From ‘Hannah Montana’ to ‘High School Musical,’ influential Disney Channel boss to step down

Walt Disney Co. entrance in Burbank.  (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Disney Branded Television President Gary Marsh will step down at years’ end and segue into a producing role.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Gary Marsh, who spent three decades helping to shape the Burbank entertainment giant’s children’s television empire, is leaving his job to take on a producing role.

Few Disney executives have had the kind of staying power and influence of Marsh, who joined the Disney Channel in the late 1980s, and guided such popular franchises as “Hannah Montana,” “High School Musical,” “Descendants,” “Phineas and Ferb,” “Gravity Falls,” and “That’s So Raven,” to the small screen — and beyond.

Disney announced Tuesday that Marsh will step down as president and chief creative officer of Disney Branded Television at year’s end to launch his own production company. His imprint at the company will probably continue.

Disney said Marsh has entered into a multiyear production deal with Disney with a goal of developing programming for Disney+ and Disney’s traditional channels, including ABC, Disney Channel and National Geographic.

Marsh initially plans to work on “Descendants” movies, projects including “Witch Mountain,” and “School for Sensitive Souls,” and a prequel to “Beauty and the Beast.”

Gary Marsh is stepping down as president and chief creative officer of Disney Branded Television.
Gary Marsh, after more than three decades at the Disney Channel, is stepping down as president and chief creative officer of Disney Branded Television.
(Richard Harbaugh / Disney Enterprises, Inc. )

Over the years, Marsh helped identify and launch the careers of such young artists as Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, the Jonas Brothers, Zendaya, Demi Lovato, Shia LaBeouf, Hilary Duff, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.

“For 33 years, I’ve had the greatest job in television,” Marsh said in a statement. “The stories we’ve told, the music we’ve created, the stars we’ve discovered, the franchises we’ve built — all of it has entertained and engaged millions of kids and families around the globe.”

Disney’s chairman of general entertainment, Peter Rice, said in the statement that the move had been in the works for more than two years, since Disney acquired the 21st Century Fox studio assets and made several high-profile switches in the ranks of TV management.

“We are forever grateful for the indelible impact he’s made at the Walt Disney Co.,” Rice said.

Marsh, in the statement, said he was looking forward to his new role.

“There simply could not be a more compelling or creatively stimulating time to enter the production ranks,” he said.