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Disney Chairman Dick Cook Resigns

Post by Josh » September 18th, 2009, 9:51 pm

Late Friday, Dick Cook announced his resignation as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Of the articles I've read thus far, The New York Times seems to go the most in-depth about the situation.

It seems Cook has been considering the move for quite some time. According to the article, Cook's final decision is the result of his division struggling with "profitability, creative focus and a shifting media landscape."

UPDATE: Well, Nikki Finke has a different take on Cook's leaving Disney. I think the following headline speaks for itself: "EXCLUSIVE! Dick Cook Fired From Disney; Hollywood Registering Shock At News; Cook 'Never Saw It Coming'"

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Post by estefan » September 19th, 2009, 8:43 am

I'm surprised at the comment that Disney's last films were bombs. Weren't G-Force, Up, Bolt, Beverly Hills Chihuaha, Wall-E and Hannah Montana all major successes among others (including the films in their subsidiary companies)?

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Post by EricJ » September 19th, 2009, 11:37 am

My reaction too:
Thought Up was one of this summer's few smash hits, and Chihuahua, G-Force and HSM3 made a little MORE money than they were supposed to, unless they're still punishing him for Pirates 3... (And in the tradition of Just So Wrong movies, nobody could've seen that one coming, not even Cook.)
And if it's still that "Bolt vs. Twilight" thing, I'm going to go out and hit someone under 20. :x

The fallout seems to be that none of Disney's biggest tentpoles they just spent so much time promoting at D23/Comicon (Spielberg/Zemeckis, Johnny Depp, Bruckheimer) want to work at Disney without their personal attachment to Cook, so the egg is on Iger's face, and things may not necessarily be over yet.

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Post by Ben » September 19th, 2009, 3:10 pm

First thing I thought, after an internal "wow", was that the man might be sick. After all, he's in a good job, he's had a good stretch, he's more than well liked, and he's had a good batting average as far as movie execs go.

However, he's not particularly a spring chicken, but to think of him leaving so suddenly after the good box office summer he's had and the promotion he's been out there doing, my feeling was that he had suddenly found out he was very ill and wanted to immediately leave to be with family.

Which makes the truth - whatever that is - even more hard to fathom. Disney has been in more doldrums than it is or has been, and it's the movies that have been the issue, many of them still holdovers from Eisner's departure. Me thinks there's more to this than meets the eye, but whatever the causes are, I wish Mr Cook the very best, and look with interest to see which direction Disney decides to move in next...

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Post by Josh » September 19th, 2009, 4:27 pm

First of all, thanks for the front page mention, James. :)

Ben, you make a good point. After being with Disney for around 38 years, it seems unlikely Cook would just suddenly resign, unless he had a substantial reason.

If Iger did fire Cook, I'm afraid that was a bad move. Sure, Disney's lineup of films hasn't been particularly strong in recent years. However, Cook had involvement in getting Depp, Spielberg, Zemeckis, Pixar, Burton, and Marvel at Disney. Even if the last couple of years haven't been great, I'd say those collaborations are going to make Disney's future much brighter. But now I'm afraid some of those relationships could be in jeopardy.

With that said, I wonder who will replace Cook. In the comments section at Deadline Hollywood, 'wonttell' made an interesting post:
wonttell wrote:A name much bigger will come in to replace him, from what I’m hearing. Probably the perfect and only name that will make people think of Cook as an afterthought in the coming weeks.

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Post by Ben » September 19th, 2009, 5:01 pm

The <I>second</I> thing I thought of, after fearing Cook was ill, was that this could put the Pirates 4 fire out before it got stoked up. Which is why - whichever way it went, as in either being fired or him stepping down - I just think there's more behind this than is being mentioned.

If he got fired, then it needs to be for a very good reason other than a few box office duds. Under Cook, Disney has only grown in box office and industry recognition. This is what doesn't make sense in him being fired, unless there was a big argument between him and Iger that Iger didn't like. But Iger doesn't seem like that kind of guy and can obviously see the future potential in what he does. Not to have consulted the likes of those contributors you mentioned seems very shortsighted on his part, uncharacteristically so.

His replacement will be very scrutinised...but I'm not going to start a guessing game. I'm not sure the name will be the obvious choice in any case, but I'm thinking that it could well be an agent looking to move about, or someone who may have had a similar position from Disney's past...

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Post by EricJ » September 19th, 2009, 6:43 pm

estefan wrote:I'm surprised at the comment that Disney's last films were bombs. Weren't G-Force, Up, Bolt, Beverly Hills Chihuaha, Wall-E and Hannah Montana all major successes among others (including the films in their subsidiary companies)?
From Variety:
The studio's most recent movies, like "Race to Witch Mountain," "Bedtime Stories" and "Confessions of a Shopaholic" have been disappointments and CEO Bob Iger expressed unhappiness with the studio's slate in a conference call with Wall Street analysts in May.
(Darn, forgot about that one--
We wanted someone to no longer work at the studio after "Bedtime Stories", but HE wasn't who we had in mind... :( )

I'm still going to be optimistic and say that oopsie, they didn't expect to lose all of Cook's pals into the bargain, especially after making them the centerpieces of the last two big corporate pushes--
If Iger's so concerned about image, that's a big foot in the mouth right there, and I'm holding out that there may be some 11th hour olive branches, even if not back to the same studio chief job...We may not want a Pirates 4, and Christmas Carol even less, but they're staking everything they've got on it.

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Post by Ben » September 20th, 2009, 8:09 am

More from various sources:

Cook privately told staff he felt "he no longer fits in", he "felt like 'a square peg in a round hole'"; "departure was not the result of a conflict with Chief Executive Bob Iger or the company's corporate side".

Larry Gerbrandt, a principal at consultancy Media Valuation Partners, said Cook's resignation could be tied to Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Marvel, and Disney's reliance on its Pixar division: "If Disney is not going to develop a significant slate of completely original films, but relies primarily on Pixar and Marvel, then Dick's role becomes far less important," he said.

So maybe he just saw the writing on the wall, didn't like how all of Disney's upcoming product is essentially being farmed in from Pixar, Marvel, ImageMovers, DreamWorks, etc, and would simply not have much to do other than shepherd the occasional "Disney" movie, which have become not much more than a series of Disney Channel spin-offs, sequels and remakes (obviously not counting the WDAS devision, which is mostly Lasseter's domain anyway).

Yes, the past quarter has not been enormously successful for the movie division, but look at what Cook <I>has</I> brought to the company, and the choices he has made for the next two or three years look like solid options.

If there <I>was</I> tension at the top, and with so little to really keep him occupied in the job, then I can see him wanting to move. But Iger's lack of shock at this <I>does</I> suggest a "discussion" between them before Cook's announcement...

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Post by EricJ » September 20th, 2009, 12:42 pm

Not to mention, the major Disney-label tentpole movies that aren't just Disney-Channel extended star-busywork for their Lindsay/Miley of the month are studio-envy farmed in from Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates, National Treasure, G-Force)--

Disney Channel-centrism hasn't just crippled cable, it's crippled their own ability to make movies in what they think is the "easy" way, and hopefully there'll be a little more witch-hunting of guilty parties to blame for "Confessions" and "Witch Mountain" if firing Cook isn't enough.
(If our luck holds out, they might even throw HSM3 on the retroactive pile of "Last year's flops" :wink: )

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Post by Ben » September 20th, 2009, 2:26 pm

Actually Eric, I did mention them...as in "not much more than a series of Disney Channel spin-offs, sequels and remakes". All the films you just mentioned are just those, or at least feel like them. Pirates? More sequels. National Treasure? Sequels. G-Force felt like a sequel, and comes from one of the other "etc" companies I mentioned in my list (so shoot me that I forgot to name Bruckheimer by name, I also didn't mention Touchstone and Miramax).

What I was getting at was the lack of original content. You could even say Princess And The Frog is only going back to what they used to do. Where is the originality for Cook to have fun developing and promoting something unique?

<I>THAT'S</I> the point I was making...

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Post by Josh » September 25th, 2009, 12:05 am

According to Deadline Hollywood and The Los Angeles Times, Disney Channels Worldwide president Rich Ross may take at least some of Cook's prior responsibilities. Other candidates include John Lasseter, DreamWorks' Stacy Snider, and Marvel's Kevin Feige.

Meanwhile, Variety notes that the job of studio chairman may be divided into a group of 'pod masters.' For instance, Ross might oversee Walt Disney Pictures' films, while another person controls Touchstone Pictures.

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Post by EricJ » September 25th, 2009, 12:01 pm

Josh wrote:According to Deadline Hollywood and The Los Angeles Times, Disney Channels Worldwide president Rich Ross may take at least some of Cook's prior responsibilities. Other candidates include John Lasseter, DreamWorks' Stacy Snider, and Marvel's Kevin Feige.
Disney stealing creative talent from Dreamworks?...Well, that's a switch! :)

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Post by Ben » September 25th, 2009, 1:56 pm

I think Snider has already been ruled out, but a Spielberg influence may change that. Funny how if DWs end up at Disney permanently, there might not have been a reason to launch DWs in the first place! And how about if DWA ends up being distributed by their old rivals? Ho-ho-ho...

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Post by Josh » October 6th, 2009, 12:34 am

Yesterday, Disney announced Rich Ross as the new Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. Deadline Hollywood has the official press release, while The New York Times provides an interesting commentary.

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Post by Ben » October 6th, 2009, 5:41 am

Great...the slide into more Disney Channel mediocrity continues... :(

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