Alan Horn Talks Mary Poppins, Disney+, and Fox Deal with THR

Walt Disney Studios Chairman, Alan Horn has been with Disney since 2012 and, in that time, has overseen the release of some of the company’s biggest and most successful films. With the 21st Century Fox acquisition nearing completion, many parts of both companies will be impacted. The Hollywood Reporter recently profiled the executive and discussed the future of films at Disney.

What’s happening:

  • The Hollywood Reporter sat down with Walt Disney Studios head, Alan Horn to discuss upcoming Disney projects, the Fox merger, and more.
  • As the head of Walt Disney Studios, Horn is/will be responsible for:
    • 20th Century Fox's film units
    • Pixar
    • Lucasfilm
    • Marvel Studios
    • Disney Animation Studios
    • Disney's live-action studios
  • During the interview, Horn talked about everything from the future of Mary Poppins and Star Wars, to The Lion King, and even the Oscars.
  • Perhaps the most interesting news to come from this discussion was that Disney doesn’t currently have plans to further the Mary Poppins franchise, and Horn gives no reasons as to why.

Key quotes from Alan Horn:

  • His motto for greenlighting films: "Do I have to see it now, and do I have to see it on the big screen?"
  • Regarding a sequel to the charming Mary Poppins Returns: “We have nothing in the works.”
  • On Star Wars: Episode IX:
  • “I went to the set, and was with J.J. [Abrams], Kathy and the cast. I watched a couple of scenes being shot and then we all had dinner. I have not seen a cut of it yet, but I watch dailies every weekend and send J.J. and Kathy a note every weekend. It's a big deal, and it's going to be terrific.”
  • Regarding what the next Star Wars film will be: “It's all in discussion.”
  • The Lion King: “Bring a handkerchief. It's so emotional. But it's a remake of an animated film, so there must be some percentage of the audience who will say, ‘Well, I saw the first picture.’ All I can say for sure is you cannot tell these animals aren't real.”
  • On his reaction to the Fox merger: “Bob [Iger] has managed to top even himself. To take over a major motion picture studio with a storied history and a hundred years of history is a very bold move. And the second reaction was, ‘OK, how do we assimilate this into one company and have it function productively, and how do we actually make this work in practice going forward?’”
  • THR asked if he’d answered that question. Horn says: “No. Because of the gun-jumping rules, we're not even allowed to provide what Alan Braverman, our general counsel, refers to as ‘actionable direction’ [until the acquisition is finalized]. We're being very, very careful. But obviously I see their movies.”
  • Future of edgier and R-rated films: “With Fox, we can make movies that right now I say no to. Take Bohemian Rhapsody, which is PG-13. It's a hit movie and very, very good. But there's no way we could make it under the Disney label because the characters smoke cigarettes and other content. Nor could we have made [Warner Bros.' R-rated] Oscar-winning Argo because the characters smoke and use the F-word. We always have to think about the smoking policy. The audience for a Disney movie may not know what they are going to see, but they know what they aren't going to see. There are certain things we just can't include because we'll get letters.”

  • Regarding the upcoming Disney+ streaming service: “The service will accommodate both film and television product, so each of the entities that is under my umbrella is charged with the challenge or responsibility of coming up with programming that can go directly to the service. I say to Sean Bailey, ‘I have good news. You can now make a McFarland, U.S.A. again.’ That was an example of a wonderful movie that lost money. But this is the perfect vehicle for that kind of movie.”
  • On The Mandalorian: “Kathy Kennedy and Lucasfilm came up with the idea — it wasn't mine — of an episodic Star Wars series called The Mandalorian, done by Jon Favreau.”
  • More Disney+: “Bob has said the service is now his No. 1 priority. Netflix and companies like Amazon represent the great disruption in our business and a seismic shift in consumer offerings and viewing patterns. The interesting thing, which is not resolved yet, is how big is the consumer appetite for these incremental services? I like our chances.”
  • Adjusting to John Lasseter's exit: “I'm incredibly proud of the way our animation studios have handled the transition, and that is due to the passionate, dedicated people who call these studios home and the leadership of Pete Docter and Jim Morris at Pixar and Jennifer Lee and Andrew Millstein at Disney Animation. We have a deep bench.”
  • On managing audience expectations: “It's always a challenge because — and I say this with love and respect for media — the thing about these big movies is they get a lot of attention, whether positive or negative. So when they don't work, like Solo, the media says it's a failure. I think it was a pretty good movie. It didn't resonate as much as we'd hoped it would, but the press writes it up in a more negative way than I would. These are very high-profile movies. If Aladdin, which I happen to think is a terrific film, doesn't work somehow, that's big news and much bigger news than if a movie somewhere else, like The Kid Who Would Be King [at Fox,] doesn't work.”
  • On the Oscar race: “I think Black Panther was included despite the fact that it was a blockbuster. I'm eager to see the audience respond to the [Oscar] show, which is, among other things, directly proportional to the audience that has actually seen the movies. Why should they turn on the telecast with bated breath when they don't have an investment in the movies?”

All photos by Gizelle Hernandez unless noted.