There has been a major change at the head of Walt Disney Studios as it’s been revealed that the president, Sean Bailey, will be departing the company after being in the role for fifteen years, effective immediately.

Sean Bailey has been behind many of the biggest hits at Walt Disney Studios, including the live-action remakes of “The Lion King”, “The Jungle Book”, “Aladdin” and “Beauty And The Beast”.  

The first film Sean worked on with Disney as the producer of Disney’s “Tron: Legacy” film, and ironically, the last film he will continue to be working on at Disney is “Tron: Ares”, which is filming now.

He will be replaced by Searchlight Co-President David Greenbaum, who will now lead in a new role, President, Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios.   He’ll report to Disney Entertainment co-chairman Alan Bergman, who said in a statement:

“Sean has been an incredibly important member of the studio’s creative team for well over a decade. He and his team have brought to the screen iconic stories and moments that have delighted fans around the world and will stand the test of time. I know he’ll continue to do great things, and I couldn’t be happier that he’s staying on as a producer of Tron: Ares.”

This leaves Matthew Greenfield in charge of Searchlight Pictures, and Steve Asbell will continue to be the president of 20th Century Studios, a job he has had since March 2020, and he will report to David Greenbaum.

Alan Bergman also added:

“David has an incredible creative sensibility and eye for film, and he has built a reputation as an exceptional leader and creative executive, as proven by his track record at Searchlight Pictures and deep relationships throughout the industry.  I’m thrilled that he’ll be taking on this new and important role. We’ve had the great fortune to have a strong creative leader in Steve Asbell at 20th Century, and I’m excited for him to work closely with David as we take a more strategic look across both brands from a creative and operational standpoint. I also want to thank Sean Bailey for his many contributions and leadership over his tenure at Disney. Searchlight remains in excellent hands under the guidance of Matthew Greenfield.”

Under Searchlight Pictures, David Greenbaum has been behind many of the latest hits, including “Poor Things”, “The Shape Of Water”, “The Menu”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, “Nomadlandand”, and many others.  David Greenbaum also said in a statement regarding the news:

“I want to thank Bob Iger and Alan Bergman for the extraordinary opportunity to continue the legacy of fabled and groundbreaking storytelling at both Disney and 20th Century – it’s an honor and responsibility I don’t take lightly, and I’m eager to get to work with Steve Asbell and the teams. At the same time, the last 14 years working alongside and in partnership with my dear friend and colleague Matthew Greenfield have been unforgettable – Searchlight and the incredible team there remain the gold standard for quality in our business, and I look forward to watching their continued success in the years to come.”

Sean’s work over the past fifteen years also included many Disney+ Original films, including “Rise”, “Lady & The Tramp”, “Pinocchio”, “Hocus Pocus 2”, “Disenchanted”, and “Peter Pan & Wendy”.  In a statement, Sean said:

“These 15 years at Disney have been an incredible journey, but the time is right for a new chapter. I’m deeply grateful to my exceptional team and proud of the slate and history we’ve built together.  I joined Disney while producing Tron: Legacy, so it seems fitting that I will have the opportunity to work on the latest Tron as I depart. I wish Bob Iger, Alan Bergman, and all my amazing colleagues the very best for a bright future.”

Over the past eighteen months since Bob Iger’s return as CEO, there have been lots of major changes at the top end of the business, with thousands of job cuts and a reorganisation among executives.   

So removing an executive at the top level will no doubt save the company lots of money since there is likely a lot of synergy in having the live-action divisions of the studio more connected. 

This will also send a signal to investors and audiences that things are changing at the top end at Disney, especially in the lead-up to the important annual shareholders meeting in April, where Disney is trying to hold off activist investors who want to shake up the company.  

While Disney’s live-action films had been huge hits prior to the pandemic, with the movies released within Sean Bailey’s time, pulling in over $7 billion, in the past few years, Disney has been unable to find similar success.  Audiences have become bored of live-action remakes of animated films, and Disney’s movie output has been playing it very safe, especially with its straight-to-streaming movies.

Hopefully, under David Greenbaum, we will start to see Disney and 20th Century Studios pulling back on the live-action remakes, producing more original films, likely on a smaller scale and budget, but giving audiences something fresh and new to enjoy. 

While working at Searchlight Pictures, David Greenbaum has been able to release some very original and unique movies, which wouldn’t necessarily work for a larger audience, but having someone in charge who knows how to make excellent films, with less money, seems to fit with how the film business is moving, as major billion dollar films become harder to achieve and if Disney wants someone with more vision for what films to make, this could be a major step in the right direction.

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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Twitter: Facebook:

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