The shockwaves are still being felt in Hollywood after the abrupt departure of Dick Cook from his longtime post atop The Walt Disney Studios. Just last weekend, Cook was on stage in Anaheim at Disney’s D23 Expo where he was sharing hugs and backslaps on stage with elite talent such as Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and Tim Burton. (You can find links to our coverage of those moments below)
Dawn C. Chmielewski led the Los Angeles Times coverage of Cook’s ejection from the Disney corporate cockpit, which is being framed as a dispute with the big boss of the Mouse House, which would be Bob Iger, chairman of Disney as a whole. Here’s an excerpt from her piece (reported and written with Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz) which hints at the popularity that Cook enjoyed with the on-screen talent and directors even as his corporate connections turned sour…
Cook, the onetime Disneyland ride operator who rose to head the studio, is viewed as a traditionalist at a time when Iger is seeking new ways of doing business. Cook tended to be uncommunicative to the point of secretiveness — a personal style that frustrated Iger, who emphasizes collaboration.
Iger nonetheless lauded Cook’s contributions to Disney, in a tenure that included the launch of 63 movies that exceeded $100 million in domestic box office, the release of “Toy Story” and the first release of a digital film, “Tarzan.”
“Dick Cook’s outstanding creative instincts and incomparable showmanship have truly enriched this company and significantly impacted Disney’s great legacy,” Iger said. “We thank Dick for his tremendous passion for Disney, and his many accomplishments and contributions.”
Some of Hollywood’s most prominent figures reacted to the news with dismay.
Johnny Depp, star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, said he was “shocked and very sad” to hear about Cook’s abrupt departure.
“He is the utmost gentleman,” said Depp, whom Cook contacted personally in London. “He said, ‘I’d like you to hear it from me before you hear it from someone else or read it.’ He said today was my last day. He didn’t give me a reason.”
In a statement, Cook said he had been contemplating stepping down for some time. “I have loved every minute of my 38 years that I have worked at Disney . . . from the beginning as a ride operator on Disneyland’s steam train and monorail to my position as chairman of the Walt Disney Studios,” he said. “To wrap up my Disney experience in a neatly bundled statement is close to impossible. But what I will say is . . . we have achieved many industry and company milestones.”
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Depp decide that this is a pretty good reason to cut the “Pirates” franchise off with the fourth film that he and Cook were promoting in Anaheim. In fact, I wonder if Cook’s ouster was postponed until Depp was publicly locked in for that return trip aboard the Black Pearl.
Again, you can read the full story from the Business section right here. — Geoff Boucher
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Photo: Walt Disney photo showing Johnny Depp and Dick Cook in happier days.
UPDATE: Early post had a scrambled spelling on Bob Iger’s name. If I worked for him, I’d be walking the plank…