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Executives on and off the Disney lot are welcoming the news that Alan Horn has been named chairman of the company’s film studio.
Reaction to Horn’s appointment Thursday by Disney CEO Bob Iger to succeed ousted executive Rich Ross has been overwhelmingly positive, according to scores of insiders polled by The Hollywood Reporter. The most frequent sentiment coming from inside the studio is that with Horn at the helm, movie production — which had been significantly curtailed under Ross — will almost certainly go up. The former Warner Bros. president is considered a steady, if safe, film executive with excellent talent relationships who, in contrast to Ross, will have no trouble pulling the trigger on new projects.
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“Let’s put it this way: They can’t make fewer movies,” one Disney insider tells THR. “This is pretty amazing for the movie side,” echoes another. Indeed, in an interview with THR on Thursday, Horn said his mandate from Iger is to release six to eight movies a year, in addition to the films made by Marvel Studios and DreamWorks that are distributed by Disney.
Under Ross, who came to Disney Studios after a successful run at the company’s television division, Disney severed ties with many longtime executives, including production head Bruce Hendricks and head of casting Marcia Ross, and cut back on development of new projects. Ross also put the kibosh on certain genres that were once mainstays of the studio, including comedies; during his tenure, the studio that made hits such as Wild Hogs, The Proposal and Bringing Down the House released zero mainstream comedies.
Insiders say that Horn, who is soft-spoken and generally well-liked among talent representatives and producers, is well-suited to successfully manage Disney’s major players — chief among them Pixar’s John Lasseter, Marvel’s Kevin Feige, megaproducer Jerry Bruckheimer and the DreamWorks duo of Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider — as well as broadening out the studio slate.
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“Bob Iger has made a great choice in naming Alan Horn as chairman of the Walt Disney Studios,” Snider said Thursday. “Congratulations to both of them. Alan has been on the forefront of some of the best and most successful films of our time. We look forward to working together, hopefully adding to that record of achievement.”
Even top Hollywood executives without ties to Disney echoed that sentiment. “I think it’s great for Disney and great for Alan,” Tom Rothman, co-chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, tells THR. “He is a terrific executive.”
But what Horn’s arrival might mean for the current Disney brass — production president Sean Bailey, distribution head Alan Bergman and recently named marketing president Ricky Strauss — remains to be seen. Horn is expected to look hard at the studio’s pipeline and infrastructure. On the heels of the March bomb John Carter, a number of mega-budget gambles have already been greenlighted. Among those are Johnny Depp‘s The Lone Ranger, Angelina Jolie‘s Maleficent and James Franco‘s Oz: The Great and Powerful.
During his 12-year tenure at Warners, Horn forged strong relationships with key talent that insiders say he will be quick to tap in his new job. For instance, David Heyman, who produced the wildly successful Harry Potter films for Warners, might make a good fit for family-friendly Disney. (Heyman and StudioCanal recently announced a deal to make a CGI/live-action adaptation of Paddington Bear, about a bear who comes to live with a British family. StudioCanal is financing and will release in U.K., France and Germany, but if U.S. rights become available, the project could be a natural fit for Disney.)
For its part, even Horn’s old employer Warner Bros. wished him well in his new job.
“Alan was a terrific partner in every sense of the word,” Warners chairman and CEO Barry Meyer said. “He has a profound understanding of the filmmaking process as well as the ability to bridge the creative and business sides of a studio. He’s been a part of some of the most popular films produced in the last decade, and we’re very happy for him. All of his colleagues at Warner Bros. wish him the best.”
Georg Szalai and Gregg Kilday contributed to this report.
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