How Disney Yellow Shoes used Workfront to help bring Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to life

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez June 25, 2020
Galaxy’s Edge features in two of Disney’s major parks. Creating the Star Wars themed areas was a huge project, helped by the use of Workfront.

Image of Disney’s Star Wars Galaxy’s edge park
(Image sourced via the Disney website)

To the delight of fans everywhere, Disney announced back in 2015 that two of its major parks - Disneyland Park and Disney's Hollywood Studios - would be launching a Star Wars themed area, called Galaxy's Edge. The themed 14 acre areas at each park were launched back in May 2019 and, unsurprisingly, drew in huge crowds.

However, as one can imagine, executing on a project of this scale, at two parks simultaneously, is no small feat. At the centre of the task sits Disney Yellow Shoes, the in-house agency for the Walt Disney Company, which consists of artists, writers, designers, producers and project managers creating a wide variety of work for the diverse organisation.

Disney Yellow Shoes had to work with a variety of stakeholders and teams to help create Galaxy's Edge, across multiple time zones. In order to manage their work effectively and to create a single point of truth across the project, Disney turned to Workfront to help get the job done.

Workfront is a cloud-based work management platform, which is used to share ideas, create content, manage complex processes and essentially help companies ‘get work done'. Megan Reilly and Nick Zappas, both senior managers within the project management team at Disney Yellow Shoes, were speaking at Workfront's virtual user event Leap this week to share their learnings.

Both Reilly and Zappas were brought into the agency to introduce, train and run the newly formed project management department, as well as document the process for Disney Yellow Shoes. Speaking to the department's remit and the role of bringing everyone's work together, Zappas said:

The biggest thing is that project management was a new practice coming into Yellow Shoes. So the first thing that we had to look at was, how does this affect the other roles within the agency? For example, we have traffic managers, we have account managers, and we have producers. As well as some other key players, like creatives.

So we had to look at them and try to understand how we could help them become more efficient and effective. And have them understand what we were going to be doing and how we were going to help get their work done a little bit better. On top of that we wanted to define the accountability a little bit more. We really wanted to increase transparency and make sure that everybody had a clear understanding of what their roles are and what their responsibilities are, so that we can become more efficient and effective.

Reilly said that as her team was building the processes and working collaboratively with the different stakeholders, the primary questions when assessing Workfront to work towards their outcomes was: how is this going to fit in, who is going to make the most use of it and what are the touch points to make that happen? She added:

We also wanted to make sure we had one central point of truth, where we have documentation and we do all of our production routing to make sure that we have seamless agreement and documented agreement across the board, before we release assets to the world.

A project with scale

Zappas explained how creating Galaxy's Edge was a project with significant scale, even for a company the size of Disney that has a long history of complex and detailed creations. He said that this played into the decision to use Workfront to manage the teams' work. Zappas said:

I think the thing that will probably give you the biggest indication of how [Workfront played a role] is that Galaxy's Edge was a huge land opening. The biggest in recent history. And it also happened at two parks - Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. I don't think that's ever happened at Disney before, especially launching at the same time. So, why did we need to integrate with Workfront? Because it was so massive. It touched every aspect of Yellow Shoes. It touched every aspect of our centre of excellence, which is our larger marketing division within the Disney Parks division of the Walt Disney company. So we really needed to get organised.

We needed to communicate and understand how we were sharing the work and how we were ideating together, across different time zones, with different partners, lots of different stakeholders. Also the deliverables and the amount of tactics we created, was just like nothing we had ever seen before. Every aspect of Yellow Shoes and our partnering teams had different things that needed to be delivered for this, because it was such a big deal. It's really about integration, organisation and making sure that we've got it all together and not duplicating our work.

Zappas added that with teams leading different aspects of the project on both coasts of the US, and therefore different time zones, when there were pivots in decision making, it helped to have a central point to manage work so that all teams and stakeholders could pivot together and move towards the same goal.

Workfront as a tool got dubbed ROZ at Disney Yellow Shoes, which is an acronym for ‘real-time organization zone'. And whilst the themed areas at the parks launched to great fanfare and with great success, Zappas did admit that there were learnings for how Workfront was rolled out to help manage this.

His and Reilly's team is taking action on these learnings and considering how to adapt for future work going forward. Zappas advised that if Disney Yellow Shoes was to undertake the work again, it would start the use of Workfront on a smaller, focused scale, before rolling out further. He said:

I think one of the biggest pieces, if we could redo it, would be to probably collaborate with a smaller group to start off. I think we just wanted to get involved and for everyone to join in on the ROZ party as soon as was humanly possible, when we reorganised it. And I think what we learned was that if we'd had a smaller primary group of stakeholders and expanded it outward, as we secured the base process and system usage, we probably would have been a little bit better off.

I think we are working on that now, we are kind of retrofitting, going back and learning from our lessons. I think everybody does that, you go back, improve and make it better. I think the benefit of our first way of doing it is that we at least got everyone to understand what the system is. It's a foreign concept for a lot of creative people and we have a lot of creatives with us, so we now have exposure.