Dick Cook Tribute Brings ex-Disney Rivals Together – Eisner, Katzenberg, Roth

Even people who officially can't stand each other – Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg – showed up to honor Cook

It was Disney old home week at a tribute on Wednesday night to Dick Cook, a 38-year veteran of The Walt Disney Company who was moved aside as studio chief to make way for Rich Ross more than a year ago.

But Cook spent many years in exhibition, and he is a beloved and familiar presence in the exhibition community. So CinemaCon (previously ShoWest) decided to throw a party in his honor, even if Disney wouldn’t.

Everybody showed up for Dick Cook – including people who officially can't stand each other. Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner sipped a drink at the VIP cocktail party near DreamWorks Animation (and former Disney studio chief) Jeffrey Katzenberg, managing to momentarily forget that he lost a $280 million lawsuit to him.

There were other former rivals and colleagues – ex-studio chief Joe Roth, marketing guru Terry Press. Also: director James Cameron and “Wild Hogs” star John Travolta.

At the dinner for a few thousand exhibitors, which raised money for the Will Rogers charity fund, host TIm Allen quipped that he was doing the gig for free, and did promos for his live show at the Venetian hotel across the street every two jokes.

There were others, in a sign of respect for Cook and his tenure: producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Summit chief Rob Friedman, former Sony (and other) marketing chief Geoff Ammer. Bruckheimer was here for the Disney presentation on Tuesday. He said he flew back to L.A. to continue supervising the mix on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” and then came back for the Cook event.  

The former mogul beamed at a cocktail party and said he was undertaking on a new project that would take some time before it would be announced. “We’re working on it,” he said.

Cook began his career with Disney in 1971 as a monorail and amusement park ride operator. He moved to Disney studios in Burbank in 1977 to manage pay television and non-theatrical releases.

In 1980, he moved to the company's film distribution department, eventually heading both its distribution and marketing efforts. He earned a reputation there by his marketing of Disney's  home video collection.

He became the president of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution in 1988 and took over Marketing and Distribution in 1994. He was studio chairman from 2002 until his ouster in September 2009.