There must be some weird sort of Hollywood law of thermodynamics at work today. For each suspect Disney executive that retires, another gets promoted. So it happened that Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, was tapped to replace the fired Dick Cook as head of the Walt Disney Studios.
Let’s be clear. Ross has been incredibly successful business-wise in his thirteen years at the Disney Channel. He has turned it into a worldwide brand, with Disney television networks now in 163 countries. He’s also made Disney a ton of money thanks to the High School Musical and Hannah Montana franchises.
The thing is, he’s also turned the Disney Channel into a vast wasteland of dreck that has zero appeal to anyone over the age of twelve. Gone are the classic Disney films, animated shorts and anthology shows. Gone are even the more classy and better-scripted shows for teens and tweens that could also hold some appeal for adults. All that remains on the Disney Channel are ridiculously broad, slapstick farces with embarrassingly canned laughter and a series of blandly stereotyped mischievous moppets and their clueless parents. It’s junk food TV, which will disappear into the memory hole as soon as the next fad comes along.
There’s some concern noted in the coverage of Ross’s promotion; he is being handed the reins of a massive Hollywood studio, and yet he has no film production experience. He also lacks the ties to talent both behind and in front of the camera that former studio chief Dick Cook could claim.
I don’t know where this is going, but I fear it’s Iger’s branding mania gone awry. Walt Disney Pictures could probably make some money cranking out five Jonas Brothers movies next year, but those profits will be fleeting and eventually that well will run dry. Better to produce quality films than chase fads, eh? I would never make it in Hollywood…
Ross will also head Disney’s theatrical and music groups. The synergy, it burns. Read all the gory details here.