LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. is restructuring its studio division to emphasize blockbuster franchise films over more adult fare, a move that will mean slashing 650 jobs worldwide, the company announced Tuesday.
Among those who will be losing their jobs is Disney's longtime head of live-action production, Nina Jacobsen.
Disney veteran Oren Aviv, president of marketing and chief creative officer of The Walt Disney Studios, was promoted to president of production.
The restructuring will cut Disney's film output from about 18 a year to about a dozen. Of those, about 10 will be released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, a proven family friendly brand that includes the successful Pirates of the Caribbean
Disney's Touchstone label, which is responsible for more esoteric fare by artists like Joel and Ethan Coen of Fargo
fame, will be cut back to only two or three releases a year. Recent Touchstone films have included the box-office flops The Alamo
and The Ladykillers.
The shift, the company explained, will allow Disney films to bolster the resources of other divisions. A hit like Pirates of the Caribbean,
for example, can spawn video games, action figures, cable TV shows and, in the case of Pirates,
give new life to an old Disney theme park attraction.
"When we do it well, the lift it gives to the entire company is so significant," Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, told The Associated Press.
Disney also is consolidating its domestic and international marketing, distribution and home video efforts, the company said Tuesday.
The shift to more Disney-branded films has been expected for some time, as have staff cutbacks resulting from a cut in the total number of films.
Surprising, though was the loss of Jacobsen, who has been head of live-action production for more than a decade.
"Sometimes these things just happen," Cook said. "She is a fantastic executive, very talented, great taste, very smart."