Disney's got a lot to tout these days, and last night at the Beverly Hills Hotel, studio chairman Alan Horn threw a party celebrating the company's successful 2012 animation slate, which includes Brave, Frankenweenie, and Wreck-It Ralph. Still, if there's one accomplishment Horn should be proudest of, it's that earth-shaking acquisition the company pulled off last month: Not only did Disney begin proceedings to buy Lucasfilm (where Kathleen Kennedy will replace George Lucas as the head of the company), but out of nowhere, the studio announced Star Wars: Episode VII for 2015. How did they manage to keep that shockaroo totally secret until the bombshell press release went out? "We threatened everybody with a blast from the Death Star!" Horn told me last night, laughing.
"But really, I think everybody was mature about it," he continued. "It's important to keep these things confidential, so people just kept their mouths shut." How many people knew about Episode VII? "Not many. It was a very small group. Probably a smaller group than knew about the attack on bin Laden!"
Rumors have been flying lately that X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn will helm Episode VII, and Horn demurred from confirming the buzz, though he set the timetable for an announcement on that front: "I would say you'll know soon. And it's got to come from Kathy Kennedy — we don't have the company yet!" Still, Horn said that fans should rest assured that Disney has the franchise's best interests at heart. "We take very seriously the obligation to make a very good movie. Kathy is a very experienced producer; George Lucas is the godfather of that franchise and very, very involved on a consulting basis, so we feel very confident."
In fact, Horn has been a huge Star Wars fan since the first installment was in theaters. "In 1977, I saw it at the Avco on Wilshire Boulevard — unlike most people here, I was probably in my early forties then," he said. "I remember racing home and thinking, What am I doing? Why am I driving a hundred miles an hour down Wilshire Boulevard? But I was so psyched by the film, so I remember it very well. Where were you? In kindergarten?"
"Not yet born," I replied.
He made a face.
I asked him what he was proudest of this year: the Lucasfilm acquisition or the big-screen career of his daughter Cody, who played Channing Tatum's love interest in Magic Mike. Horn chuckled. "I feel proudest always of my family, including my other daughter, who graduated just a few months ago from Stanford, and my wife. But I'm most proud of the fact that I've been allowed to join this fabulous company."
And why not? Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar, there's nothing left for any other studio!
"That's our plan," he laughed.