Disney: Help wanted for high-risk, low-reward job as chairman

Wanted: Experienced executive who can turn around an unstable film studio and manage the egos of some of Hollywood's biggest power players including Pixar animation guru John Lasseter, DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider, mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimerand Marvel chief Ike Perlmutter.

Reward: Not much.

Walt Disney Co.Chief Executive Bog Iger, in other words, won't have an easy time finding a new studio chairman to replace Rich Ross.

Once considered one of the most powerful and sought-after positions in Hollywood, running the 89-year-old Burbank studio behind "Snow White," "Mary Poppins," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" now seems about as desirable as playing Goofy on a hot day at Disneyland. The buzz in Hollywood since Iger fired Ross last Friday has been less about who's angling for the job and more about who would want it.

The reason: Iger's strategy of turning Disney into a collection of brands means that most of the films it releases are not overseen or greenlit by the studio chairman, as they are at rival companies. Next year, for example, Disney will release five movies (including two 3-D re-releases) from the Pixar and Disney animation units headed by Lasseter and Ed Catmull; two superhero films from Marvel, a subsidiary run by CEO Perlmutter and President Kevin Feige; and at least one from DreamWorks, the independent studio that has a distribution deal with Disney.

Only two films on Disney's 2013 slate were approved and overseen by Ross himself: "Oz: The Great and Powerful," based on the classic book series and movie, and a new version of "The Lone Ranger" starring Johnny Depp. And both have powerful producers who are themselves forces to be reckoned with: Bruckheimer on "The Lone Ranger" and former Disney studio chairman Joe Rothon "Oz."

The studio is responsible, however, for advertising and releasing the movies from all of its brands and partners, meaning Ross' successor are easy targets for blame if those pictures don't work. People close to Disney but not authorized to speak publicly say that Lasseter, Feige and Snider are all intimately involved in marketing plans and were bitter about having their films promoted by inexperienced outsider M.T. Carney, who Ross hired in 2010 and had to dismiss early this year.

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-- Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

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