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Ammer, Aviv to top Mouse marketing

Pula ankles post

Chris Pula has ankled the Mouse House after a 10-month tenure as president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. Disney vets Geoffrey Ammer and Oren Aviv will replace him as co-presidents.

It was not clear Wednesday why Disney and Pula — whose marketing efforts at the Mouse have been widely praised — were parting ways, although speculation immediately centered on Pula’s relations with his superiors, including Walt Disney Motion Picture Group chairman Dick Cook and Walt Disney Studios prexy Peter Schneider.

While a Disney spokesperson confirmed the changes, he declined to comment because of the ongoing legal negotiations related to Pula’s departure.

“It was due to a difference in style and personality,” a studio source said.

Pula, known for his lively and provocative approach to the job, handled movies for all Disney labels, including Hollywood Pictures, Touchstone and Walt Disney Pictures. He oversaw creative marketing and publicity, promotions, media and research groups, and reported to Cook.

Pula won particular kudos this year for his campaigns on the critically slammed “Inspector Gadget,” which has grossed more than $90 million in the U.S. for the Mouse, and the sleeper blockbuster “The Sixth Sense,” which is expected to surpass $200 million domestically.

Prior to joining Disney, Pula had a stormy nine-month term of office at Warner Bros. as prexy of theatrical marketing. But his exuberant style didn’t mesh with the buttoned-down and corporate approach favored by WB execs. He ankled that position in late 1997.

Most observers seem to believe that, despite assurances early on, Disney too found Pula’s operating methods incompatible with its own. “This is about style, not substance,” one rival marketing exec said.

Another insider said: “(Pula) has a style that would make him a superstar at New Line and a liability at Warner and Disney.”

Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth, who is known to have a solid relationship with Pula from their days at Fox, was a big supporter of the exec when Disney appointed him in November 1998. Roth could not be reached for comment.

Ammer — who spent 12 years in the marketing department at Fox and served as head of worldwide marketing at Cinergi Prods — had been Disney’s senior veep of marketing administration since 1996; Oren Aviv has served as Disney’s senior VP of marketing and creative advertising. Following Ammer’s promotion, Heidi Trotta, who for nine years served as veep of publicity and promotions for both Walt Disney and Touchstone Television, will become senior VP, publicity, for all Disney features and home entertainment.

While at New Line from 1993 to 1996, Pula oversaw campaigns for “The Mask,” “Dumb and Dumber” and “Seven.” Before that, he worked at Fox and the Fox network. At Disney, Pula’s other theatrical campaigns included “Instinct,” “Son of Sam” and “Tarzan.”

Pula was traveling and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)