As president of Walt Disney Studios, Alan Horn has overseen a remarkable period of box office success, releasing blockbusters including Marvel superhero films, Pixar Gems and the latest entries in the “Star Wars” saga.
Yet Horn was often loath to take credit for the company’s success and sometimes downplayed his role. With a note of humility, he described himself as “just a janitor with a reel of keys” in a 2014 New York Times interview.
Now Horn – who has led a portfolio of studios including Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Disney’s live-action animation and animation operations – is set to officially hand over those keys.
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The executive, considered one of Hollywood’s oldest statesmen at 78, will retire at the end of this year, ending a career that has spanned nearly five decades.
“It has been my great privilege and pleasure to be able to spend the past 50 years helping creatives tell stories that dull, entertain and connect audiences around the world – and a dream come true to have the chance to do so at Disney. , no less, ”Horn said in a statement Monday.
Horn’s retirement comes as no real surprise and completes a long, ongoing transfer of power to Disney film director Alan Bergman, who took over as the studio’s sole chairman last year. The move came after Disney appointed Horn and Bergman co-chairs in May 2019, paving the way for a possible transition.
Disney has no plans to name a replacement for Horn, whose current title is Creative Director of Disney Studios Content.
Horn’s exit comes amid a broader change of guard at the Burbank-based entertainment colossus, which is undergoing an accelerated transformation to focus on expanding streaming businesses, including Disney + and Hulu.
Executive Chairman Bob Iger, who served as CEO of Disney for 15 years, leaves the company at the end of the year after handing over the CEO’s reins to Bob Chapek in February 2020. The longtime head of public relations Zenia Mucha and the general are also about to come out. adviser Alan Braverman. Other notable departures include Searchlight Pictures presidents Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley.
“It has truly been a privilege to work with Alan over the years,” Chapek said in a statement. “He has led an exceptionally talented studio team that are the best in the business, creating some of the most beloved and iconic films of our time, and he will forever be a cherished member of our Disney family.”
When Horn joined Disney in 2012, it was seen as a career comeback in the third act. His hiring by Iger came after Horn was forced to retire from Warner Bros., where he was president and chief operating officer under Barry Meyer. He has overseen glowing Hollywood offerings including the Harry Potter films and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, as well as hits like “Happy Feet” and “Oceans 11”.
But he was kicked out at age 68 at a time when parent company Time Warner Inc. wanted a new perspective at the studio. Horn has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the timing of its release.
“As I like to say, and I say it with a smile, they wanted a younger and arguably more beautiful leadership,” he told The Times after his ouster.
Iger hired Horn to run the studio at a time when the company needed its own revival and renewed stability following the ouster of Rich Ross. In recent years, Disney had lost some of its luster after flops, including “John Carter” and “Mars Needs Moms”. When Horn joined him, Disney was in production on “The Lone Ranger,” which is said to be famous for its bombshell.
Disney was a natural fit for Horn, who had turned to family entertainment franchises at Warner Bros., rather than R-rated comedies such as the “Hangover” series.
During Horn’s reign under Iger, the Disney studio enjoyed a period of unusually consistent box office success in an industry known for its volatility, and at a time when several big rivals struggled to cope with dramatic changes in audience behavior.
Unlike other studios that always included low budget horror movies and R-rated comedies in their lineups, Horn’s release schedule was almost exclusively high-profile, big-budget films with a wide demographic appeal. . The studio dominated the box office in terms of domestic market share.
At both Disney and Warner Bros., Horn has been instrumental in the evolution of the film industry towards the international box office and so-called ‘tent-pole’ films designed to become major global events – a strategy that made the envy of Disney. other studios in recent years.
At Disney, Horn’s job was more complicated than just running a big studio. He’s been tasked with managing executives of successful and independent subsidiaries, including John Lasseter of Pixar and Disney Animation (who left in 2019 amid a sexual harassment scandal), Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios and Kathleen Kennedy of Lucasfilm.
He had to find a balance between providing leadership without micromanaging his direct reports. The job of managing the studios became even more important in 2019, when Disney completed its $ 71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, including film studio 20th Century Fox and specialty film label Fox Searchlight. (now 20th Century Pictures and Searchlight Pictures). Disney’s decision to have Horn and Bergman share the role of co-chair, in part, reflected the studio’s expansion.
Horn is known for its old-fashioned values, which align with the family brand of Disney. He’s known for wanting films to minimize violence against women and avoid gratuitous sex, obscene language, and smoking. He told The Times in an interview in 2000 that he probably wouldn’t have given the green light to “Natural Born Killers,” the Oliver Stone movie that Warner Bros. came out before Horn’s tenure.
An environmental advocate, he co-founded the Environmental Media Assn. with his wife, Cindy, and was a long-time member of the board of directors of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which he chaired from 2018 to 2020. At Warner Bros., Horn once resented a detail in a script he read in which a character drove a Hummer. He encouraged a production manager to find another car.
“I said, ‘We don’t need to change it for a Prius. Let him drive a Porsche, ”Horn told The Times in 2003.“ There are a lot of other cool cars out there that could make a statement that befits the movie. “
Air Force veteran and Harvard MBA, Horn’s rise began when a friend introduced him to Hollywood heavyweight Jerry Perenchio, who gave him his first job in the entertainment industry at Tandem Productions, co -Founded by “All In the Family” creator Norman Lear, eventually becoming President and CEO of Lear and Perenchio’s Embassy Communications.
He then briefly joined the ranks of Hollywood Studios at 20th Century Fox as President and Chief Operating Officer. But his career accelerated in 1987 when he teamed up with Rob Reiner and other executives to found Castle Rock Entertainment, which produced films such as “When Harry Met Sally” and the television comedy “Seinfeld. “.