Rich Ross moves from the small screen to Disney's big screen as new studio chief

As reported extensively by Variety‘s main TV reporter Cynthia Littleton, the new head of the Walt Disney Studios is going to be Disney Channels Worldwide chief executive Rich Ross, and I, for one, am not going to welcome our new Mouse-ical overlord.

The reason for my distrust of Ross and the new direction that Walt Disney president and CEO Bob Iger wants to take the studio can be found in the second paragraph of Littleton’s article:

Ross earned his promotion by proving to be a master brand builder at the Disney Channel and its myriad worldwide offshoots. His appointment signals the Mouse House plans to focus heavily, though not exclusively, on franchises that not only drive [box office] but can also generate biz for other divisions like TV, licensing and merchandising, [home video] and online.

I may not be old enough to remember the first time Disney took Hollywood and the rest of the world by storm with its movies, but I am old enough to remember when Disney movies started getting good again.

Referring to the period between 1989 and 1994, author David Koenig seemed to argue in his book Mouse Under Glass that when the people running a movie studio trust the creative people they’ve hired, try not to take themselves too seriously, and ignore how to best leverage the synergy into other branches of the company, great movies can be made. And no animation fan can argue that The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King aren’t great movies.

Ross_GomezI will grant that Ross is pretty good at starting franchises, grooming the actors and actresses that will star in them, and unleashing the juggernaut onto the world, as he’s the one who helped turn Miley Cyrus into “Hannah Montana” and oversaw the rise of Selena Gomez’ star (that’s her to the right with Ross) in “The Wizards of Waverly Place.” That’s fine and good–if making franchise films is was the only reason why people made movies.

“Oh, but you’re wrong!” I hear you exclaim through my computer screen. “Because Iger said in the article that:

there’s no question that creating high-quality films is the most important thing. The need to adapt to change comes secondary to the need to make films that are good.

In response, I say that ever since Disney stopped being a private company and sold itself to the stock market, it will always be focused on the bottom line more than it will be focused on what its founder Walt Disney did best: make movies that more than one age demographic can enjoy at the same time.

I will note, however, that the fact that Ross is openly gay fills me a not-small amount of schadenfreude because when I worked at the Walt Disney Travel Company and booked vacations, a travel agent from the Midwest once told me that she wouldn’t want to send her clients to the park if one of the Gay Days was going on at the same time, adding that she didn’t want to “expose” them to those kinds of people. I cheerfully assuaged her fears while thinking to myself that she shouldn’t send her clients to the Park at all because almost every cast member I had ever met in or out of the Park was gay.

And now, so is the new head of Walt Disney Studios.

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Posted on October 6, 2009 at 22:13 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: News