“Pearl Harbor” casualty?

After barely six months on the job, Peter Schneider abruptly resigned Wednesday as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Entertainment analysts immediately speculated that Schneider‘s departure was the result of box office performances by Pearl Harbor and Atlantis: The Lost Empire that fell far short of expectations. But in an internal memo to Disney staffers published in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times, Schneider said his resignation did not occur because of any “blow up, or job not given, or promotion not attained, or failure to deliver on profits or good artistic results.” Schneider plans to start an independent theatrical company in New York. Industry executives interviewed by the Times unreservedly criticized Schneider‘s performance. William Morris Agency chief Jim Wiatt commented that he was not “part of the fabric of the business.” Commented S.G. Cowen analyst Edward Hatch: “It may have just been burn-out or being tired of being yelled at” by Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. An unnamed key Disney investor told the Times: “Peter wasn’t cut out for the job when he came in the door.” A studio announcement said that Schneider‘s responsibilities will be absorbed for the time being by Disney execs Richard Cook, Thomas Schumacher and Nina Jacobson, but many analysts suspected that Eisner would step up his day-to-day involvement at the studio. Eisner quickly downplayed such speculation, telling Thursday’s Wall Street Journal: “For the moment, I just want to be a cheerleader inside the process.”