An industry source has told the Huffington Post that "this will be a very unpopular decision. He's a beloved figure."
Cook's official statement:
I am stepping down from my role as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, effective immediately. 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. To wrap up my Disney experience in a neatly bundled statement is close to impossible. But what I will say is, during my time at the Studio, we have achieved many industry and Company milestones. Our talent roster is simply the best in the business. I believe our slate of upcoming motion pictures is the best in our history. But most of all, I love the people, my colleagues, my teammates, who are the most talented, dedicated and loyal folks in the world. I know that I leave the Studio in their exceptional hands.
I have been contemplating this for some time now and feel it's the right time for me to move on to new adventures...and in the words of one of my baseball heroes, Yogi Berra, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
And here is the official statement from the President and CEO of Disney Robert Iger.
"Throughout his distinguished 38-year Disney career, Dick Cook's outstanding creative instincts and incomparable showmanship have truly enriched this company and significantly impacted Disney's great legacy," said Disney CEO Bob Iger. "We thank Dick for his tremendous passion for Disney, and his many accomplishments and contributions to The Walt Disney Studios, including a very promising upcoming film slate. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we wish him the best with all the future has to offer."
Depp said he was confident that he and Cook will one day work together again.
"He will be somewhere and I will always look forward to working with him. I consider Dick a friend inside an insane system. He's someone I understand and I think he understands me."As for the fourth planned "Pirates" movie, Depp said while he has a potential deal in place that will depend on how good the script is, his passion for the project at the moment has been severely dampened by the news that Cook will no longer be around.
Where Disney has struggled is in developing what used to be the backbone of the company -- family-friendly entertainment and content it can milk across all its platforms including theme parks. Cook's exit comes just a few weeks after Disney agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. According to Disney CEO Bob Iger, that deal would boost the company and its movie operations. In February, Iger dismissed a question about whether the weak economy was hurting the movie division. "It's not the marketplace, it's our slate," Iger said.
The Walt Disney Studios, in collaboration with prolific multihyphenate Guillermo del Toro (The Hobbit, Pan's Labyrinth. Hellboy), just launched a new production label called Disney Double Dare You (DDY), to create new animated films full of chills and thrills for audiences of all ages. Cook, enthusiatically announced the new label to a packed hall of Disney fans at the Walt Disney Studios D23 Expo last week.
Cook said, Guillermo is a brilliant and visionary filmmaker, and we are excited to be launching this new label with him. His knowledge and appreciation for Disney films, along with his penchant for creating worlds of fantasy, presented a great opportunity for us to explore a whole new genre of filmmaking for moviegoers of all ages. We have admired Guillermo's imaginative approach to filmmaking for some time, and now we're proud to be working with him to create films full of imaginative delights and lots of thrills at the same time.
Del Toro is a self-proclaimed "Disney Nut". Although books, games and other merchandise will be part of the Disney Double Dare You label, DDY will release "theatrical, high end" animated feature films. These will be "edgier" animated films that could move into "PG-13" territory.
No news yet of Guillermo del Toro's reaction to Cook's resignation. GDT is current in New Zealand working on pre-production of The Hobbit which starts shooting in March and is scheduled for release in Dec 2011.
Watch the Walt Disney Studios D23 Expo featuring WDS Chairman Dick Cook. Dick welcomes numerous celebrities to the stage for the event including directors Robert Zemeckis, Jerry Bruckheimer and Tim Burton, actors John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Ella Bleu Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, the Muppets, a performance by Miley Cyrus and more.