When Ron Iden (M.P.A. ’76) watched the “Mickey Mouse Club” television show from his home on Chicago’s North Side in the 1950s and ’60s, he never imagined that one day he would grow up to become senior vice president of global security for The Walt Disney Company, responsible for protecting the planet’s most recognizable rodent as well as the millions of visitors and staff of Mr. Mouse’s enterprise.
“Just reach for the stars, and as it’s probably been said at Disney, you never know where your future might lead you,” says Iden, from his office at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., the company’s international headquarters.
The son of a retired Chicago Police Department captain, Iden served for a decade as an Elk Grove Village police officer before joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He spent 25 years with the FBI before being appointed as director of the California Office of Homeland Security by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Iden accepted the newly created security role at Disney in 2004.
“At that point in time, [former] Disney CEO Michael Eisner and COO Bob Iger [now president and chief executive officer] recognized the value of having a security leader oversee the security components that were already in place throughout the company,” explains Iden, noting that security directors at Disney’s theme parks, cruise line, studios, and affiliated companies each reported to different heads. “They wanted to bring all of that under one security group for purposes of standardization and continuity, thereby elevating the overall security posture of the company.”
Besides the United States, Disney security teams are in place in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. The newest venture is the Shanghai Disney Resort, slated to open in 2016.
China’s other Disneyland, in Hong Kong, will soon unveil Toy Story Land, headlined by space ranger Buzz Lightyear and his sheriff friend Woody, from the popular motion picture series. Buzz Lightyear Attractions-interactive video game-inspired rides-are already in place at several parks, including Disneyland in Anaheim.
“Being the competitive sort that I am with a background in firearms training, I’ve found that challenging some of my security cohorts to the attraction is fun for us all,” says Iden with a chuckle, about the Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters game. “We talk about the Buzz Lightyear championship belt and who’s going to wrest the belt from me. So far, I continue to hold it.”