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 lose their jobs is Disney’s longtime head of live-action production, Nina Jacobson.
The restructuring will cut Disney’s output from about 18 films 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” franchise.
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.
The shift to more Disney-branded films has been expected for some time, as have staff cutbacks resulting from a reduction in the total number of films.
Surprising, though, was the loss of Jacobson, 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. She is so capable, she did so many wonderful things at Disney that will be legacies that will last for years to come.”
Last year, Disney bought longtime partner Pixar Animation Studios to bolster its animated film offerings. That move led to the departure of the veteran executive in charge of Walt Disney Feature Animation.