He brought Harry Potter and Nintendo to Universal, now Tom Williams is retiring – Press Enterprise

It’s been a couple of big weeks for news in the amusement park industry. The industry’s largest annual convention – IAAPA Expo – returned to Orlando earlier this month after being virtual last year due to the pandemic. Six Flags kept its CEO carousel going and replaced its CEO after just two years. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products President Josh D’Amaro made a lot of announcements at the Destination D23 fan event at Walt Disney World Resort, including several Downtown Disney changes at Disneyland Resort.

But the most notable change came at Universal, where Universal Parks & Resorts president Tom Williams announced he would retire early next year.

Williams is an industry legend. During his more than 22 years operating the Universal Parks, Williams has overseen the expansion of Universal’s Orlando property into a world-class resort, the opening of Universal Parks in Japan, Singapore and China and, perhaps most importantly, , the acquisition of the theme park rights to the Harry Potter franchise, which has led to record attendance and earnings for Universal.

He did all this while Universal was being sent through four different business owners: Seagram, Vivendi, General Electric and now Comcast. Williams provided the stable management that enabled the park department to make smart decisions that laid a strong foundation for Universal’s current and future success in the amusement park industry.

Heck, during the time Williams ran the show at Universal, Disney has had half a dozen different executives running its theme park segment.

In addition to securing the rights to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Williams Universal also acquired rights to the theme park for Nintendo. The Mario franchise is the largest video game franchise ever and ranks among the best intellectual entertainment properties in the world. The pandemic has deterred international visitors from experiencing the Super Nintendo World land that Universal Studios Japan opened earlier this year, but a version of that land is now under construction at the Lower Lot in Universal Studios Hollywood.

But Universal has not only gathered outside the IP. The company relied on original storytelling with its Volcano Bay water theme park in Orlando, which was also groundbreaking for the use of virtual queuing for all of its attractions.

Although he is based in Orlando now, Williams’ roots lie in California. Williams graduated from Cal State Fresno and started with what was then known as the Universal Studios Recreation Group more than 50 years ago as vice president of hotels and restaurants for the Yosemite Park & ​​Curry Company. From there, he moved over to the theme parks to run the new Universal Studios Florida. He served as president of Universal Orlando Resort before taking over in 1999 what is now Universal Parks & Resorts.

IAAPA embedded Williams in its amusement park industry Hall of Fame in 2015. He will be succeeded by Universal Creative President Mark Woodbury as Universal looks set to continue its well-deserved success.

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