UPDATE 9:00; Okay last update for today, but a good one. Dawn Chmielewski and Rebecca Keegan writing in the LA times came up with this: “Ross spoke negatively about the film [John Carter] , according to people familiar with the situation but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Ross sought to blame Pixar Animation Studios for the “John Carter” debacle, they said. That prompted key Pixar executives to turn against Ross, whose abundance of self-confidence and abrasive style had alienated many within the studio. It set the stage for Iger to remove the studio chief from his post, say people familiar with the matter.” If this turns out to be true it’s VERY interesting….

UPDATE 4:30: More speculation, this from Hollywood reporter: Kevin Feige, Stacy Sneider, Mary Parent, John Lasseter, and Alan Bergman.

UPDATE 3:40: The LA Times is also reporting that Marvel’s Kevin Freige is being touted as a likely replacement, along with John Lasseter of Pixar and Disney Animation. The article reports that Iger has said Sean Bailey, head of proaction, and president Alan Bergman will be in charge until a replacement is found.

UPDATE 3:30 PM PDT: Comicbookmovie and others are circulating Kevin Feige, President of Production for Marvel, as a front-running. Too soon to evaluate this. Here is the quote from from Comicbookmovie:

Rich Ross has reportedly resigned[some say fired] from his post as Chairman of Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios’ President of Production Kevin Feige is the front runner to replace him.
Disney, as the owner of Marvel could very well pluck Feige from Marvel’s film branch and place him in the top spot to oversee what movies are green-lit from Marvel, Dreamworks, Pixar and Disney. While that could potentially mean more Marvel movies per year with someone like Feige calling the shots, it also means that someone new will have to step into Feige’s shoes. And while many would attribute the MCU’s success to Jon Favreau and the first Iron Man movie, make no mistake, it was Feige behind the scenes, mandating certain story elements be included that has led us to The Avengers promise land.

Original Post
Rich Ross, Chairman of Disney Studios, has resigned. “I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else,” he wrote. “But, I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me.”

Ross has been Chairman since October 2009, when he replaced Dick Cook. Ross comes from a television background, and successfully ran the Disney Channel prior to his tenure as studio chief. His tenure was marked by controversy as he hired top lieutenants such as MT Carney (who left the company in January) who had little or no movie-making or movie-marketing experience. The effort to bring in outsiders was clearly supported by — and perhaps initiated by — Disney CEO Robert Iger who was looking to shake up the movie division with Ross’s appointment.

COMMENT:
Two pieces of very instant analysis that are subject to revision as more becomes known:

1. Ross was a reluctant warrior from the beginning — not quite a fish out of water but almost. This has to have been in the works, at least in Ross’s head, for many months — it didn’t just happen. And with that in mind, this is the first bit of information that begins to make explicable the curious lethargy that pervaded the John Carter promotional campaign — in particular the lack of responsiveness in the campaign when it became apparent that the campaign wasn’t working. Reasoning? Ross, in January when the campaign was clearly not working, was already disengaged and had a “short-timer” point of view. Remember that even though he wasn’t the party who green-lit John Carter, he still was the party charged with marketing of the film and it just never felt like he was very engaged, or that he had created any sense of urgency at Disney over the release of the film. The promotional campaign unfolded without any responsiveness when the audience reaction was “meh” to the first major salvoes in December. Yet Disney never reacted. Not a complete explanation — but it renders the performance more understandable.

2. This could shed light on the bizarre $200m flop announcement 10 days into the John Carter run. Ross, it could be reasoned, knew he would be leaving and this — combined with other reasons (for this was surely a strange and complicated decision) led to the conclusion that it was better to “take the hit” for John Carter immediately removing it as baggage from the regime that would take over when Ross leaves. Again — this decision was more complicated than just “Ross took the hit personally” — but the decision makes more sense now that this has happened.

UPDATE: Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood is reporting “make no mistake, Ross was fired,” but she’s not offering any further details. I’m not going to revise these comments until we learn more as it has seemed to me for some time that Ross was “curiously disengaged” and must have known this was coming. He didn’t want to be the Studio Chief …he took the job as “Iger’s guy” and at Iger’s behest and it never was a good fit. But Nikki “Toldja” Finke is pretty good with her intel on these things, so we’ll see.

3. It will be very interesting for the John Carter universe if Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter is selected to replace Ross. Lasseter was considered a candidate when Dick Cook, Ross’s predecessor, left Disney. Lasseter would be a positive choice for John Carter……

Ross’s full statement:

For the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented people on behalf of the world’s best loved brand. During that time, we’ve told some amazing stories around the world, created successful TV programming, movies, and franchises that generated new opportunities for the company in the process.

I’ve always said our success is created and driven by our people – whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. But, the best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities. It’s one of the leadership lessons I’ve learned during my career, and it’s something I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to as I look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.

I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else. But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.

It has been my honor to work with such incredible teams – at Disney Channels Worldwide and The Walt Disney Studios and the many other Disney businesses I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with. I know I leave the Studios in good hands and, even on separate paths, I am confident we are all destined for continued success.

-Rich