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Disney's Alan Horn on the Fox merger, Star Wars & their streaming service

Star Wars, Disney, Alan Horn

Since Alan Horn became Chairman of Walt Disney Studios in 2012, the company has seen some big changes and even bigger successes, but the biggest is just over the horizon with Disney's upcoming acquisition of Fox. Horn recently spoke with THR and was asked what his reaction was when he first learned of the merger. "That Bob has managed to top even himself," Horn said. "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?'" It's going be be quite the task, melding the two companies together, but when all is said and done, Horn believes that they'll be able to make the types of movies they've long had to say no to.

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.

Even without Fox, Disney still has plenty of giant movies just over the horizon, and all the enormous expecations which come with them. "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," Horn said. "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."

One of several giant Disney movies which will hit theaters this year is STAR WARS: EPISODE IX, the conclusion to the Sequel Trilogy which kicked off the Disney-era of the STAR WARS franchise. Given that SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY under-performed at the box-office and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI proved to be more divisive than they planned, Horn was asked whether the next film will get the franchise back on track.

I just got back from the United Kingdom, which is not so united. (Laughs.) 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.

As for where the STAR WARS franchise will go following the release of STAR WARS: EPISODE IX, Horn merely said, "It's all in discussion." Of course, the J.J. Abrams film won't be the only piece of STAR WARS content which we'll be digging into as The Mandalorian TV series is set to make its debut on Disney's streaming service, Disney+. Alan Horn said that each of the entities under his umbrella have been tasked with coming up with programming, be it movies or television, which can go directly on the streaming service. "I say to Sean Bailey [Disney's President of Motion Picture Production], '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," Horn said. "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. And the people at Disney Animation and Pixar are saying, "What can we do?" Everyone wears an additional hat now. 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." Horn added that they've not looking to simply flood the service with content, but that whether something gets made for Disney+ will come down to its quality.

Source: THR

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