Last month I did a Tim’s Take on how I perceived Disney’s mishandling of John Carter as a lack of faith in the film. I attributed that, in part, to the fact that Carter was part of the Dick Cook era of Walt Disney Studios. Cook stepped down as Chairman in 2009 and Rich Ross stepped into his place. I surmised that Ross and his new regime could take a loss on Carter and still come out relatively unscathed. With Deadline’s report that Ross has now been removed at Disney, that notion is called into question. From Ross, himself:
“I believe in this extraordinary Walt Disney Studios team, and I believe in our strong slate of films and our ability to make and market them better than anyone else. But, I no longer believe the Chairman role is the right professional fit for me. For that reason, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective today.”
Ross words it as stepping down, but Deadline is quite clear that sources inside the Mouse House are saying he was fired. Today’s news is surprising, but a lot of reporting is going to surmise the studio’s mishandling of Carter at least factored in to the decision. Perception is that the film is one of the biggest box office disasters in the history of film. The truth is slightly different.
Carter’s worldwide take as of today is inching close to $270,000,000 – actually $20,000,000 more than the film’s reported budget (without factoring in the money they sunk into the apathetic marketing of the picture). So could it be that the perception of the film tanking is what motivated Disney to oust Ross? Or is it something else entirely? It’s possible that Disney just lost faith in Ross’ ability to release quality pictures. But it’s important to consider that three of the top-ten all-time highest grossing films* happened at Disney under Ross’s watch.
So what’s the real story here? This might be one to watch in the coming days and weeks as, even factoring in misfires like John Carter and Tron: Legacy, something’s not adding up yet. I get the feeling that the real story behind Ross’ brief tenure at Walt Disney Studios has yet to be told.
*Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Toy Story 3, and Alice in Wonderland