has shown wear and tear over the years. Here are a few images from that edition:
It’s hard to see but under the “e” of “Disneyland I am waving from the top floor of the Disneyland Hotel. Those seemed like big times having saved up to stay two nights at the Disneyland Hotel as a 14 year old boy.
The two years I mowed lawns to pay for trips to Disneyland were the years that America on Parade was shown for the Bicentennial. I have found memories of this parade because I saved my own money to be able to visit the parks at this time.
Here’s a rare photo I have with Mickey and myself. The individual in the foreground is why we need designated meet ‘n’ greets.
One of my favorite attractions is the dark ride, Alice in Wonderland. Here we are on the infamous caterpillar, my brother and I.
Below is me performing as the Mad hatter against a set that I designed and largely drew/painted by hand. That’s a lot of leaves, but I was proud of the colors and the look and feel of the show. I had a great theater teacher, Mrs. Goehring, and she gave me so much freedom to be creative and artistic.
In high school I wrote Ron Miller asking for an opportunity to visit Walt Disney Productions. This is the only photo I have. I decided to dress “artistic” so I had my art smock on over a Winnie the Pooh shirt. That’s artistic, isn’t it?
From College to Orlando
Fast forward and I’m married to my wife Kath. This is us together with our Disney sweat shirts.
Below is our first daughter visiting Disneyland. I mentioned visiting on the 30th anniversary. This is a photo on the 31st anniversary summer. They continued the Gift Giver Extraordinaire that summer, with prizes handed out to guests as they entered the park. I believe this is our oldest daughter’s first visit to a Disney park.
Living in Utah and Arizona we visited Disneyland often. In Christmas of 1986 my wife holds our oldest daughter Mikell in front of “it’s a small world”.
My wife took a photo of me in front of the Magic Kingdom on our first visit in 1988. I used the heavy video equipment to take video of every corner of the park. It was exhausting.
Everything you wanted to know from My Friend the Atom to Victory Through Air Power to Cranium Command at Wonders of Life. It was about how Disney educates in entertaining and informative ways. My thesis would be my first book.
Two images, one hand-drawn and one computer-drawn showing The Disney University & American Workplace. Half of it was a college like campus with rides and attractions, and the second half was divided into a white collar and blue collar workplace.
Here is the computer-drawn version. Each yellow bubble showcased a different ride, attraction, show, restaurant of retail experience. Plus there were two hotels.
The second story of the Venetian Palace in Italy was my first office at Walt Disney World. I would time my office days to exit as Illuminations was showing at night. Those were amazing days.
Ready to Visit the Disney Parks?
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David and Leah Zanolla
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