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Oh Noes! Teh Disney Studios Failz!!1!

Rich RossThere 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.

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1 comment to Oh Noes! Teh Disney Studios Failz!!1!

  • Another Voice

    Blackberries all over Hollywood were busy this afternoon as agents were yanking back projects from Disney.

    You’re right of course, this all comes from Iger’s branding/franchise mania. It’s the only business tactic the poor man knows and he’s going to follow it no matter how badly it turns out. The Disney Channel has been successful at cranking out video Cheez Wiz for years now, a product that has been slightly successful in other areas of the company. For Iger, who’s vision of success comes from 4th place ABC, that looks like a winner.

    The other element in this is cost. The Disney Channel runs as cheaply as they come. A big reason Dick Cook was let go was because of the huge costs of Disney Studio’s movies. ‘Pirates’ 2 & 3 were massively expensive fiasco, the second ‘Narnia’ sequel ran a massive budget – even last weekend’s fiasco ‘Surrogate’ cost Disney more than a $100 mil. ‘Tron 2′ is rocketing skyward and even cheap movies like ‘Jungle Cruise’ have been stuck in development trying to get costs under control. Ross is supposed to bring the Channel’s budget magic to the studios.

    Can you imagine how crappy the cut-rate ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2′ is going to be?

    There’s a big fatal flaw in Iger’s strategy. It’s a simple thing that most people understand – nothing your kid sister likes is cool. Disney hasn’t been able to grow franchises with their audience. All those screaming girls following every flip of Hanna Montana’s hair dropped her after three years and are flocking by the bus load to line up for ‘Twilight’. All those dancing teens who were rocking with ‘High School Musical’ stopped when the audience from ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’ checked in.

    You can’t run a studio – let alone a mega media company – off the backs of such a narrow audience. Disney has already shown that with the failure of both the ‘Hanna Montana’ and ‘Jonas Brothers’ movies. Now Iger has doubled down right as Hollywood is about to merge itself out of existence. Disney will be in play very, very quickly.

    P.S. Miramax is being slashed to almost nothing. They are expected to release no more than 3 movies a year.

    P.S.S. Notice how that no one from Pixar ever gets mentioned for a top job at Disney?

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