BURBANK, Calif. – Thomas Schumacher has been named president, Buena Vista Theatrical Worldwide, the Disney unit that oversees Disney’s live stage productions around the world, and David Stainton has been named president, Walt Disney Feature Animation, it was announced today by Michael D. Eisner, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company, and Richard Cook, chairman, The Walt Disney Studios.
Both divisions will fall under the auspices of The Walt Disney Studios and will work directly with Eisner on creative content. Schumacher’s new appointment is part of The Walt Disney Studios’ strategy of streamlining its animation and live stage productions divisions, taking into account the enormous growth of production, particularly in the areas of television animation and theater. Television animation production will move into the Disney Channel Worldwide division, overseen by Anne Sweeney.
“During his tenure, Tom has participated in and has overseen some of Disney’s most prolific years in content development. We couldn’t be more pleased that he will continue to pour his creative efforts into our live theatrical business,” said Roy Disney, vice-chairman, The Walt Disney Company. “We are delighted that David will now lead Disney Animation as the unit continues to create signature content and endearing characters.”
Schumacher, along with Peter Schneider, has produced the hugely successful Broadway musicals “The Lion King,” which garnered six Tony awards, as well as Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida,” which won four Tony awards. Disney’s stage productions currently include 17 productions of “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida,” which are currently playing in six countries around the world, with a worldwide 2002 Box Office of nearly $500 million. In 2002, “Beauty and the Beast” became the seventh longest running musical in Broadway history. “The Lion King,” which just celebrated its fifth anniversary on Broadway has played to more than 15 million people in its eight productions around the world, and will soon be opening three new productions in the next 12 months, including Sydney and Amsterdam.
Upcoming projects for Disney’s stage division include productions of “The Little Mermaid,” “Tarzan” and the much anticipated stage adaptation of “Mary Poppins” in partnership with Cameron Mackintosh.
Also included under the Stage Division’s banner is “Disney on Ice,” which is a worldwide brand and revenue driver for Disney, with eight productions touring globally and over ten million annual attendees. Disney Live Family Entertainment (DLFE), also part of Disney’s Stage Division, is responsible for licensing mass market, family oriented shows, as well as producing Disney character appearances and other promotional shows and events outside of Disney’s Parks and Resorts.
“Tom is the perfect executive to grow and maintain our theater businesses,” Eisner said. “He has done an excellent job through the years in guiding our animation efforts and translating them to the stage. He is gifted, creative and knows Disney through and through.”
“My 15 years at Disney Animation have been a magical time. The artists, composers, writers and producers I’ve been lucky enough to work with are the best in the world, and because of them our films have had extraordinary success,” said Schumacher. “The opportunity to relocate and focus on expanding Disney’s already enormously successful roster of theatrical projects was irresistible and I couldn’t be happier it worked out. Disney is a fantastic creative home and I’m delighted to continue working with Michael Eisner and the best team in the business today.”
David Stainton becomes responsible for Feature Animation immediately. In his new role, Stainton will be responsible for all Disney animated features, Disney Video Premieres and DisneyToons products. Sharon Morrill will continue to oversee Disney’s direct-to-video business and DisneyToons, and will continue to report to Stainton.
“Roy Disney and I are pleased with the selection of David, which will enable us to organize our Feature Animation productions under one executive with extensive experience in the genre,” Eisner said.
“David brings to Feature Animation a unique set of skills, a deep understanding of the Disney brand and vision for the future of this very special division,” Cook said. “David’s new appointment along with our streamlining of Feature Animation, Disney Video Premieres and DisneyToons into one business unit follows the company’s strategy and model of having development, production and distribution resources maximized and connected, as they now will be for The Walt Disney Studios.”
“Disney is the gold standard in animation and it’s an honor to lead a team of such great talent. We’re going to build on our successes and will continue to search out the absolute best ideas, stories, and art to make movies worthy of the Disney legacy,” Stainton said.
Schumacher joined Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1988 to produce “The Rescuers Down Under” and rose to president of Feature Animation after having helped with the turnaround of Disney’s animation activities. He has supervised 18 of Disney’s major animated films in recent years, including “Pocahontas,” “Toy Story,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Hercules,” “Mulan,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Tarzan,” “Toy Story 2,” “Dinosaur,” “The Emperor’s New Groove” and this summer’s hit “Lilo & Stitch,” which has made nearly $250 million at the worldwide box office. Schumacher was executive producer of the film “The Lion King.”
Further, he expanded Disney’s Video Premieres business, as well as Disney’s television animation offerings, which air on Disney Channel and ABC-TV.
Before joining The Walt Disney Company, he enjoyed a distinguished 10-year career in the performing arts. As associate director of the acclaimed 1987 Los Angeles Festival of Arts, he was instrumental in presenting the American premiere of Canada’s immensely popular Cirque du Soleil.
Prior to the Los Angeles Festival, Schumacher spent five years on staff at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum.
Schumacher worked on the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival and served as assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Ballet. A graduate of UCLA, he currently serves on The Tony Administration Committee, the Education Council and the Presentations Committee of the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, and is a trustee of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Previously, Stainton served as president, Walt Disney Television Animation since January 2001. In that role, Stainton oversaw the day-to-day operations for the division’s animated television series, Disney Video Premieres and DisneyToons.
Stainton joined The Walt Disney Company in 1989 as manager of special projects for Walt Disney Pictures and Television. In 1991, Stainton joined the Feature Animation department where he served in a series of positions, with each new role increasing the scope of his responsibilities. In January 1998, Stainton was named senior vice president of creative affairs for Walt Disney Feature Animation where he was charged with overseeing Disney’s animation studio in Paris. The facility houses 150 artists from 13 countries. During his tenure, Stainton worked with Schumacher on such successful films as “The Lion King,” “Toy Story,” “Mulan,” “Tarzan,” “Hercules,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Pocahontas,” and “Dinosaur”.
Stainton holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard.