2020 Most Fascinating Disney People

Every year, Laughing Place names the top 10 Most Fascinating Disney People, highlighting those involved with the Walt Disney Company that everyday fans might not be so familiar with. Below are the first nine entrants to this year’s list, with our Disney Person of the Year to be named tomorrow.

Here are some of 2020’s Most Fascinating Disney People:

Dr. Jennifer Ashton

With 2020 being defined in terms of the COVID-19 Pandemic, ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Correspondent has been at the forefront of covering the crisis. In addition to reporting across all ABC News platforms, she has taken a central role on GMA3: What You Need to Know.

In the past year, Dr. Ashton visited the NIH Vaccine Development Lab, reporting on their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development and the White House, meeting with Vice President Pence and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. She also interviewed National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Ashton is double board-certified in OB-GYN and obesity medicine and has a master’s degree in nutrition, making her the only physician with a national media platform who is also credentialed in nutrition. Dr. Ashton received her medical degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, and her post-graduate training in women’s health and surgery at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.

Rebecca Campbell

After a brief tour of duty at the Disneyland Resort, Rebecca Campbell was named Chairman, International Operation and Direct-to-Consumer for The Walt Disney Company. This critical role is tasked with not only leading Disney’s streaming services, but figuring out the right plan for each individual market.

As was demonstrated at Disney’s recent Investor Day, Disney is not taking a one-size-fits-all approach, particularly when it comes to launching Star and Star+. Depending on the market and Disney’s local strength, the company is tailoring their strategy. This requires a nimble executive who is able to see the nuance in the market while listening to her local teams. By all accounts, Ms. Campbell fits that bill.

Rebecca Campbell started with Disney at WPVI in Philadelphia and worked her way up to leading the entire ABC Owned Television Station Group from 2010 to 2017. More recently she oversaw Disney’s international businesses in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa before becoming the President of the Disneyland Resort in 2019.

Josh D’Amaro

When Josh D’Amaro was named President of Walt Disney World in 2019, he made it clear that one of his priorities was to improve the cast experience through capital improvements such as enhancing breakrooms. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Josh had to reprioritize. Upon being named Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products in May, he had to lead the business through its most challenging period in company history.

Since that time, Josh has had to lead the group through challenging decisions such as furloughs and layoffs while planning and executing the reopening of whatever parts of their business that they can. He has also been an advocate for reopening the Disneyland Resort as he sees that as an opportunity to bring more Cast Members back to work. In fact, we have seen Josh take on politicians in a way that is rare for any Disney executive.

At his virtual presentation at IAAPA, it was clear that Josh is eager to bring back all of the cast that had been furloughed and laid off.  He is also eager to enter the post-COVID world where Disney is able to dream big. In fact, he hopes that Disney will come out of the pandemic dreaming even bigger than they had before. Only time will tell if Josh will be able to execute on those big dreams, but there is no doubt that he is willing to try.

Kareem Daniel

Disney is known to move the executives around, but no one seems to have had more roles in his time at Disney than Kareem Daniel. The recently named Chairman, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, has worked for nearly every part of The Walt Disney Company. In his new role, Mr. Daniel oversees the monetization of Disney’s content across its various distribution platforms while also managing many backend functions such as advertising sales, and content licensing.

It is no secret that Bob Chapek values Kareem Daniel’s insights. It is through Mr. Chapek’s mentorship that Mr. Daniel has been exposed to groups such as Corporate Strategy, Film Distribution, Consumer Products, and Walt Disney Imagineering. But his quick succession of roles has made it hard for external observers to determine his strengths.

While we on the outside may not fully understand how Mr. Daniel operates, it is clear that through his performance that he has shown Bob Chapek that he has what it takes. That is good, because he has a tough job managing all the non-creative operations for Disney’s media business. This would be a tall order under any circumstance, but with the disruption occurring in the marketplace, he will have to be smart, flexible, and inventive as he balances all of Disney’s needs.

Linsey Davis

We all know that 2020 has been a big year for news organizations as they try and cover everything that is going on in our world. By chance, ABC News had recently expanded their ABC News Live streaming channel and was able to pivot to provide breaking news coverage across a range of platforms. ABC News Live has since become the number one streaming news channel.

Key to their strategy is Linsey Davis, who anchors their ABC News Live Prime newscast among other duties. Along with Tom Llamas and other colleagues, she has become a key component of the streaming network that promises to deliver news, context, and analysis without shouting and heavy-handed opinion.

Ms. Davis, who joined ABC News in 2007, has been able to deliver on the network's promises, adapting quickly to the news of the day while also being able to provide in-depth reporting and analysis that is seldom seen on television news. Her interview skills, which shine through longer form interviews during her broadcast, are second to none. As the world moves ahead to 2020, we look forward to getting our straightforward news from Linsey Davis and the rest of the ABC News team.

Dr. Pam Hymel

We all know the role health & safety have played in our lives this year. So it is obvious that Disney Parks, Experiences and Products’ Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pam Hymel has had a busy year. In addition to her normal duties managing Disney’s occupational and guest health and wellness strategies, she has been a key architect in Disney’s reopening strategy that included a wide range of health measures.

Dr. Hymel has been in her role for nearly 10 years. Her accreditations include a Doctor of Medicine from Louisiana State University Medical School, board certification in internal medicine and occupational medicine, and a Masters of Public Health from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. She also recently received the Bill Whitmer Leadership Award from the Health Enhancement Research Organization.

Speaking of the reopening strategy, Dr. Hymel said, “I am very fortunate to work with Disney’s incredible team of experienced health and safety experts, in addition to local health and government authorities, to help promote well-being for our guests and cast members as they return to the magic around the world.”

Steve Levy

When the XFL launched, many thought it could be a stepping stone to the NFL. However, they probably weren’t thinking about the broadcaster. But long-time ESPN voice Steve Levy was able to make the jump from the XFL to Monday Night Football in 2020.

In his 27 years at ESPN, Steve has done a lot. In addition to being a SportsCenter anchor and calling College Football, he is also known as one of their go-to guys for the NHL. In fact, Levy has the distinction of calling the longest-televised NHL Stanley Cup Playoff game in history: the five-overtime Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia Eastern Conference Semifinals (May 2000) on ESPN. It is great to see a long-time ESPNer get a chance at their marquee broadcast.

On Monday Night Football he was joined with analysts Brian Griese and Louis Riddick as well as long-time reporter Lisa Salters. It is not secret that ESPN has struggled to find a broadcasting booth they are happy with. Only time will tell if this broadcast booth may be the secret to future success.

Dan Scanlon

There has been a transition at Pixar. After the release of Toy Story 4, the next four releases were going to have no ties to any previous films. The first person to helm their next original film was Monsters University director Dan Scanlon. After telling another chapter in a story started by Pete Docter, Mr. Scanlon was able to tell his own story, but when he started developing Onward he probably didn’t realize how personal it would be.

As seen in Disney+’s Inside Pixar, the idea from Onward came from the fact that Dan’s dad passed away when he was very young. Not knowing his father and having an older brother who fulfilled that role became a central element to the film.

Unfortunately, Onward’s box office run was stymied by the pandemic. Thankfully, Disney was able to pivot quickly and deliver it to Disney+ so those that missed it in theaters were able to catch it. Even though the film may have had a choppy release, it is clear that Dan Scanlon will be one of the artists that moves Pixar…. Onward.

Dan Slott

One of Marvel’s most successful creators, is also one of their longest tenured. Dan Slott is one of the last writers to use the “old-school” Marvel Method. In an industry not known for longevity, Slott, whose first Marvel work was published in 1991, still had several high-profile projects this year including Iron Man 2020, Fantastic Four, and Empyre. While he may be best known for his iconic 10-year run on Amazing Spider-Man, Slott continues to surprise readers with fresh takes on classic characters.

This year, Slott has been front and center beyond comics. Not only did he have an episode of Marvel’s 616 that focused on his use of the Marvel Method, he even appeared as an expert on the Disney+ game show The Big Fib. And while his Iron Man 2020 and Empyre events were negatively impacted by COVID, they remained two of Marvel’s biggest initiatives of the year.

Dan Slott also understands the marketing component of being a creator. Through his engagement with fans and his willingness to self-deprecate, he shows an understanding of the Marvel-style of marketing that continues the over-the-top legacy of Stan Lee. Recently, Slott has been telling a story about the destruction of the Marvel dimension in his ongoing run of Fantastic Four. We look forward to Slott continuing this book, as well as any other book he has time for.

Stay tuned to Laughing Place to see who our Disney Person of the Year is!