Mouse nets Marsh for worldwide post

Longtime Mouse exec Gary Marsh, who developed breakout series “Lizzie McGuire” and “That’s So Raven,” has been named president of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide.

Newly created post charges Marsh with directing the development and production of original programming for all 50 of Disney’s networks across the globe. These include the Playhouse Disney, Toon Disney, ABC Kids and Jetix services. Los Angeles-based exec will continue to report to Disney Channel Worldwide topper Rich Ross.

Under the new structure, Marsh will lead creative teams in all territories. Exec’s mandate is to beef up and coordinate with the regional programming departments abroad to better establish a consistent Disney Channel brand and tap into the ideas and talent pools from around the world.

Ross said elevating Marsh, who’s worked at the Mouse for 17 years, would help bolster the global leadership of Disney Channel, a division centralized in recent years under himself and Disney/ABC Television Group prexy Anne Sweeney.

“Marsh has tremendous experience spanning movies, series and animation in the U.S. We felt strongly that we needed someone of his caliber to kickstart and marshal our efforts in moving fresh talent and ideas between our domestic and foreign programming groups,” Ross said.

‘Truly global nets’

Marsh said his big-picture priority will be to turn Disney’s kids brands into “truly global nets, defined not just by our programming but our process.”

“This is really a new programming matrix,” Marsh continued. “We’re going to continue to source and make content in the U.S., but under this new structure, we’ll also be able to develop properties for the States — and elsewhere — from the incredible work already going on in places like France and Japan.”

Global programming unit will initially focus on developing animation series projects from such territories as Argentina, Japan and Europe for play on any and all of the Disney Channel Networks.

Several animated properties with foreign origins are already in development for Disney Channel U.S., though Ross said those would not likely hit the air until late next year. One goal will be to see Disney Channel U.S. — typically an exporter or projects — import more properties from the international services.

‘Bus’ gets in gear

One live-action project, however, is already moving forward under the cross-channel strategy. “A Bus Life” is a live-action series pilot for Disney Channel U.S. that originated as a series of interstitials on Disney Channel U.K. Domestic cabler has hired “Recess” creator-exec producers Paul Germain and Jon Ansolabehere to exec produce and write the project, a half-hour comedy that takes place entirely on the bus to and from school. Flashbacks will help inform the story, “Lost”-style.

Casting is under way, with production on the pilot slated to begin in October.

Marsh will remain the point man on programming for the domestic flagship, working in tandem with marketing senior VP Matt Palmer. Planning, scheduling and acquisitions now will fall under senior VP of programming Scott Garner.

Over the past eight years, Marsh has helped lead Disney Channel to record ratings among kids and tweens, launching robust franchises via hit content “Lizzie,” “Raven” and animated skein “Kim Impossible.”

Marsh joined as Disney Channel an executive director in 1988, rising through the ranks to exec VP of original programming and production for the Disney ABC Cable Networks Group in 2001.

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