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DisneyToon Studios to be Restructured

The Walt Disney Co. confirmed reports yesterday that DisneyToon Studios (DTS) president Sharon Morrill had stepped down from her post with an announcement that DisneyToon Studios (DTS) is being restructured and will now operate as a separate unit under the supervision of Walt Disney Animation Studios. The studio will pursue original DVD productions and has curtailed making sequels to its features.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, and Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, assume responsibilities of DTS. Morrill, a 15-year Disney veteran who was president of DTS since 2004, assumes new duties within the studio, which will include working on a variety of special projects.

"Sharon has been an amazing leader and has done a tremendous job," said Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. "DisneyToon Studios has always been an integral part of the studio and we are pleased that John and Ed will bring their vision in creating exciting original DVD premieres. They already have some very ambitious and innovative projects on the drawing boards."

"John and I are truly excited to be working with the talented team at DisneyToon Studios in developing and producing original stories for the home entertainment audience," Catmull added. "The first project includes TINKER BELL and a whole new cast of Fairy characters that have all the ingredients of wonder, magic and enchantment that our audiences expect. With DisneyToon Studios, now part of Walt Disney Animation Studios, we hope to explore a wide variety of fun and original story ideas and projects."

"We're grateful to Sharon for the important role she played in shaping this division, and for building it into the undisputed industry leader," said Alan Bergman, president of The Walt Disney Studios, who Morrill reports to. "Her leadership resulted in some of the biggest video and DVD successes of all-time, and we look forward to working with Sharon on special projects."

In 1994, Morrill supervised the launch of the first "Disney Video Premiere" with THE RETURN OF JAFAR, the sequel to ALADDIN. Morrill has overseen such successful video/ DVD releases as the critically acclaimed THE LION KING 1 1/2, 101 DALMATIANS II: PATCH'S LONDON ADVENTURE, LADY AND THE TRAMP II: SCAMP'S ADVENTURE, LITTLE MERMAID II: RETURN TO THE SEA, SPRINGTIME WITH ROO, as well as the videos of MICKEY'S ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS, THE LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS and others.

The theatrical releases Morrill oversaw include PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE, THE JUNGLE BOOK 2 and A GOOFY MOVIE.

Morrill joined Walt Disney Television Animation in 1993 as director of specials, where she oversaw animated primetime half-hour specials. She was promoted to vp, specials and direct-to-video in 1995, expanding her responsibilities to feature-length projects. She was promoted to svp in summer 1997 and then to evp in spring 1998. In January 2003, Walt Disney Television Animation was split with Morrill taking over the newly-formed division, DisneyToon Studios.

Prior to beginning her career in animation, Morrill was vp, development of Steel Pictures at Disney and Touchstone; vp, production for Kings Road Ent.; vp of development of The Solofilm Co.; and as a production exec at the De Laurentiis Ent. Group.