Steve Asbell Takes Over 20th Century Studios Post Emma Watts; Vanessa Morrison Named Walt Disney Studios Streaming Production President

EXCLUSIVE: Following the departure of Emma Watts at 20th Century Studios last month, the label’s 18-year vet Steve Asbell has been named President, Production, of the Disney-owned film division, Deadline has learned. He’ll report to Walt Disney Studios Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Alan Horn and Co-Chairman Alan Bergman.

Asbell previously served as EVP, Production, 20th Century Studios (20th Century Fox), since 2012 and has been with the studio since 2002. He is deeply respected by filmmakers including James Mangold, with whom he worked on The Wolverine, Logan, and the two-time Oscar-winning and $225M+ grossing Ford v Ferrari, and Ridley Scott, with whom he has worked on the 7x Oscar nominee The Martian and the upcoming The Last Duel, currently dated for a Christmas release.

Asbell is currently overseeing upcoming films Death on the Nile, dated for Oct. 9, and The Last Duel. Prior to Fox, he held positions in production at Beacon Pictures, Mutual Film Co., and DreamWorks Studios.

In addition, Vanessa Morrison has been named President, Streaming, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, and will oversee development and production of Disney+ film content from The Walt Disney Studios for both Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios. She will report to Sean Bailey, President, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production.

Morrison most recently served as President, Fox Family, following a decade-long stint as President, Fox Animation.

Morrison has served as President of Fox Family since 2017, after a decade as President of Twentieth Century Fox Animation. In addition to several of the Ice Age films and the Rio films, she oversaw development and production of the animated films Ferdinand, The Peanuts Movie, The Book of Life, Epic, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Twentieth Century Fox’s live-action Garfield and Cheaper by the Dozen films. Among projects she is currently overseeing for Disney+ are films based on such well-known franchises as Cheaper by the Dozen, Night at the Museum, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Other appointments today include Philip Steuer who will lead physical and post production and VFX as President, Production, Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, and Randi Hiller who will lead casting as EVP, Casting – overseeing these functions for both Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios.

Both will dual-report to Asbell and Bailey. This is part of an alignment of a few production functions across the two studios –for both theatrical and streaming content– which will enable greater coordination of the bulk of The Walt Disney Studios’ live-action productions, including support for Searchlight Pictures.

Steuer has led physical production for Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production since 2014. Since joining Disney, he has overseen production for such films as The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan, Jungle Cruise, and Cruella, as well as Disney’s output for Disney+ which includes The Lady and the Tramp, Togo, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, and Stargirl. Prior to joining Disney, Steuer produced Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks and the Chronicles of Narnia films and was an executive producer on Oz The Great and Powerful, The Alamo, and The Rookie, among others.

Hiller has led casting for Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production films since 2011, including many of Disney’s live-action fairy-tale reimaginings from Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book to Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mulan. She also oversaw casting on Saving Mr. Banks, Into the Woods, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the upcoming films Jungle Cruise and Cruella, and the Disney+ films The Lady and the Tramp, Togo, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, and Stargirl. Prior to joining Disney, she was an Emmy-nominated independent casting director who cast numerous films including some of the early films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and “The Avengers), as well as the Oscar-winning Crash.

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