John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, has taken a leave of absence from Pixar due to unspecified “missteps” that made some of Pixar’s employees “feel disrespected or uncomfortable.”
In a letter to Disney staff, Lasseter noted that he’s taking a leave of absence from Pixar due to people who felt “disrespected or uncomfortable” by his actions. He writes, “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.”
An investigative piece published in The Hollywood Reporter details charges of sexual misconduct against the Disney/Pixar Chief Creative Officer, which include “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes,” and a move known as “the Lasseter.” Variety also detailed various instances of inappropriate behavior by Lasseter throughout the years in this article. Meanwhile, a more detailed story in Vanity Fair draws a more explicit picture of the top executive’s inappropriate behaviors both at the studio and work-related parties. The article also maintains that according to some at Pixar, Up and Inside Out director Pete Docter may be taking over the helm of the animation studio after Lasseter steps down.
The Hollywood Reporter piece also claimed that that actress/writer Rashida Jones and her Toy Story 4 writing partner Will McCormack left the project because Lasseter had made unwanted advances toward her. However, later on Tuesday, Jones denied the story and told The New York Times that she had only left because of “philosophical differences.” She added that she and McCormack believed that women and people of color did not have an equal creative voice at Pixar.
“We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work,” said a Disney spokesperson in a statement to Deadline. “We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”
Lasseter founded Pixar with Ed Catmull and directed Toy Story in 1995 which received a Special Achievement Oscar. He has executive produced all Pixar features since 2001’s Monsters, Inc. The studio has won eight Oscars and its films have earned more than $10 billion in global box office. He also directed A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars and Cars 2. Pixar’s latest movie Coco, will open in theaters nationwide tomorrow (Nov. 22).
Here is the full text of Lasseter’s memo to The Walt Disney Company:
“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.”