Oren Aviv out at Walt Disney Studios

Production chief took over the role in 2006

As he continues to retool Walt Disney Studios, newly appointed chairman Rich Ross has ousted production chief Oren Aviv.

Aviv, who had been president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production since 2006, resigned Tuesday.

"I have loved every day that I have been at the studio and feel incredibly privileged to have been part of a team that enriched my life for 20 years," he said.

Aviv had been the studio's president of marketing before taking the production reins. He also came up with the story for the studio's successful "National Treasure" franchise, serving as exec producer on the two films that resulted.

He had been closely associated with former Disney studio head Dick Cook, who was forced out by Disney CEO Robert Iger  in September.

While Disney logged such hits as "Up" and "The Proposal" in 2009, Aviv also suffered through such costly boxoffice disappointments as "Confessions of a Shopaholic," "G-Force" and "Old Dogs," and Disney CEO Robert Iger criticized the operations of the film unit.

Disney's recent Christmas offerings "A Christmas Carol" and "The Princess and the Frog" also failed to live up to expectations.

Aviv's exit had been expected since Ross took over in October. Ross spent the fall cleaning house on the marketing and distribution side of the studio before going on to shake up the production side. Before the resignation announcement was made Tuesday morning, Aviv was given the opportunity to place calls to such Disney-based producers as Jerry Bruckheimer and Scott Rudin to inform them of the news.

Disney wasn't ready to announce Aviv's successor, but such names as those of Disney Channel executive Susette Hsiung, Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige and Lionsgate's Alli Shearmur were floating around the studio's Burbank lot Tuesday. Ross approached Summit production president Erik Feig about the job, but Feig is staying put. Others speculate that Ross would find a replacement from outside of the traditonal pool of production execs.

Whoever takes over production will have to deal not only with a close-knit production unit but also move quickly to ramp up its slate. Even though Disney plans to rely on Marvel and DreamWorks, as well as Pixar, to fill its distribution pipeline, it still needs to make movies of its own.

Since taking over, Ross has shut down several planned productions including "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and the Robin Williams romantic comedy "Wedding Banned." The only movie on the studio's 2010 production schedule is "Pirates of the Caribbean 4," which could become problematic because its star Johnny Depp is close to Cook and Aviv.

In his farewell statement, Aviv pointed to such upcoming titles as "Alice in Wonderland," "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "Tron Legacy" as movies of which he is proud -- though, in true Hollywood fashion, his successor is likely to reap the glory if they succeed.

"Oren's significant contributions to the Walt Disney Studios are well documented, and countless moviegoers have been entertained by his diverse portfolio of films," Ross said. "We appreciate his work and wish him all the best in his future endeavors."
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