Disney Marketing President Ricky Strauss Looks Back on Early Days at Tri-Star

Ricky Strauss is president of marketing at Walt Disney Studios and a key participant at Variety’s Massive summit March 10 in Los Angeles. He was first mentioned in Variety on May 9, 1991, when he was promoted to Tri-Star director of creative advertising.

What was your first job?

I went to college in Vermont and had a summer internship my junior year at Tri-Star Pictures in New York. I used to get in the office early. One of my duties was to sit there with scissors and cut out articles in the trades, the New York and national newspapers, then tape them to a piece of paper, go to the Xerox machine, copy them, collate the material and put them in the L.A. pouch, to be hand-delivered the next day to executives. So by the time they got them, the stories were a day old. Now, it takes a few seconds to deliver news stories to our executives.

And after college?

I really enjoyed Tri-Star and kept in touch with a lot of the executives. Tri-Star was expanding — Coca-Cola still owned the company before Sony bought it. They asked me if I wanted to work full-time, and I started my job two weeks after graduating.

What was the job?

I was the manager of advertising. It was mostly about trafficking materials. Then in 1991, I got my first promotion. I started having some creative oversight, working on creative parts of the campaigns with my bosses and dealing with filmmakers directly. The best part was working on a lot of different movies with a lot of talented people. There was so much opportunity for all different kinds of movies to succeed because of the home-video market, and international had a completely different complexion.

What was your biggest surprise about showbiz?

That it wasn’t just glamour and partying. It was a lot of hard work and discipline.

How has the business changed?

Now, you don’t see people schlepping across the lot carrying 3/4-inch cassettes to present trailer cuts. And I used to carry giant portfolios the size of one-sheets, mounted on foamcore. You don’t see that now; everything is on a computer.

What’s the best advice you got?

To remain calm and gracious under pressure. And to remember that when you are marketing any movie — even if it did not turn out as successful creatively as intended — there is always something good to point out or focus on.

Was the job sometimes fun in 1991?

I remember giving tours of “Hook” when that was in production. Liza Minnelli and everyone came to look at the sets, because we had built a ship on the soundstage where Esther Williams used to swim. That was Steven (Spielberg), and I’m working with him on “The BFG” now. Incredible. All of us in this business are lucky to be doing what we’re doing.

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