John Lasseter takes leave of absence from Pixar in light of scandal
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pixar co-founder John Lasseter (director of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Cars), who is the chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios, is taking a six-month leave of absence from the company in light of new allegations of misconduct. The news drops with unfortunate timing, as Pixar’s newest animated offering Coco opens in theaters tonight.
According to the article, one major incident involved actress and writer Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation), who was writing the script for the upcoming Toy Story 4 with her partner Will McCormack. She reportedly left the project early on after Lasseter made an unwanted sexual advance towards her, although she and McCormack are still credited as writers on the sequel. Jones has yet to make a statement.
Lasseter’s inappropriate behavior allegedly also entailed uncomfortable long hugs with employees, “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes,” and heavy drinking at company functions.
A Disney spokesperson (via Los Angeles Times) made the following statement: “We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”
Here is Lasseter’s full memo to employees:
I have always wanted our animation studios to be places where creators can explore their vision with the support and collaboration of other gifted animators and storytellers. This kind of creative culture takes constant vigilance to maintain. It’s built on trust and respect, and it becomes fragile if any members of the team don’t feel valued. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen; and I now believe I have been falling short in this regard.
I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me. It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them. As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be. It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable. That was never my intent. Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down. I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form. No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.
In my conversations with Disney, we are united in our commitment to always treat any concerns you have with the seriousness they deserve, and to address them in an appropriate manner. We also share a desire to reinforce the vibrant, respectful culture that has been the foundation of our studios’ success since the beginning. And we agree the first step in that direction is for me to take some time away to reflect on how to move forward from here. As hard as it is for me to step away from a job I am so passionate about and a team I hold in the highest regard, not just as artists but as people, I know it’s the best thing for all of us right now. My hope is that a six-month sabbatical will give me the opportunity to start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.
I’m immensely proud of this team, and I know you will continue to wow the world in my absence. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working together again in the new year.
ComingSoon.net will keep you up to date on how this evolving situation might affect the upcoming Pixar and Disney slate of animated films.
UPDATE: Rashida Jones and Will McCormack released the following statement:
“The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences. There is so much talent at Pixar, and we remain enormous fans of their films. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.”
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)