EXCLUSIVE: John J. Nicoletti is exiting as VP of Global Communications for The Walt Disney Studios and returning to flack for the Walt Disney Parks And Resorts. He’ll be replaced by Paul Roeder, a Walt Disney Studios publicist and disciple of chief Disney PR woman Zenia Mucha. “John realized he was in over his head in the movie division and wanted to go back to what he was doing before,” an insider tells me. Before joining the studio, Nicoletti served as director of external communications for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ Worldwide Public Affairs team.  Roeder was promoted by Mucha to manager in her corporate communications department and then to director. Early this year, she installed him at the studio under Nicoletti. Now he’s VP. So here’s what happened:

When Secretariat opened to disappointing box office on October 8th, I wrote what a “weak start” this was for Disney marketing under the new Rich Ross regime and that “no one’s impressed yet with Ross’ new marketing czarina MT Carney (who comes across as Ross’ Yes Woman, I hear)”. For reasons I don’t fully comprehend, my words made Nicoletti panic and, without obtaining approvals from Rich Ross or Zenia Mucha, he put Carney on the phone with two Hollywood news outlets on October 10th solely because they weren’t Deadline. Carney was supposed to only talk about Secretariat marketing and instead gave full-blown interviews. The next day, when both Mucha and Ross saw the Carney interviews, they were dismayed, to say the least. Nicoletti feared he would be fired then and there. He wasn’t. On the other hand, I received profuse and repeated apologies from him and everyone at Disney. And, that’s why Nicoletti is leaving the movie division. Look, I don’t envy anyone in a publicity role having to deal with me even occasionally much less regularly. And John is a helluva nice guy. I wish him well.

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