Rich Ross, Chairman of Disney Studios, calls it quits (or was he asked to leave?)


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.

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.


23 thoughts on “Rich Ross, Chairman of Disney Studios, calls it quits (or was he asked to leave?)

  1. Randal-

    You can pre-order the DVD right now at Amazon. If you really want a sequel, thats one of the best things you could do. I’m gonna get a couple extra to give as gifts.

  2. After reading the books many years ago I started to long for a film version. It wasn’t until the last few years that technology caught up and it became possible to bring the world of Barsoom to life. John Carter is an engaging film, full of intrigue, romance, action, and great fx. Sure it has a few flaws, but it is NOT the dog that some critics have made it out to be. It is sad that poor marketing has cut the legs out of this film. I was out of the US when it opened and I saw more good marketing where I was than what was evidently done here. (it has done over 200m outside the US) It will be a shame if no sequel is ever made. I am going to see it one more time before it leaves the theaters and will probably buy it when release on DVD.

  3. It sort of looks like the movie might be destined for some sort of cult status, doesn’t it? Well, if that happens, and with this, maybe there really is some hope for that sequel, or sequels – or a tv movie or tv series.

    I’m rather hoping so. The movie had several changes which I didn’t like at all, but it was still pretty good and I’d like to see those sequels.

  4. Nikki Finke is now saying that Iger’s discussions with Ross about leaving started several weeks ago. That’s about when JC hit the theaters.

    There was definitely a disconnect about our movie at that point. I’m hoping the DVD fortunes of JC turn things around. The movie is still playing at a multi-plex near here (they have 30 screens) so that’s the only place to see it now and there were about a dozen people there to see it at the 6:30pm show.

    I also noticed that The Avengers, Battleship and Prometheus all had brand new bigger and better trailers. Something JC desperately needed. Word also from Nikki, that the Israeli investor who has a big say in Marvel has been causing Iger trouble and maybe that investor is why The Avengers is getting a big boost in promotion from Disney after seeing JC didn’t get good promotion..

  5. “according to people familiar with the situation but not authorized to discuss it publicly”

    Just love it. That’s the thing with “unnamed Disney moles”, they can turn both ways!! :)

    I don’t know how things will end up, but there’s definitely what seems like a “sweet justice” at stake.

  6. To continue with my last post: In the meantime while I wait hopefully for a John Carter sequel, I’m Definitely looking forward to The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit part 1, and especially Taylor Kitsch’s next film:Battleship.

  7. Wow on that new update if true, did not see that coming. But then again I wasn’t expecting Ross’s resignation so soon either.

  8. May be we get a sequel(s).
    I think the can make the sequel cheaper now because a lot of the CGI work is done and a lot of creaturs and effects were in developed or finish when the made John Carter but the want to show them in the sequel(s).
    It looks like that Disney realized that Mr.Ross didn’t support John Carter or helped to hyped the movie?
    The say the give the same money for the marketing of The Avengers? no way the marketing for The Avengers is huge special here overseas,by John Carter? a lot of friends ask me still today ”who or what is John Carter” and the movie does well overseas but what i mean is the movie could be a bigger hit overseas when the marketing was this huge like for The Avengers!
    So i have this feeling a lot of story will come up what was behind the doors by Disney!
    By the way it looks like a lot of peoble from Disney didn’t saw the movie!?(May be now and they were suprise that the movie is good?)

  9. Agreeing with Bob on this subject, Ross And pretty much everyone else at Disney could have turned things around for the better when it came to the marketing along time ago, but instead as Dotar said they treated the film like a patient on life support…., However things might turn around for the film if the worldwide boxoffice results plus the DVD sales are decent enough. At this point time will tell, but I still believe a sequel will happen somehow.

  10. The previous comments say everything needed, Ross’s “grave”(at Disney) was already dug and he just decided to pull John Carter down with him, or atleast make no attempt to help it float.

    Definatly only adds more hope to JC fans, doesn’t change much but atleast theres the hope that someone who actually can “do the job” gets the position.

  11. Oh darn. Now who are you people going to blame for John Carter failing? I’m kidding. That said Ross should have never been appointed Chairman of Disney’s movie division to start with. This was all Iger’s fault and if there’s someone who should be getting the boot too it’s him. He’s done just as bad a job as Eisner ever did running the studio into the ground.

    As for the possibility that the next person hired will green light a John Carter sequel that seems like a long shot. Why would anyone take a risk on a sequel to a film that is now labeled a “flop” and hasn’t even had time to develop that “cult” following that has been discussed here and on other boards? I mean it took them almost 30 years to do a TRON sequel-not that one needed to be made since it was terrible, like the original-so I’m not holding my breath unless Lassiter gets the job. And even then how many claims of favortism would he be able to stand if he gave Stanton a green light to make Gods of Mars. Then again Lassiter seems like a smart guy and might hire someone who actually respects ERB and we would get the “real” John Carter movie we wanted-which would be cool with Gods of Mars. That’s my hope but it will take a lot for that to happen.

  12. This makes me want to hear Stanton’s version of events even more so now. My head tells me that “John Carter” has been sacrificed at the alter of studio politics. While these sort of dark deeds often back-fire on the person looking to gain the power, the person (or movie, in this case) being sacrificed is still dead…
    I think Stanton has wisely been taking the high road in this debacle, but my heart is hoping he’s been working behind the scenes to help orchestrate a counter attack and this is the first salvo. Hollywood politics aside, I’m confident decent people reside there and they don’t care for what happened to our beloved movie and the smear campaign against Stanton any more than we do.
    I’m probably just a naive hick from Washington State, but I can’t help but think this is a good thing for “John Carter” fans – if anything, we get an ice-cold dish of revenge to enjoy.

  13. The chances of a sequel just got a whole lot better. This is a dream come true.

    The guy — Ross — who made John Carter flop, he would never advocate for a sequel. But now new people will see this whole affair with new eyes, and will realize that they have a cave of gold waiting for them if they only want to mine it.

  14. Huge news. Perhaps the stars will turn out right after all. But is there still hope for John Carter? Fingers crossed. It’s amazing how behind the scenes politic ruined this movie’s career. It’s really unprecendented as far as my knowledge of the industry goes.

  15. It explains some things, but my little brain is still boggled that, for no reason should a successful company simply -give up- on their own product. For any reason. How does an entity get, or stay successful using that ethic?

    It’s not just a case of “don’t throw good money after bad”, this was a case of throwing NO money after good…

    Enough lessons on how to market the movie have been presented by some very talented fans. Re-marketing and re-releasing the dang thing will probably never be an option, but by golly, drown the public in good solid marketing before the disc release. ERB is such an untapped movie potential, and comic book reboots (or reboots of reboots) will only get the industry so far.

  16. I don’t want to say I’m psychic, but sometime in the last week or so I said to my sister that a change of hands at Disney might happen and would be the perfect shift we and John Carter need to seriously turn things around. When I learned of Ross’s resignation, or firing, I felt extremely “moved”. We’ll see how it all plays out, but wow! I’m thinking, hoping, this is another of those rare “tuned in” moments for me. Fingers crossed!

  17. If they made Lasseter the new chairman or brought back Dick Cook, that could change John Carter’s fortunes considerably.

  18. It opens the door for a re-evaluation of John Carter at some point. Ross would have been hard pressed to lay the blame for the failure on himself or the studio…….a new regime can just look at it realistically as more data becomes available — data including whether the DVD/Blu Ray release exceeds expectations or not; the fan activism; the gradual reassessment of the film itself and incremental upgrade toward “cult” or “new classic” status. A lot of baggage that would have gotten in the way of any kind of re-evaluation has just been removed.

  19. Sadly this is somewhat a case of closing the barn door after the horses have run off. Despite the above noted chain of events, it still boggles the mind that, with the dollars invested in John Carter, there was no one at Disney charged with marketing John Carter to help make it as successful a film domestically and abroad that it should have been.

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