Disney jobs on the block

The Walt Disney Co. began a two-day round of layoffs in Burbank on Tuesday as it eliminates 650 positions in the U.S. and abroad.

One of the most senior executives to get pinkslipped was Buena Vista Motion Picture Group exec VP Karen Glass, who spent 17 years at the Mouse House.

The 20% staff reduction was announced last Tuesday, when the studio revealed it was trimming its film releases to 12-13 per year and reorganizing several key departments, including production, distribution, marketing and homevid.

It remains unclear how many positions were erased in Burbank, but most are rumored to be lower level. All areas of the studio are losing employees except feature animation, Pixar Studios, Miramax Films, Buena Vista Theatrical Production and the Buena Vista Music Group. Sources said the story department was hit hard, with some longtime staff jobs getting cut.

Tuesday was an understandably dark day at Disney, but it was also a relatively quiet one. One exec who received walking papers said staffers were told privately throughout the day, and it was hard to tell who’s leaving. Plans for a large-scale studio scale-back have been rumored for months, and while this week is the end of the road for many Stateside staffers, the international cutback process is likely to continue over the coming weeks.

A studio spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the cutbacks Tuesday.

Glass told Daily Variety that she’s grateful for her long Disney career and considers studio chairman Dick Cook a mentor.

“I was given a great gift to be part of a great team and fantastic people,” she said. “The opportunity to work with Dick Cook all these years; he’s been nothing but inspiring and supportive of me.”

In conjunction with the cutbacks, Disney also announced a refocus of its film brand to more Disney-branded family films, trimming back on adult-skewing Touchstone Pictures releases. Glass has worked on some of the studio’s biggest wins with the Disney stamp, including the “Princess Diaries” franchise, “Freaky Friday,” the “Santa Clause” films, “Herbie Fully Loaded,” “The Shaggy Dog” and the upcoming “Step Up.”

But Glass was known to be close to former Buena Vista Motion Picture Group prexy Nina Jacobson, who got the boot last week and was replaced by Disney marketing vet Oren Aviv. That string of job changes also saw the appointment of Mark Zoradi as prexy of Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, of Robert Chapek as prexy of Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment and of Jim Gallagher as Aviv’s replacement.

Glass, who just received a promotion last fall, won’t be segueing to a producer deal and said she expects her abilities will be best suited for another studio job. She’s also considering working independently with her brother, “This American Life” host Ira Glass.

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