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Hollywood studio veteran Alan Horn will retire from Disney as of December 31 after leading the company’s film empire to record-breaking success. His exit — coinciding with the end of the Bob Iger era — caps a 50-year-plus career that has seen him become one of Hollywood’s most revered executives.
Monday’s announcement was widely expected, and follows a lengthy transition period that saw Alan Bergman succeed Horn as sole chairman of the movie studio on January 1, 2021 (the duo had served as co-chairmen since mid-2019). Horn in turn focused on his duties as chief creative officer.
The rearranging took place as Iger — Horn’s boss — ceded the role of Walt Disney Co. CEO to Bob Chapek. Iger, who became executive chairman, is likewise preparing to depart the conglomerate.
There are no plans to replace Horn, with Bergman firmly in control of the sprawling film operation as Disney emerges from the pandemic, and like all the legacy film studios, navigates a vastly different landscape amid the rise of streaming.
It was Iger who personally persuaded Horn to come to Disney in 2012 after Horn left Warner Bros. Horn has always been known for his creative savvy. He also decided early on at Warners that big-budget tentpoles were the movie industry’s future, and played a key role in blockbuster Warner franchises including Harry Potter and The Dark Knight. (His motto — “Do I have to see it now, and do I have to see it on the big screen?” — is cited often.)
The winning streak continued at Disney, which, during Horn’s tenure, enjoyed its best years ever at the box office before the pandemic struck.
The Long Island born-and-raised Horn was working in advertising when legendary power broker Jerry Perenchio convinced him to come to Hollywood and join the company Perenchio ran with All in the Family creator Norman Lear. Horn and one of that sitcom’s stars, Rob Reiner, became pals and in 1987 were among the founders of Castle Rock Entertainment, home of When Harry Met Sally …, A Few Good Men, The Green Mile and Seinfeld.
“It has been my great privilege and pleasure to be able to spend these past 50 years helping creative people tell stories that move, entertain, and connect audiences around the world – and a dream come true to have the chance to do it at Disney, no less,” Horn said in a statement. “I’m deeply thankful to Bob Iger for the opportunity he gave me and to Alan Bergman for being an incredible partner throughout this adventure, as well as to Bob Chapek for his steady leadership during these unprecedented times.”
The affable and even-keeled Horn presided over an unprecedented time of growth during his nine years at Disney, including the integrations of Lucasfilm in 2012 and the Fox film studios in 2019, as well as the expansion into the production of content for Disney’s streaming services. His turf also included Marvel, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation and Disney’s own live-action studio.
The statement announcing Horn’s looming farewell was replete with quotes from Disney’s leadership mantle. Iger went first.
“Throughout an illustrious career spanning nearly five decades, Alan has had a profound impact on the entertainment industry and audiences worldwide,” Iger said. “We have been very fortunate to have Alan at the helm of our Studio for nearly a decade, presiding over an unprecedented period of growth and exceptional storytelling, while solidifying his reputation as one of the industry’s true icons. Like so many, I will be forever grateful for his strong support, wise counsel, and enduring friendship.”
Added Chapek: “It has truly been a privilege to work with Alan over the years. He’s led an exceptionally talented studio team that is the best in the industry, creating some of the most beloved and iconic films of our time, and he will forever be a cherished member of our Disney family.”
Under Horn’s leadership, Disney set numerous records at the box office, including surpassing $7 billion globally in 2016 and 2018 and $11 billion in 2019. And during his tenure, Disney released 20 films that surpassed the billion dollar mark at the global box office, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Endgame.
“Alan Horn is one of a kind, and we were fortunate that he chose to bring his talents to our Studios,” said Bergman. “He has been one of the most important mentors I’ve ever had, and we’re both very proud of what we’ve been able to do in our time together at the Studios leading this terrific team. I simply can’t thank him enough.”
Horn’s Disney credits also include helping to build a new slate of Star Wars films, ushering in new phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with films such as Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame, and turning out a series of live-action and virtual production remakes of the studio’s legacy animated fare, such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
“It’s never easy to say goodbye to a place you love, which is why I’ve done it slowly, but with Alan Bergman leading the way, I’m confident the incredible studios team will keep putting magic out there for years to come,” Horn said.
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