1. Rich Ross, President, Disney Channels Worldwide
A lifelong TV addict, Ross has expanded Disney’s channels beyond the box into film, radio, mobile, and online. But he’ll be remembered most for unleashing Hannah Montana and High School Musical on the world.
2. James Schamus, Chief executive officer, Focus Features
In addition to being a CEO, he’s a veteran screenwriter, Columbia University film professor, producer, marketer, distributor, and sometime composer. Schamus, 49, cofounded Focus in 2002, which has produced Oscar winners Milk and Lost in Translation. Coming soon: Taking Woodstock, Schamus’s latest screenplay for director Ang Lee.
3. JJ Abrams, Founder, Bad Robot Productions
Star Trek is winning the summer box office race, thanks to Abrams’ ability to warp time at will. Past, present, and future coexist as a kind of fluid that cannot be contained in his movies and TV shows. The camera jumps back and forth in time. Characters age and grow younger again. Time itself accelerates, then slows. “It’s intriguing to play with exactly when you learn elements in a story,” says the Emmy-winning writer-director-producer, referring to Lost, his biggest hit on the small screen. “It engages audience members in a puzzle where they begin to question everything. It makes them look for clues in what they’re watching in a way traditional narrative doesn’t.”
4. Tyler Perry, Owner, Tyler Perry Studios
Perry controls an entertainment empire and moneymaking machine that includes the hit show Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and movies featuring his alter-ego Madea, a jumbo, no-nonsense granny with a knack for physical comedy. His seven films, which rarely cost more than $20 million, have grossed upward of $300 million combined–four of them opened at No. 1–and sold 25 million DVDs.
5. Ed Leonard, Chief technology officer, DreamWorks Animation
Whether it’s making Shrek come alive, guiding the 20 million hours of computing time to build Kung Fu Panda, or putting the amoeba-like B.O.B. into 3-D for Monsters vs. Aliens, DreamWorks’ problems eventually find Ed Leonard–and success tends to follow.
6. Hayao Miyazaki, Cofounder, Studio Ghibli
When Pixar’s animators need inspiration, they watch Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. The giant of anime has been elevating cartoons into epic cinematic events for more than two decades, with fantastic, award-winning films such as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. This summer, Miyazaki may finally get his commercial due in the U.S. with Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Disney/Pixar creative chief John Lasseter worked with megaproducers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy to build a stellar voice cast (Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson) and to secure Miyazaki his widest U.S.-theater release yet.
7. Neil Gaiman, Author, screenwriter
Gaiman’s built a global community of fans of all ages and in many media, including comic books (Sandman), novels (American Gods), TV (the BBC’s Neverwhere), and a children’s novella turned 3-D movie (Coraline).
8. Maurice Sendak, Writer, illustrator, producer
The extraordinary Maurice Sendak has sold millions of copies of Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and In the Night Kitchen (1970); more recently, he collaborated with Tony Kushner on the play Brundibar. Sendak, now 80, has inspired generations of dreamy kids–including director Spike Jonze, who directed the film version of Wild Things premiering in October.
9. Nora Ephron, Author, director, producer
Nora Ephron is partly responsible for the rise of the chick flick–and Meg Ryan’s career (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail). Her films have grossed nearly $1 billion so far, and her newest, Julie and Julia, which opens in August, is the first movie based on a blog.
10. Bonnie Hammer, President of NBC Universal Cable
USA Network’s ratings have soared under her watch–its 2008 prime-time viewership was the largest ever for any basic-cable channel–and her products contributed more than $1 billion to NBC Universal’s profits last year. Hammer has a rep as a terrific programmer–Monk and Battlestar Galactica blossomed under her–and NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker recently put her in charge of a new production studio.