Rich Ross: Mighty Mouse maven

Youth Impact Report 2010: Bigscreen Chaperones

Rich Ross certainly ranks a few pay grades above the average elementary school teacher, but according to the Disney topper, their roles are similar — except his classroom is on a worldwide scale.

“I have a good sense of what the kids in the family want, and certainly that helps,” Ross says of his role as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Ross began his student teaching, of sorts, in 2004, when he became prexy of Disney Channels Worldwide. During his five-year tenure, Ross rocked the kids net with such global hit serials as “Hannah Montana” and “Wizards of Waverly Place,” not to mention the “High School Musical” film series.

And while Ross would be the first to admit his background at the Disney Channel has paid hearty dividends, the exec has been trying to distance himself from a reputation as just a kidvid connoisseur since taking on the post of studio chairman last fall.

“The most important thing about any job is to make sure you understand the consumer that you’re making your product for,” Ross says. “At the film studio, we’re making product for families to enjoy, but also adults, whether they have families or not.”

Ross still plans to bait teensters, reaching back to his TV roots with projects like “Prom,” as well as general auds, launching the fourth installment in the studio’s megahit franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the first project to get the go-ahead under Ross’ new tenure.

Ultimately, Ross admits his criteria for greenlighting pics remains grade-school simple: “a story well told, with characters that enthrall you,” he says.

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