Rich Ross isn’t known for being a man of few words. Yet outside of the occasional appearance at an awards show or premiere, Disney’s studio chairman has kept mum since taking the job last fall.
It’s been a surprising departure from the exec Hollywood is used to: As the head of Disney Channel, Ross was one of the Mouse House’s most vocal cheerleaders.
He might be back. After spending the past six months assembling his new regime, culminating with this week’s hire of MT Carney as marketing chief, Ross met with the media for the first time Thursday to unveil his blueprint to move the Mouse House forward.
It involves making 14-16 movies per year coming from Disney’s live-action and animated divisions, Marvel and DreamWorks. All will be financed by the studio and continue its tradition of not relying on outside financing or partners on projects.
Ross announced a sequel for Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” for Nov. 16, 2012, and a June 15, 2012, release date for Pixar’s “Brave,” a project that had not previously been announced.
Carney will take the reins of marketing in mid-May with broader responsibilities, handling marketing for all pics from theatrical and through their homevideo releases — “the whole life cycle of a movie,” Ross said.
“Our job No. 1 is to make great movies, get the word out that they’re coming out and deliver them to consumers the way they want it,” he said.
“I need to make movies that are profitable and that’s what I need to focus on,” Ross said from the Disney lot as he unveiled new footage from a muscular slate of tentpoles skedded for this year that include “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” “Toy Story 3,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Tangled” and “Tron: Legacy,” as well as “Secretariat,” with Diane Lane and John Malkovich. He described that pic as one that “sends a signal of what Disney is and what Disney can be.”
Pic falls into a category that Ross describes as a “targeted tentpole,” one like the teen-skewing dramedy “Prom,” that can be made at a lower pricetag and for a specific audience.
Ross said Disney would release “Gnomeo & Juliet,” the Elton John-produced animated musical produced by Miramax, in early 2011, through the Touchstone banner. Pic had been one of several that had been in mentioned to be in contention as Disney negotiates with bidders for Miramax. Miramax’s Jennifer Aniston comedy “The Switch”
will also bow this August through Touchstone.
“Cars 2,” the fourth “Pirates,” the next “Muppet” movie (which will intro a new Muppet named Walter) and DreamWorks’ “Real Steel” also unspool in 2011.
Tim Burton’s stop-motion pic “Frankenweenie” and Andrew Stanton’s live-action epic “John Carter of Mars” also bow in 2012.
As for projects he pulled the plug on, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was just “too dark.” But he added, it is “still a project we’re considering.”In the big picture, Ross said his priority was to bring a tight focus and diversity to Disney’s film slate.
“We live in times where there are less opportunities to bring in revenue,” he said. “While pet projects are fun, it’s important that everyone is focused.”
“What you see is a slate that will have a diversity of pictures,” he said. But while there’s an emphasis on the bottomline, “we’re still in the movie business not the business business.”
Studio also announced plans for a May 17 tribute to Jerry Bruckheimer in conjunction with the “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” premiere.