Chao was Executive Vice President for Master Planning, Architecture & Design at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts creative division Walt Disney Imagineering. In that role Chao oversaw development of all of division’s activities worldwide including theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, water parks and entertainment complexes. He was also Vice Chairman of Development for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Asia Pacific.
For almost 37 years, Chao played a key role in developing and implementing projects worth over $8 billion. Leading teams consisting of Disney designers and engineers of various disciplines and partnering with world’s leading architects and designers including Robert AM Stern, Frank Gehry and Michael Graves, his projects included the Disney theme parks, 100,000 new and renovated resort rooms, 200 restaurants, 4 million-square-feet of retail space, 3 million-square-feet of entertainment venues, 4 million-square-feet of office buildings, 2 million-square-feet of mixed-used development, sports complex, several convention and exhibition centers at Disney’s resorts in California, Florida, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong. Chao also directed the design for the first two 83,000 ton Disney cruise ships. Prior to his retirement from Disney, he was overseeing $4 billion of Disney resort expansion projects both domestically and internationally, including the first Disney resort in Hawaii Aulani and 2 new 128,000 ton Disney cruise ships; Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Chao joined Disney in 1972 in Florida where he was responsible for the master planning of Downtown Disney, a Retail-Dining-Entertainment complex at Walt Disney World Resort. Stationed two years later at Imagineering's headquarters in Glendale, California, he headed the land planning of Epcot Center. By the late 70s, he was involved in the planning of Disney’s first international theme park, Tokyo Disneyland. In 1984, Chao shifted his focus back to Florida and participated in the expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort, including additional theme parks, resort hotels, restaurants, retail shopping, entertainment venues, and golf courses.
From 1985 to 1987, Chao was a key member in the successful negotiations with the French government to build the Disneyland Paris Resort. Two years later, he was promoted to Senior Vice President, and in 1997, he was elevated to the position of Executive Vice President. During 1990s, Chao also oversaw the master planning for the Disney’s new town development of Celebration in Florida as well as the new community of Val d Europe at Disneyland Paris Resort.
By the end of that decade Chao was active in exploring potential future Disney Park and resort development in Asia, including the site selection for Hong Kong Disneyland. To recognize his expanded global role, in 2000 Chao was appointed Vice Chairman, Asia Pacific Development, for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. He played a vital role in the successful negotiations with the Hong Kong government for the project, Disney’s third international destination resort, which opened in September 2005.