20th Century Studios, which used to be known as 20th Century Fox, has named veteran executive Steve Asbell as its new president of production. He replaces Emma Watts, who left the studio last month. Additionally, Vanessa Morrison has been named president of streaming at Walt Disney Studios, where she will oversee the development and production of Disney+ film content.
Asbell has been with the studio since 2002 and has worked on some of its biggest titles since then, including Ridley Scott‘s The Martian, and a pair of James Mangold movies — Logan and Ford v Ferrari. He’s currently overseeing production on the star-studded mystery Death on the Nile, as well as Scott’s period drama The Last Duel starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck.
Morrison spent a decade serving as the president of Fox Animation before taking over the top post at Fox Family. She has worked on movies in the Ice Age and Rio franchises, as well as The Peanuts Movie. Morrison will report to Walt Disney Studios president of production Sean Bailey, while Asbell will report to Disney’s Alan Horn and his fellow co-chairman Alan Bergman.
The elevation of Asbell and Morrison comes on the heels of Bob Iger handing the CEO reins to Bob Chapek in order to focus on creative matters at the studio. It has been a hectic week for Disney, which just made the difficult but understandable decision to shut down Disneyland. Disney is also likely weighing whether to delay the release of Mulan, which has already seen its day-and-date release in China canceled due to theater closures stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
As a longtime industry reporter, I can say that Asbell and Morrison’s promotions are both well deserved, and I’ve long respected and admired Asbell’s taste as an executive. He’ll have his work cut out for him in his new role, but I suspect he’ll be up to the challenge and rise to the occasion. Tough decisions will have to be made in the coming days and weeks, but at least Disney won’t have to worry about putting on a show at CinemaCon, which was canceled late Wednesday night. For more on that story, click here.