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Gary Marsh is leaving his executive suite following a 33-year career with Disney.
The former Disney Channel topper, who was promoted last year to president and chief creative officer of Disney Branded Television, is stepping down from the post to launch a production company. Marsh, who extended his contract with Disney in 2020, is said to have expressed his desire to move on more than two years ago. Marsh opted to remain with Disney through its acquisition of Fox assets as well as the reorganization that followed.
Marsh will remain at Disney through the end of 2021 and is working with Disney General Entertainment chairman Peter Rice on a transition as sources note a replacement to oversee Disney Branded Television is expected to be announced in the coming days. Staff were informed of Marsh’s departure Tuesday morning via an internal memo from Rice.
“Gary’s leadership and creative genius have shaped a generation of beloved kids and family programming, and we are forever grateful for the indelible impact he’s made at The Walt Disney Company,” said Rice, who promoted Marsh last year as Disney again reorganized in a bid to prioritize streaming. “Gary is a valued leader and good friend, and we’ve been talking about this move for years. So when he decided to focus solely on producing after three decades of an amazing executive career, I jumped at the opportunity to keep him among us.”
Rice in November tapped Marsh to launch Disney Branded Television, expanding the latter’s purview from kids programming to all non-theatrical Disney-branded TV content made for tweens, teens and families, including live-action and animation. The division serves as a content pipeline for Disney+, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior. Marsh also was tapped to oversee the Disney+ unscripted content and production teams. The unit is responsible for such shows as the High School Musical update, Monsters at Work and Hulu transfer The Mysterious Benedict Society, among others.
“For 33 years, I’ve had the greatest job in television,” Marsh said in a statement Tuesday. “The stories we’ve told, the music we’ve created, the stars we’ve discovered, the franchises we’ve built — all of it has entertained and engaged millions of kids and families around the globe. Thanks to the reach of Disney’s streaming platforms, those stories will live forever in the hearts and minds of future generations, alongside all the new stories I look forward to telling. There simply could not be a more compelling or creatively stimulating time to enter the production ranks.”
Marsh has developed and overseen the launches of multiple Disney franchises, including the original High School Musical and Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, Descendants, Phineas and Ferb and many more. The executive also launched the Disney Junior channel, launching hits including Doc McStuffins, Elena of Avalon and Sofia the First. Marsh also had a hand in launching the careers of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, the Jonas Brothers, Zendaya, Demi Lovato, Shia LaBeouf, Hilary Duff, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Olivia Rodrigo and Debby Ryan, among others.
“Gary is a wonderful collaborator, superb partner and dynamic leader who has a deep passion for film and a keen eye for casting just the right person for a role,” said Jane Startz, an exec producer with whom he worked on Disney Channel’s Sneakerella. “He approaches each new project with enthusiasm and excitement that is infectious, and creates an environment where talent, artists and crew can really excel in their work.”
As part of his Disney-backed development deal, which will see him prep content for across the conglomerate’s portfolio, Marsh is readying two new Descendants movies, the previously announced Disney+ Beauty and the Beast prequel series, Tink, School for Sensitive Souls and Witch Mountain. (Additional details on the slate were not being provided.)
Marsh becomes the latest high-ranking Disney exec to depart the executive ranks at the company following last year’s reorg. Craig Hunegs also exited in May after seeing his role as Walt Disney Television entertainment president change significantly as a result of the streaming-focused restructuring. Hunegs joined Disney from Warners in March 2019 in a newly created role as president of Disney TV Studios, the merged shingle that housed former Fox assets including 20th Television and the former Fox 21 (now Touchstone TV). His responsibilities changed in December following Disney’s studio consolidation as he began working directly with Walden as president of entertainment for Walt Disney Television. Walden has not yet announced a successor for Hunegs.
Additionally, Disney+ head of unscripted Dan Silver departed late last year for a key role at Netflix. Silver went from reporting to Disney+ content chief Agnes Chu, and, following her departure last year, answered to content president Ricky Strauss, who stepped down in January.
One likely candidate to replace Marsh as head of Disney Branded TV is his top lieutenant, longtime casting exec Ayo Davis, who was promoted in November to the newly created position of exec vp creative development and strategy. Davis is a 19-year Disney veteran who at the time of her promotion had been fielding multiple offers outside of the company. Sources say she was being eyed for a role leading casting at Warner Bros. TV, where she would have reunited with former ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey. Disney fought to keep her in the fold.
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