Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rich Ross Leaves Disney (A JCOMReader Opinion)

What can I say? I'm not the best when it comes to snappy headlines.

As most of you have probably heard by know, after only about 2 years on the job, Rich Ross has announced his resignation as Chairman at Walt Disney (or he was fired based on which source you want to believe). You can catch up with the story here Probably not much of a surprise most of the blame for his exit is being placed on the failure of John Carter at the box office. And in the last month it's been somewhat funny to see how the press portrayed Ross and his role in the film's disappointing reception. Some believe that since he did not green light the movie he had no personal stake in it and approved the studio's poor marketing campaign. Other articles meanwhile seem to paint him as being unwilling to reign in director Andrew Stanton and just allowed him to do whatever he wanted, which seem to include running the film's budget up to a point that it would have taken a miracle to break even, much less turn into the box office smash it would have to become a full blown franchise. And on the flip side of that is the portrayal of a studio chief with a film and director running out of control that he couldn't control or appease no matter what.

My opinion of the whole mess has been this: Ross should have never been appointed in the first place as head of Disney's movie division. His failure in the position is just as much on the shoulders of Disney President Robert Iger as it is on Ross. Ross' background was as president of Disney's television department which meant his biggest success was Hannan Montana. Why anyone figured he should be running a movie studio-that also included Marvel and their film division and Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks-is beyond me. The second reason he failed in relation to John Carter was this: He failed to stand up to Stanton. If-and I'm saying "if" since who knows the real truth-all of those articles are true, Ross would not even say "boo" to Stanton. If Ross had shown any backbone the budget might have not reached the level it did (and on a film level, a reduced cost might have spared us some of Stanton's more outlandish-and pointless-additions like Moving Zodanga and shape shifting Shang and his Super-Therns since less money means no CGI FX for that). That seems funny considering the reports of him cancelling The Lone Ranger until the film's budget came down, despite the fact that the film was being made by the same team behind Disney's biggest franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean. It either does confirm the theory that Ross didn't care about John Carter or was afraid of alienating Stanton and by extension Pixar. In the end it's a mess that has claimed many victims-marketing chief MT Carney already left while Stanton's reputation has taken some big hits-and now it's claimed Ross.

The second point is where does that leave the possibility for a John Carter sequel? Some of the names that have been floated as a possible replacement included Pixar head John Lassiter-who had already passed on the position in 2009 after original chairman Dick Cook was forced out-and some have wonder since his friendship and working relationship with Stanton is strong that if Lassiter gets the job he might give Stanton the go ahead to make the sequel. But that's if Lassiter gets the job and he thinks there is something to gain from a sequel. At this point John Carter's reputation as a "flop" would make anyone who takes the job think twice about making it, unless it performs huge on Blu-Ray and DVD. In the end the sequel is just as much a victim and unless Disney considers making it at a reduced cost-possibly a direct to DVD film or even an animated project-it's doubtful we'll see a second big screen Barsoom movie anytime soon.

All of this could have been avoided. Maybe this will be a lesson for Disney and other studios. I doubt it but who knows. (Tomorrow I'll return back to the comic book reviews. Until next time.)

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