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Disney marketing president MT Carney leaving

January 8, 2012 |  9:56 pm

More than four months after Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross began seeking a replacement for her, the company's worldwide marketing president, MT Carney, is apparently exiting.

The film industry outsider who was brought in by Ross 19 months ago to shake up Disney's marketing practices and focus more on digital platforms has had a difficult run. She failed to acclimate to Hollywood and oversaw the release of a number of box office flops.

Carney was an experienced "brand strategist" who co-founded a New York firm that worked for clients including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Nokia but never worked in the entertainment industry before joining Disney in 2010.

Her pending exit was reported by Deadline and the New York Times.

Ross began speaking to potential replacements for Carney in the fall. Among those he approached was Sony Pictures' well-regarded worldwide marketing president, Marc Weinstock, who declined to take the job.

Carney's imminent departure has been a topic of widespread talk in Hollywood for several months. But even on Sunday, it remained a cliffhanger, at least via official communication channels. One senior executive at Disney who is not authorized to speak publicly said Sunday night that there had been no internal announcement about Carney's fate.

Disney's flops released under Carney's tenure included "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," "You Again," "Mars Needs Moms," and "Prom." Disney has more recently had stronger performers, including November's relaunch of "The Muppets," but despite that and last summer's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," it still finished fourth among the six major studios in domestic box office receipts.

Carney-watchers pointed out that movies from a number of Disney's key brands, including Marvel, Pixar and DreamWorks Studios, were overseen by other executives in Disney's marketing department with more movie experience than their boss. In addition, veteran marketing executives were brought in as consultants to supervise some of Disney's biggest pictures during Carney's reign, such as former Sony marketing Co-President Valerie Van Gelder on last summer's "Pirates."

During her time at Disney, Carney not only attempted to change the studio's internal culture, but pushed it to spend less money on television ads and invest more in interactive. Under her, Disney was the first studio to buy a trending topic on Twitter to promote "Toy Story 3" in 2010.

No replacement for Carney has been named.

In making Carney's hire, Ross himself, who also arrived in Hollywood as a movie industry outsider, wrote in an email to staff that "the film business is changing before our very eyes, and we must all rise to the occasion to meet our consumers' changing needs."

Carney replaced Jim Gallagher, a Disney veteran who was fired along with other executives by Ross after he was brought in to shake up the studio in late 2009 by Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger.

A spokesman for Disney did not respond to requests for comment.


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Photo: Nicolas Cage and Jay Barcuchel in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," Disney's first major release under former marketing president MT Carney. Credit: Robert Zuckerman / Disney.