Thierry Coup, senior vice president and chief creative officer of Universal Creative, Mike Hightower, president of Universal Creative, and Mike Harrington, vice president of engineering and safety at Universal Studios Florida are just some of the executives who have discreetly opted to take early retirement packages.
These packages are a part of an NBCUniversal-wide initiative offered to employees who are over 57 and/or who have worked at the company for more than 10 years (One Universal Creative employee said that pretty much every remaining SVP has left the division).
Individuals with information on the situation told The Wrap that Universal Creative is known for its strong talent development and succession training and that there are thoughtful transition plans in place. The individuals stressed this to the established outlet.
For those who may not know, Universal Creative is Comcast’s version of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), the secretive bunch of artists, technicians, and storytellers who are responsible for the rides, shows, and attractions at the Disney theme parks (and onboard Disney Cruise Line ships). While Imagineering is often viewed as “entrenched” and slow, Universal Creative is seen as “nimble” and risk takers. They’re also incredibly fast at opening new attractions.
Coup has constantly won over fans for his openness and honesty about his own projects, as well as others. Late last year, Coup made headlines when he admitted that he regretted building Fast & Furious – Supercharged at Universal Studios Florida. Theme park fans hugely respected his transparency!
Over the last few years, Coup has really set the pace at the Universal theme parks (particularly at Universal Orlando), where an e-ticket attraction opened almost every year at one of the parks. It’s fair to suggest that Disney couldn’t match this!
What makes the retirement of so many Universal Creative executives even more confusing is that Universal is set to open Epic Universe in the summer of 2025. The upcoming Universal Orlando theme park will have a number of lands themed around different properties. Each land reportedly houses two attractions which will have groundbreaking features and unique storylines. It’s fair to suggest Epic Universe could unsettle Disney’s supremacy in Florida.
WDI has also suffered some turmoil, including mass firings, retirements, and a forced “exodus” to Lake Nona, Florida. While Universal Creative wasn’t heavily built upon what can be best described as “institutional knowledge” like WDI, it’s really disconnecting to fans to see so many hugely respected executives taking early retirement.
Jeff Shell, NBCUniversal CEO, has recently been very vocal about the commitment the company has to its parks around the world. There are massive projects currently underway at almost every Universal theme park! Universal Studios Hollywood is set to open Super Nintendo World, the first phase of an almost park-wide rejuvenation, and further expansions are planned globally.
As a huge admirer of Thierry Coup, it’s hugely sad to see him depart Universal Creative. Do I think he’ll just up and leave, ABSOLUTELY NOT. I still firmly believe he’ll be around Universal Creative in some capacity, especially for the opening of Universal’s Epic Universe, the first new Universal theme park. We just want to thank Mr. Coup for all his hard work and efforts!Jamie Simms, Orlando Theme Park Zone
Stay tuned to Orlando Theme Park Zone for more Orlando theme park-related news and information.
H/T The Wrap