With Cook Gone Is “Pirates 4” In Jeopardy?

With Dick Cook’s shock departure on Friday after seven years as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, the lingering aftershocks have yet to really have an impact though rumors have been running rampant even as the juicy details have yet to really emerge.

The news broke on Friday afternoon and was quickly followed by official statements from both Cook and Disney President and CEO Bob Iger which essentially said nothing beyond PR-approved empty platitudes.

Earlier this year it was reported that Iger blamed Disney’s film division, specifically it’s live-action efforts, for the company’s severe drop in operating income due to less than expected returns on Disney’s disappointing Holiday 2008/Early 2009 film line-up. That line-up included such low-to-moderate performing titles as “Bedtime Stories,” “Race to Witch Mountain,” “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” “Earth” and the Jonas Brothers 3D concert movie. The studio has had success since with “Up,” “The Proposal” and the “Hannah Montana” movie all doing well above expectations.

The loss of Cook however, generally considered of the most popular executives in the industry and a veteran with nearly four decades of experience at the studio, has not played well. In fact speculation has quickly begun to spread that many of the studio’s upcoming projects and promising relationships are now on questionable, if not outright shaky ground.

For example is an LA Times interview with Johnny Depp about Cook’s departure. Depp says his enthusiasm to be a part of a fourth “Pirates” movie has waned with the news of Cook’s exit. “There’s a fissure, a crack in my enthusiasm at the moment” says Depp who claims one of the big reasons he committed to the film was Cook’s involvement.

Cook himself was one of the key reasons why Depp’s Jack Sparrow performance in the first ‘Pirates’ remained intact as many in the studio expected a more toned down and atypical pirate-like interpretation. Cook is also allegedly one of the big reasons behind Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider’s Dreamworks/Disney deal and so Iger will likely fill Cook’s now empty position with someone who’ll try to keep the Dreamworks relationship strong.