New Disney Chief Alan Horn Discusses His Plans for the Studio (Exclusive)

alan horn - p 2012
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alan horn - p 2012

"Six to eight movies [a year] feels like the right number for me," the newly appointed studio head tells THR. "That’s a range. It could be four."

Alan Horn, who was president of Warner Bros. for 12 extraordinarily successful years, talks to The Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters about his mandate as the new chairman of Disney Studios. Horn, who succeeds Rich Ross, will also preside over Pixar and Marvel. The veteran Hollywood executive, who was nudged out at his last job in 2011 by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes before he was ready to leave, says Disney CEO Robert Iger has promised him flexibility in the number and type of movies that the studio will make -- a possible shift from Iger's earlier mandate to focus on branded entertainment that could be sold across multiple platforms. Horn says he has a “multiyear contract” but declines to specify its duration.

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How long were you in conversation with Disney about the job?

Many, many weeks. I know Bob Iger, but I didn’t know him well. He approached me, and I was not sure what I wanted to do, to be honest. But I got pretty excited about it. I want to do this.

Unlike Rich Ross, you will oversee animation. Was that important to you?

I didn’t want to come into a situation where I would have no say over a number of components in the release mix. John Lasseter will report to me and Bob. I don’t love the word "report," but except for DreamWorks, which greenlights its own movies, I’ll be involved with everything the studio does.

What’s your understanding about the number and type of movies that Disney will make?

Six to eight movies [a year] feels like the right number for me [live-action films, excluding Marvel]. That’s a range. It could be four. Each movie has to earn the right to be made with the concept, screenplay, casting and so on. All that has to come together. Bob has been very flexible and very open about the number of movies. We don’t want 25 movies a year, [but] we’re not backing into any number. Bob did not give me any budget constraints. It’s just “make good movies.” I don’t think it’s a critical criterion that each individual movie has branding potential. Every movie will be, as best we can conceive and execute it, a good movie. Branding will not be the tail that wags the dog. But this is a powerhouse [company], so if we can make a movie that can live beyond the theatrical space, that’s just terrific.

How long do you intend to be on the job?

I usually bring up the average age whenever I walk into a room. But it’s a long-term contract. I don’t want to be perceived as a short-term Band-Aid.

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Iger is leaving in 2015. Will you stay beyond then?

I'll just say we plan to work together for several years.

What about the big personalities in the Disney constellation?

I know [Disney-based producer] Jerry Bruckheimer and I know [DreamWorks'] Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider. I’ve met John Lasseter, but I don’t really know him. I do not know the Marvel people. These people have proven themselves to be accomplished and brilliant artists.

Some of them -- say, Ike Perlmutter at Marvel -- are said to be a handful.

My word to describe these people is they’re great talents and they’ve every right to have a lot to say about what they do. I will benefit from their good work.

You already have some big-ticket movies in the Disney pipeline, like The Lone Ranger.

There is a lot in the pipeline. I’ll have to acquaint myself with that and be as helpful as I can.

Last time there was regime change at Disney, there were a lot of firings and cuts. What’s your approach going to be?

When I went to Warner, I went by myself. I have a philosophy: I assume that everybody’s terrific. And that’s my belief coming in. I have to get to know them.