Richard Ross Richard Ross

Disney Studio Chairman Rich Ross Resigns

Walt Disney Studios chairman Richard Ross was forced to resign after less than three years on the job. “I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me,” Ross said in a company-wide email. He had taken over the spot in 2009, after spearheading the Disney Channel’s growth with properties like Hannah Montana and High School Musical. Though Ross didn’t greenlight John Carter, the film’s spectacular failure resulting in a writedown of $200 million played a role in his departure. Deadline Hollywood reported that Ross’s own slate of theatrical features hasn’t debuted yet.

The studio’s live-action units will feel the impact of Ross’s departure more acutely than Disney Feature Animation and Pixar, which are still overseen by Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. In fact, the most notable animation-related decision of Ross’s tenure had nothing to do with Disney Feature or Pixar. Ross will be remembered for shutting down Robert Zemeckis’s mo-cap studio ImageMovers following last year’s Disney bomb Mars Needs Moms.

No replacement has been named, though plenty of names are being floated in the media. Lasseter’s name has been mentioned, though he is considered a longshot for the position.

Read more about Ross’s departure at Deadline Hollywood and New York Times.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Resigns? Oh yeah. They made him resign.

  • Matt

    As much as Lasseter deserves the position (and he may or may not be a good fit), I think he’s already stretched thin enough between all his duties. I’m sure they can find someone else who is perfectly qualified.

  • eeteed

    “…No replacement has been named, though plenty of names are being floated in the media…”

    i’ve been hearing good things about this John Textor.

  • A Writer

    No don’t get Lasseter

    someone who is very creative cannot run a huge studio like Disney. He would rip whatever hair he had on his head out. Let him stay as CCO.

    They need someone who has business on their mind. Let the creative minds handle the creative stuff. Ed is an example of someone who is smart and business strong. But I do not know who serves on the boards so their might be someone more fitting for the job

    I’m sure their not sweating John Carter though. The Avengers is going to bring in some huge numbers even though it has a larger gap to fill since JC bombed.

  • A Writer

    Tron Legacy

    Mars Needs Mom

    John Carter

    Disney will now be known as the “Bomb” Factory

    next up “The Lone Ranger”!!

    • James Fox

      for the record, Tron Legacy was a moderate success

      • Glen

        VERY moderate–and an awful film. Not as bad as John carter, but almost.

    • Doubtful. Regardless of the actual quality of the film, it’s got Johnny Depp, so folks will turn up.

      • A Writer

        Cue “The Rum Diary”!!

        not all Johnny depp movies gross high buddy

      • Roberto

        That’s different. The Rum Diary is not a blockbuster. Comparing it to The Lone Ranger is like comparing Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas with Pirates Of Caribbean. Of course more people would like the second one (I prefer the first one, but the subject is more “difficult”).

        Tron Legacy was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, I don’t care whether it was a success or not.

      • A Writer

        Doesn’t matter bucko. Johnny Depp in the wrong movies doesn’t equate sales. Just like ALL of hollywood

    • wever

      The Muppets was a hit!

    • Glen

      depp was in rango, which failed to turn a profit.

    • DD

      Wha? I thought Tron: Legacy was a great film. How could you even compare it to Mars Needs Moms.

      John Carter was a watchable movie. It’s not as bad as people mentioned, but not award worthy either.


    I hope whoever gets into the new position scraps all the comic book crap forever!

    Can’t they find someone who can make a movie without mocap cgi… as the main character? Oh and the 3D thing has to go! pure bunk!

    The story!!! That’s what matters most. (then, the mo-cap cgi crap) When they find the guy that believes this more than anything else then they’ve really got something.

  • Damon

    The name to watch I think is Kevin Feige. With the Avengers about to blow up I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suddenly elevated within the company.

    • Glen

      No. feige has no experience running a movie studio. And he’s made too many enemies at Disney.

  • Bud

    Ross barely had a chance.

    In the next year, we’ll see what he helped put forward.

    The Avengers
    The Great and Powerful Oz
    The Lone Ranger
    Henry Selick project
    Wreck It Ralph

    Not so bad. Lots of animation of all kinds.

  • Norton

    What’s Joe Besser doing?

  • I don’t want to revel in someone losing their job, but I’m… gratified… that someone’s head rolled for how badly a perfectly good movie was mishandled. It goes beyond just the loss on the one film: a whole potential franchise went down the tubes thanks to a campaign that could best be described as anti-advertising. If I was a shareholder I’d be even more hopping mad than I am as a fan.

    • Glen

      Certainly you’re not talking about the John carter mess, awful film with no clear audience, i lazy “writing,” and supremely inept direction. Don’t blame the marketing for not having a film worth marketing. One wonders if Andrew Stanton will be soon following rich Ross out the door. As a stockholder, I hope so.

  • Marc Baker

    As some of you may know, I’m no fan of Disney’s ‘tween girl’ phase, and this guy was responsible for appealing to the same demographic that made glittering vampires into A ‘cultural phenomenon’. Stuff like ‘Hanna Montana’, and High School Musical’ make me hang my head in shame as I PINE for the days of ‘DuckTales’, ‘Roger Rabbit’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘The Lion King’, ‘and ‘Gargoyles’. Now stuff like ‘Prince Of Persia’, ‘Tron Legacy’, and ‘John Carter’ looked like they had potential to be great films, but they didn’t live up to that potential. I’m sure Disney is probably kicking themselves for not acquiring ‘The Hunger Games’, but they would’ve dropped the ball on that one. I will say that shutting down ‘Robert Zemekis’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ remake was probably one of the few good things he’s ever done.

    • Funkybat

      You’re speaking my language. The transmogrification of “The Disney Channel” into something barely having anything to do with the Disney anyone currently over the age of 25 grew up with has been a thorn in many sides. Sure, it has proven to be an economic boon, but at what cost?

      A few years ago, it seems like a decision was made that the kind of animated slate that made Disney TV great in the 80s and early 90s was an outdated concept, and aside from Phineas and Ferb and Kim Possible, the last decade has not had much that one could even vaguely connect to the spirit of those days.

      Just because the syndicated TV block format is outdated doesn’t mean the concept of solidly-made kids cartoons is outdated, especially when you have a pre-existing cable outlet already! Granted, Toon Disney/Disney XD is there, but the channel frankly seems to be under-marketed and under-utilized. There’s no reason Disney TV animation couldn’t have done as well or better than Nick or Cartoon Network over the past decade, but it seems tween/teen was the flavor they went with.

      • With stuff like Craig McCracken’s Wonder Over Yonder and that Tron cartoon coming up, I’d actually dare say that Disney has a very interesting lineup of TV cartoons in its future. Too bad Tom Rugger’s pilot 7D was probably scrapped.

      • Hulk

        I think that’s in large part because Disney TV animation is separate both physically and culturally from the rest of the Disney studio. For a lot of their new or previously undervalued branches such as TV Animation, Mobile games, and other on line properties,their M.O. of late seems to be: ‘Give each department their own physical space to operate and leave them alone.’

        I don’t work there so I’m only saying this having observed it a few times but it seems to be working for those divisions. If only they’d do it for DAS as well.

  • christy

    when you say he was ‘was forced to resign’ can you clarify that? what happened exactly?

    • Christy – Follow the links in the post to the NY Times and Deadline articles for more info. The pressure on Ross to exit apparently came from Disney chief exec Bob Iger.

      • christy


  • Forcing the man to resign was a mistake. Harry Cohn made a few bombs in his day however he built Columbia Pictures up from a studio that started out in a former bordello (that is not an Italian desert) into the studio that produced LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

    Changing heads after a crisis means the crisis does not get thought through.

    The movies are a crap shoot. Always have been. Always will be.

  • Scarabim

    Another example of Robert Iger’s continuing mismanagement and poor judgement. He has zip zero artistic instincts, not a creative bone in his body. No sense of what made Disney great. He should be in charge of the Wal-Mart chain.

    Very good choice of picture, there, Amid. That’s what’s run Disney into the ground – a bunch of muppets.

  • This guys’s replacement should be that Muppet with the teeny-tiny head who’s standing behind him.

    • The Gee

      I know you are joking but, man, what a fun world that would be.

      And, when and if said small-noggined muppet resigned, people would say:

      “He was in over his head.”

      That’s almost certain.

  • Rick Tucker

    For all the maligning this guy gave to the John Carter film (who declares a house film a disaster while it’s still in the theaters?) Disney’s still on my crap list. I fully expected to hate the film and found it better than just entertaining. The ad campaign was the worst I’d ever seen given the power and depth of the films production qualities as well as decent acting and engaging story line. I’m not watching another Disney film of any kind until this and the Jack Kirby royalties on Avengers becomes a reality. I’m hoping when they market JC on DVD they exploit the potential to finally promote this film the way it deserved to be treated.

    • Glad someone else cares about giving royalties to Jack Kirby’s family. C’mon Marvel, your Distinguished Competition will pay Siegel and Shuster’s estates a ton of money regardless of the outcome of the Superman copyright cases and gave Steve Bissette and John Totleban a fair amount of money for the Constantine movie. Why can’t you do the same?

      That said, I still have far more respect for Disney than I go fof the other major Hollywood studios.

  • Useless

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  • Marc Baker

    Your speaking my language there, Funkybat. Great minds think alike, I guess. You would think that Disney XD would be ideal for keeping the ‘syndicated cartoon’ formula alive, and well since broadcast stations are more interested in airing trashy talk shows, local news, and reality junk, but they would rather throw in more ‘tween’ junk with maybe A few cartoons here, and there. Disney still tries to give us the next ‘tween sensation’ at the cost of their great legacy, and as an aspiring cartoonist, that really breaks my heart. Would Disney ever give us A young female character that’s every bit as phenomenal, and compelling as Katniss Everdeen in their current state? I highly doubt it. If they did, they would watered her down as just another ‘Lizzie McGuire’, or ‘Hanna Montana’. (Or even ‘Bella Swan’, even though she’s not A Disney character.) Also, Considering how they dropped the ball on ‘John Carter’, I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t have Touchstone Pictures (Or what’s left of it, anyway) market this since they were created to make films more edgy than The Disney brand will allow. As for Marvel, my fears from that purchase were that Disney would water these iconic characters down to the level of their ‘tween junk’, but as long as they let Marvel be Marvel, maybe this won’t happen.

    • Hey, Disney can’t possibly do worst than the other chowderheads who have run Marvel over the years, particularly Ron Pereleman, who we have to thank for the struggling state of the comic book industry today.

  • Frank Ziegler

    That’s a shame. I really enjoyed the John Carter film. Whole family liked it.

  • Cutting off the head, in addition to not thinking through the issues at hand, also guarantees that the next person placed in that position will do as little as possible to make their head does not fall.

    This is stupidity pure and simple.

    Following this line of thinking Walt would have “resigned” after the box office failure on first release of every picture the studio created after SNOW WHITE. The only one that actually made money on first release was DUMBO as its cost of production was so low compared to PINOCCHIO, BAMBI and FANTASIA.

    Robert Iger should be looking at the long not the short view. All of the current box office failures are going to recover their cost. Once they do that they will be breadwinners. That is how it works in the arts.

    Robert Iger clearly lacks that understanding of the medium he is working in. He ought to be spanked. If anyone is not the right man for the job it is Iger not Ross.

    The studio should apologize to Richard Ross, give him backhis position and treat him to a vacation for all the stress it has put him through. Like that’s going to happen.

    If it by some miracle does happen everyone working at Disney would heave a collective sigh of relief for then they will know that they can work without fear of being fire. Iger has guaranteed that every creative mind in the studio will be paralyzed and will stay paralyzed.

    He ought to know better. Clearly he does not.

    Not one of Andy Warhol’s soup can paintings were sold when they were first put on exhibition. Critics sneered at the paintings Basquait and Warhol did together. They did not sell either.

    There are no losses in the art world.

    The Disney corporation needs someone in Iger’s chair who knows and understands this.

    Actually, almost all of Hollywood fails to understand this one fundamental truth.

  • For everyone who seems to be glad Ross is getting pushed out- Did you miss the part about him not being in charge when the current crop of flops were created? Or how he was the guy with killed the hate Mo-Cap films???

    Sounds more like Ross is getting blamed for everything, and the people who really screwed things up are probably still keeping their jobs.

    • Funkybat

      I would agree, I suspect much of the blame for the recent “failures” at Disney lies at the feet of others. I suppose it’s the old tradition of the general falling on his sword if his men are routed.

      I’m glad to see the Zemeckis mo-cap ventures ended, I was really dreading the possible existence of a mo-cap Yellow Submarine. (talk about a movie that doesn’t need a remake.) Seeing Tintin showed me that mo-cap can be done well, albeit when you then throw dozens of animators at the raw data to actually animate it according to the 12 principles! I hope the people laid off from Imagemovers find work with other outfits, and continue to improve the technique.

      The thing I am frustrated at Ross about is his role in propagating the rise of the live-action “tweener” shows on The Disney Channel. I know people who left Disney TV years ago because they saw the writing on the wall and knew that Disney wasn’t serious about using their cable presence for animated content. It seems like the tide is turning, with more new animated content showing up on Disney XD, but still, I wish there were more shows in the “classic Disney” mold being made.

      • Now that I can get behind- feel free to hate Ross for all that :)

  • Andecimo

    The problem is that there are too many bean counting bureaucrats at the helm of this ship we call Disney. Lost is the experimental energy of Disney’s golden age, replaced by cutthroat backroom politics and greed. Too many people who don’t know what they are doing with no real focus other than making money.

    The name Disney used to be synonymous with quality, both in draftsmanship and in presentation. Today, they are just another company that sometimes makes decent animated features. They don’t care about the art of animation, storytelling, or anything else the company was based on.

    It’s sad, but then again nothing lasts forever. The King is dead. Long live the King.

  • I feel sorry for Andrew Stanton

  • the truth

    Rich Ross is the imbecile that killed Wild Hogs 2