Reflecting the American sense of informality widely associated with the movie studio's namesake and founder, people know the chairman of the Walt Disney Studios as Dick, not Richard, Cook. The former Disneyland cast member, who was asked during an event at the Anaheim theme park to be interviewed at his Burbank office, is in charge of development, production, distribution and marketing for live-action and animated motion pictures released by Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films. Mr. Cook is also responsible for Disney's home entertainment operations, as well as music, theatrical, television and new technology.
Dick Cook—generally regarded as an affable fellow—makes running a movie studio look easy and his congenial manner is perfectly matched to his dynamic approach to making money. Under his leadership, Disney has achieved outstanding box office success, the highest grossing movie in the company's history (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest) and the launch of the Disney DVD brand. He has worked for the Burbank-based business since he operated the Disneyland Railroad and Monorail in 1970. The graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) (he earned a degree in political science)—who, perhaps more than any other prominent Disney executive, conveys the studio's sense of childlike wonder—became chairman of the Walt Disney Studios in 2002.
Box Office Mojo: Which would you rather have, ten Eight Below's or one Pirates?
Dick Cook: [Laughs] That's a tough one because Eight Below was a special movie and it came onto the marketplace without a lot of fanfare and performed great. It opened at number one—a terrific movie and a great experience for everyone. Pirates is something else entirely. When you do a Disney movie—especially Pirates, which is such a part of the Disney culture because it is a theme park attraction—and you're able to do it right, you lift the entire company to a different place. It created a reason to go back to Disneyland (or to Walt Disney World or Tokyo Disneyland) to visit the attraction again. The movie reinvigorates a whole new genre of films and it does that for consumer products—so it's a movie that sort of lifts the whole enterprise up. What I'd really like to have is about ten Eight Below's and one Pirates every year. We'd have a very successful slate.