Well, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Rich Ross has been named head of Walt Disney Studios...
It appears Cook wasn't the only studio suit to be replaced. It'll be interesting to see what pictures Ross lines up to turn around the live-action film division of the Mouse. As much as I love Dick Cook, the last few films that have come out under the Disney name were underwhelming at best. That said, I really cringe at the thought of seeing something along the lines of Hannah Montana or High School Musical material define the theatrical brand. I want to be wrong and would like to be surprised by his choices in a good way. Bob Iger was so right in his business decisions on Lasseter and Pixar; he'd better be right on this one as well.
Interesting that the LA Times took down their article, but others are still reporting the news...
UPDATE: Brooks Barnes over at the New York Times is confirming the story as well.
Here's a press release:
Rich Ross Named Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios
Rich Ross, President of Disney Channels Worldwide, has been named Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios (NYSE: DIS), it was announced today by Disney President and CEO Robert A. Iger.
Ross will oversee worldwide production, distribution and marketing for the company’s range of live-action and feature animated film labels, including Walt Disney, Touchstone, Miramax and Disney/Pixar. In his new role, which he assumes immediately, he will also head Disney’s theatrical and music groups.
In his thirteen years at Disney, Ross has consistently created hit original programming, effectively expanded a worldwide creative and distribution organization, skillfully built the Disney brand with global franchises that work across borders and technology platforms and put in place a strong management team.
"Rich has an outstanding record of creating high-quality family entertainment that delights audiences around the world,” said Iger. "With his success in building the Disney brand across many of our businesses, his astute marketing sensibility, his proven ability in working effectively with talent and his skill at navigating complex global markets, I’m confident he’s the perfect leader for our studio group.”
"I am very excited to play a key role in continuing the storytelling legacy of The Walt Disney Studios. There has never been a better time to entertain our global audiences with high-quality and compelling content and introduce new characters that will become family favorites. I look forward to working with Bob, the team at the studios and all of our Disney family towards that goal,” said Ross.
Under Ross’s leadership, the performance of Disney Channels Worldwide has been consistently strong in both creative and competitive terms, in the U.S. and globally. The group now includes a total of 94 channels and channel feeds available in 163 countries in 32 languages and features such brands as the flagship Disney Channel, the boy-focused Disney XD and Playhouse Disney for younger kids.
Ross has also overseen the growth of Radio Disney and of the group’s multiplatform offerings, which includes subscription video-on-demand and content-rich broadband websites DisneyXD.com and DisneyChannel.com, the number one kid’s entertainment website among Kids 6-14.
In the U.S., Disney Channel has been the #1 TV network among Kids 6-11 and Tweens 9-14 for the last seven and nine years respectively, buoyed by such breakout series as Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place and Sonny With A Chance. Stars of Disney Channel programs, including Raven-Symone, Selena Gomez, Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus, have become household names.
Disney Channel’s record with original movies is equally impressive. With recent blockbusters like High School Musical 2, Wizards of Waverly Place The Movie and Camp Rock, Disney Channel can claim cable’s top two movies of all time and three of the top five.
Disney Channel programming has also helped build other Disney businesses, including the quadruple-Platinum-selling Hannah Montana soundtrack and the number one US album in 2006, High School Musical soundtrack. Books, stage shows, feature films, video games and merchandise featuring original Disney Channel characters have become a critical part of The Walt Disney Company’s success in recent years.
Ross joined Disney in 1996 as Disney Channel’s Senior Vice President, Programming and Production and was promoted to positions of increasing responsibility before being named Disney Channel president in April 2004. Prior to his tenure at Disney, he was a member of the executive team that launched FX Networks. Ross also held several senior positions at Nickelodeon from 1986 to 1993 where he oversaw talent booking, casting and program development and was involved in the launch of the channel’s first successful syndicated show and its first international network.
Ross is a member of the Board of Directors for Hollywood Radio Television Society and Cable in the Classroom – an organization that represents the cable telecommunication industry’s commitment to education. A native of New York and a 1983 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International and English, Ross received his J.D. degree from New York’s Fordham University in 1986.