Changes at Disney Accelerate as New Digital Streaming Service, Fox Acquisition Loom

Walt Disney Co. is shuffling executives and shuttering animation division Disneytoon Studios, based in Glendale, as it sets up for major changes at the company.

Disney is in the final stages of a possible acquisition of Fox, with shareholders scheduled to vote on the merger July 27. The company is also planning to bow a Disney streaming service next year to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Last week, the company placed film marketing president Ricky Strauss in charge of content and marketing for its streaming service. He will handle original film and TV series for the new service. Strauss reports to Kevin Mayer, installed in March as head of Disney’s direct-to-consumer unit. Among Mayer’s duties are leading the ESPN+ streaming service launched this year and the company’s stake in Hulu. Asad Ayaz will take over Strauss’s former role as studio marketing president. Also, theatrical distribution chief Cathleen Taff was upped to president from EVP.

Last week was also a fadeout for Disneytoon Studios, which was known for direct-to-video sequels to The Little Mermaid, Mulan and other Disney classics; the “Fairies” DTV series featuring the Tinker Bell character; and theatrical forays such as Planes: Fire and Rescue.

“After much consideration, we have made the decision to end production activity and close Disneytoon Studios,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. The closure, first reported by Indiewire, is expected to result in the loss of an estimated 75 staff positions.

Animation veteran John Lasseter, who spearheaded Disneytoon Studios, was replaced by Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee on the creative team this month after acknowledging a pattern of inappropriate conduct with employees.

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