Remember the mini-controversy Ms. Cyrus caused this summer when she told a reporter that the upcoming third season of her hit Disney Channel sitcom might be her last? Disney and the Cyrus camp both quickly moved to shush all such speculation at the time, but the story came roaring back this week with help from assorted rumormongers. Oh, heavens no! How shocking to think that a teenager mightbe ready to move on from the things that defined her at age 11! She moved to deflect the gossip yet again yesterday, insisting to People that she’s “fully committed to Hannah Montana.” But look: It’s obvious that Miley will have to move on from Hannah at some point, whether or not it’s at the end of season 3. Her latest album ditches her on-screen persona altogether, and it seems to be doing fine — so why would she want to stay stuck in that one role for the rest of her life?

And of course, as Miley’s own music career continues to take off, there are plenty of other kids who’d be happy to take her place of honor in the Disney empire. In the issue of EW that hits stands on Friday, EW scribe Leah Greenblatt takes a closer look at leading next-Miley contender Demi Lovato (Camp Rock). Along with everything Lovato herself says in the profile, there’s some interesting input from Disney Channel entertainment president Gary Marsh, who calls all the speculation about Miley’s potential departure sheer “silliness.” Says Marsh: “Miley and Hannah are huge parts of our present and our future. We have a substantial investment in her both financially and personally. We’ve got a feature film coming out next April, we’re in season 3 production and have an option for season 4, she’s got a book with the company — we couldn’t have a closer relationship with her.” Okay, sure. And where does Marsh think Lovato and her BFF, Wizards of Waverly Place star Selena Gomez, figure into all this? “Demi and Selena are fantastic up-and-coming stars in our universe, and we hope they have as much success and opportunity as Miley. But these are not competitive properties. We love them all!”

Hmm. What do you say? Doth Disney protest too much about the latest round of rumors? And when do you think Miley should let Demi or Selena — or someone else! — take her place at Disney while she moves on to bigger and better things? Or do you think she should stay at the Disney Channel until we’re all watching Hannah Montana: The AARP Years?

addCredit(“Byron Cohen”)