Dick Cook

Dick Cook.

Richard W. "Dick" Cook is the former Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios. At the time of his separation from the company, he was the only remaining top Disney executive who had worked for the company since before Michael Eisner took charge in 1984. Cook holds a degree in political science from the University of Southern California (USC).


Early careerEdit

A 38-year Disney veteran, Dick Cook began his career in 1970 at Disneyland in Anaheim, as a ride operator on the park's steam locomotives and monorail. Within a year, he became a representative in the Disneyland sales department and three years later was promoted to department manager. In 1977, Cook moved to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank to serve as manager of pay television and non-theatrical releases. In this capacity, he was responsible for Disney's first entry into the burgeoning world of cable television, developing what would become The Disney Channel.

In 1980, Cook entered the motion picture business at Disney as assistant domestic sales manager for the Buena Vista Distribution Company. He quickly moved up through the ranks, becoming vice president and general sales manager, then senior vice president of domestic distribution. In 1988, he was promoted to president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. He earned a reputation there by his marketing of Disney's home video collection and hosting media-worthy movie premieres, for example securing a United States Navy aircraft carrier based in Pearl Harbor to host the debut of the film Pearl Harbor. At that time, he supervised the release of numerous hit films, including Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Three Men and a Baby (the first Disney film to break the $100 million mark), Good Morning, Vietnam, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Pretty Woman, Father of the Bride and Sister Act. Cook's tenure in distribution also placed him on the front lines of Disney's animation renaissance and the revitalization of the animation genre as a whole, releasing animated blockbusters including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas.

In 1994, Cook assumed the additional responsibility of film marketing when he was promoted to president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Marketing. In this position, he oversaw the marketing and distribution strategies for hit films such as The Santa Clause, Crimson Tide, Toy Story, The Rock, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Two years later, Cook was promoted to chairman of the Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Group, until he assumed his role as chairman of the Walt Disney Studios.

Chairman of Walt Disney StudiosEdit

In 2002, Michael Eisner named Dick Cook as Peter Schneider's replacement as chairman of Walt Disney Studios, popularly called the studio chief. As chairman of Disney Studios, Cook oversaw all aspects of the development, production, distribution and marketing for all live-action and animated films released under the Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax banners worldwide. He was also responsible for Disney's worldwide home entertainment operations under Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, as well as Walt Disney Music Group, Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, Disney-ABC International Television, the Studio's legal and business affairs and all areas of new technology. Under Cook's leadership, the Studio has been one of the leading domestic distributors for over 12 years with box office receipts in excess of one billion dollars each.

During his tenure, Cook has overseen such box-office successes as the 3-D record breaking Miley Cyrus & Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds Concert, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which broke industry wide records with the highest global opening at over $404 million, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the highest grossing film in Disney history (as of 2011) with over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, Ratatouille, Cars, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, National Treasure, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Finding Nemo, Lilo & Stitch, Remember the Titans, Signs, Armageddon, Princess Diaries, Pearl Harbor, among many others.

Cook has enjoyed success in the area of Home Entertainment as well. He spearheaded the highly successful launch of the "Disney DVD" brand, and has consistently broke industry records with DVD and Blu-ray releases.

With Dick Cook at the helm, the Studio has attracted some of the most powerful as well as diverse producers and directors in the industry including Jerry Bruckheimer, Scott Rudin, Robert Zemeckis, Tim Burton, Tony Scott, Lasse Hallstrom, Wes Anderson, Army Bernstein, Gore Verbinski, Walter Salles and Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, among others. Cook, described by BusinessWeek in 2003 as "the nicest guy in Disney's jungle," is known for his down-to-earth personality and his good relations with Disney's partners.[1]

A Fourth PiratesEdit

After the successful opening weekend of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Dick Cook said he was interested in a fourth installment. It was also reported that he already had rights to a book.[2] It wasn't until September 2008, during a Disney event at the Kodak Theater, that Dick Cook announced that a fourth Pirates movie was in development. Making the announcement with Cook was Johnny Depp, in full Captain Jack Sparrow costume while wearing The Lone Ranger's mask, while revealing Depp's future Disney projects.[3][4]

D23 Expo 2009Edit


Disney Chairman Dick Cook with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.

On September 11, 2009, Disney chairman Dick Cook hosted the second day of the D23 Expo. Cook took the stage and began presentations chock-full of breaking news and never-before-seen trailers from the newest Disney films. "What is coming up is the most creative slate of films in our Studio's history," Dick told the crowd. "We have the best talent in the business, the best technology out there, the best tradition in filmmaking and today, we're honored to have you—the best possible audience to preview what's ahead." Two hours of non-stop film clips, announcements, and celebrity guest appearances. "Simply stated," he continued. "Our goal at Disney is to find the world's greatest stories and enlist today's very best filmmakers to turn them into Disney classics of tomorrow."[5]

In the final presentation, when thousands of die-hard Disney fans were sitting at the D23 Expo, Johnny Depp emerged onto the stage, in full Captain Jack Sparrow regalia, and greeted Dick Cook in swaggering character. Together, with a logo banner above them, Depp and Cook officially announced Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and that it was going to be released in Summer 2011.[6]


On September 18, 2009, Cook stepped down as chairman of Walt Disney Studios, allegedly having been asked to do so by Bob Iger, president/CEO of the Walt Disney Company.[7] He was then replaced by Disney Channel president Rich Ross.

Many were devastated by the news of Dick Cook's ouster, particularly actor Johnny Depp. Depp thought very highly of Cook, noting that not only was Cook the reason he worked with Disney in the first place, but that Cook was also the only one at the studio who backed his style of portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow (the gold teeth, the "drunken" movement, etc.), whilst others were, "less enthusiastic"; Depp said Cook was, "completely supportive," of him when other studio execs were, "opposed to my body language." With regards to the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Depp revealed his passion for the project had been severally dampened by Cook's departure, "There's a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment... It was all born in that office." Depp considered Cook a friend inside an insane system, saying "He's instantly trustworthy. And you don't generally meet people at the studios you trust. He's a rare beast."[8]

Awards and affiliationsEdit

A graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in political science, Cook has been a USC trustee and has served as president of the USC Alumni Association. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, was president of The Chandler School Board of Trustees and past chairman of the Flintridge Preparatory School Board of Trustees, and sits on the board of governors for the Carolwood Society, and on the board of directors for the Will Rogers Foundation, and the Foundation of Motion Picture Pioneers. In 1976, the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge awarded him with the prestigious George Washington Medal of Freedom. In 2004, Cook was honored with the Motion Picture Showmanship Award by the publicists of the International Cinematographers Guild. Other prestigious past recipients include Jack L. Warner, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman, Alfred Hitchcock, Lew Wasserman, Steven Spielberg, and Tom Hanks among others. In 2005, Cook was honored with "The Walt Disney Man of the Year Award" by Big Brothers Big Sisters. Most recently, Cook was recognized by Variety—The Children's Charity of Southern California with the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Notes and referencesEdit

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