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Tony Bruno, VP and General Manager of Disneyland
Resort Hotels, Maps Out 2004 Changes
By Sandi Cain, March 2004

The Disneyland Resort has seen its share of management changes in recent years. But, through it all, Walt Disney Co. veteran Tony Bruno has been there to guide the resort’s hotels.

Bruno, a 16-year Disney employee, recently was promoted to vice president and general manager of Disneyland Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney in Anaheim, an expanded role announced by his boss, Greg Emmer, senior vice president of Disneyland Resort operations.

Bruno now oversees 2,224 rooms at three hotels along with the Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment area. He formerly oversaw the hotels as general manager.

Bruno has seen the Disney stable of hotels grow and evolve since 1988, when he joined the management team at the Disneyland Hotel.

In the mid-1990s, when Disneyland bought the old Pan Pacific Hotel on West Street (now Disneyland Drive), Bruno was the point man overseeing the hotel’s change to the Disney Pacific Hotel. After California Adventure opened, that hotel was renamed Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.

When plans were finalized for the Grand Californian Hotel in the California Adventure theme park, Bruno was the one who oversaw its completion and then operation. The hotel earned an AAA Four Diamond rating after its first year.

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel 
1717 S Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, California

Later, Bruno assumed the role of general manager of all three Disneyland Resort hotels. Now he oversees all hotel operations with the help of onsite property managers, and has added Downtown Disney to his duties.

Last week, he discussed plans for the coming year at Downtown Disney and the Disneyland hotels with Business Journal contributor Sandi Cain.

What are your projects for the hotels this year?

At the Paradise Pier Hotel, we’re really concentrating on theming in the guest rooms and interior corridors.

It’s just wonderful the way (the remodeling) turned out. All rooms now can sleep five people, which is great for families that don’t quite fit into a smaller space. There are large TVs, safes sized for laptops, a desk for business or even for a vacationer who needs to check e-mail or do other work. There’s a slide-out desk that can be used for a room-service meal, extra paperwork, whatever.

The hotel has great views into (the Boardwalk area of) California Adventure—250 rooms look into the park. We’re creating 20 new suites that will appeal to the family market. They are the size of two guest rooms and include a microwave, refrigerator and two baths—for people who need extra space.

The lobby is getting a Boardwalk theme. The pool area will have the longest water slide at the resort—180 feet. It’s designed to look like a coaster. There’s also a wading pool for small kids.

We’re essentially retheming the entire pool deck to create a sense of energy, fun. We expect that to be done by the time the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction opens (at California Adventure) in May.

At the Disneyland Hotel, the exhibit hall and grand ballroom will be renovated beginning this summer. It has a sense of the great ballrooms of yesteryear—so we’re going to play on that in the renovation with colors, ornate fixtures and other touches reminiscent of that golden era of ballrooms.

And we’re adding high-speed Internet access to all guestrooms at the same time and WiFi (wireless local network connections) in public areas. So by the end of the year, there will be high-speed access in all our hotels.

For the Grand Californian, there are no changes in the works. We’ll add high-speed Internet access in the fall. It’s a really timeless hotel. The inspiration was 100-year-old architecture. Even local people who come and stay say they don’t feel like they’re in the middle of (a city).

Do the new security checkpoints impact visitors to Downtown Disney?

No, it doesn’t impact Downtown Disney in any way.

The bag check was pushed out (farther from the gate areas of the parks) to make it easier for guests to go between parks. You still can access the parks from Downtown Disney. We have plenty of security out there, but it doesn’t stop people from going between places.

What is Downtown Disney planning for new tenants in the coming year?

Tortilla Jo’s — a signature restaurant by Joachim Splichal — will open in April. He’s creating an authentic Mexican restaurant that will host special events, entertainment, DJ music and some Latin-inspired shows. It will offer 100 kinds of tequila, margarita specials and guacamole made at the tableside. There’s also a retail store that will feature handmade items from Mexico.

We think the price point is going to be very attractive. At the taqueria, items will range from $3 to $5; in the cantina, from $10 to $15; and in the restaurant, $12 to $18. It will appeal to a very broad audience—the convention market and the local market.

The House of Blues continues to do phenomenal business. They’ve got acts like Rick Springfield, Blondie, Tanya Tucker and a lot of others lined up. We’re going to continue to focus on that.

For retailers, many of them are the No. 1 or No. 2 store (in sales) in their entire chain. We’re happy with what’s going on out there.

What are the biggest challenges you face in the coming year?

Well, next year we have the 50th anniversary of Disneyland — there’ll be announcements about that later this year. Right now, we’re focused on the opening of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction and the (spring) holidays. Easter (vacation bookings) is doing quite well.

The biggest challenges are to keep capitalizing on the economic recovery. It seems to be the biggest challenge to stay ahead and keep your eye on the ball and the trends in the market and make sure you’re ready for them. We’re excited that we’re seeing it come back pretty strong this year.

Presidents’ Day seems to have turned into Presidents’ Week—and it’s pretty busy now. Some South Orange County schools are out this week, so that rolls right into Easter time and then into the Tower of Terror launch and then summer.

You’ve been at Disneyland Resort a long time. What keeps you going?

I’ve been with the Disneyland Resort for 16 years and loved every minute of it.

Have you ever been confused with the Fox Sports Radio talk host by the same name?

No, but a few years ago he somehow got an e-mail intended for me. He even answered it!

Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.


Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA

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