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Disney tosses Toons topper

Morrill sacked over 'Tinkerbell' problems

Disney has ousted Sharon Morrill, long-time head of its DisneyToons direct-to-DVD operations.

Morrill was sacked on Monday from her post as president on returning from a vacation even though she has another year and a half on a five-year contract that she signed in late 2003.

A rep for the Mouse House said Morrill was being moved into another slot dealing with special projects, but would not elaborate.

The key problem apparently stemmed from costs that had ballooned to nearly $50 million on the “The Tinkerbell Movie” project.

“Tinkerbell” has seen close to two dozen versions of the script and a dozen different directors.

Multiple sources also said that Morrill, who had headed DisneyToons since its inception in 1994, has repeatedly clashed with Pixar Animation toppers John Lasseter and Ed Catmull over creative differences on “Tinkerbell” following Disney’s puchase of Pixar early last year.

As part of that deal, Lasseter and Catmull were put on top of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Though the two did not directly oversee DisneyToons, they are said to have gotten increasingly involved in the unit’s operations.

DisneyToons had announced a year ago at the Licensing Fair in New York that it had lined up Brittany Murphy to voice the Tinkerbell character. Other voices cast include Kristin Chenoweth, Cameron Bowen, Emma Hunton, Zach Shada and America Young.

Morrill began the division in 1994 with the marching orders of extending Disney’s animated franchises. The operation produced several features, including “Piglet’s Big Movie,” “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie,” “The Jungle Book 2” and “The Tigger Movie” along with homevideo titles such as “Bambi II,” “Brother Bear 2,” “Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride,” “Lady and the Tramp 2,” “Pooh’s Grand Adventure” and “Lion King 1 ½.”

(Ben Fritz contributed to this report.)

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