John Lasseter — one of the central founders of Pixar and Disney Animation — is stepping away from the company after acknowledging a series of detailed allegations of sexual misconduct filed against him.
The news broke on Nov. 21 by The Hollywood Reporter, which stated that multiple sources at Pixar had witnessed Lasseter’s inappropriate behavior. One anonymous employee said he was known for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” The Hollywood Reporter is also reporting that Lasseter was well known for drinking heavily at events such as premieres and office parties.
Other reports of Lasseter's behavior include co-workers saying “You’d hug him and he’d whisper in your ear, a long time. He hugged and hugged and everyone’s looking at you. Just invading the space” and “She was bent over and [had her arm] across her thigh. The best I can describe it is a defensive posture […] John had his hand on her knee, though, moving around,” via The Hollywood Reporter.
Since the report, Lasseter has issued a statement saying that he will be stepping down from Pixar and Disney for six months.
“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,” he said. “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.”
He went on: “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.”
John Lasseter has worked with Disney ever since Pixar’s inception in 1995 with Toy Story. He’s been involved with nearly every Disney animated project ever since — whether directing, writing or producing — and is also responsible for reviving Walt Disney Animation in 2006, which went on to make Tangled, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, etc. He has won two Oscars over the course of his career.
“We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work,” Disney said in a statement. “We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”
Other employees, however, haven’t been satisfied with the work environment Disney and Pixar have created for some time now. Rashida Jones and Will McCormack have recently departed the upcoming Toy Story 4 following the news of John Lasseter.
“We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances,” Jones and McCormack told The New York Times. “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.”
Lasseter is just one of many Hollywood figures who has recently been outed for sexual misconduct; others including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Brett Ratner. While Lasseter is taking time off, Pixar is still set to release Coco on Nov. 22 and The Incredibles 2 in 2018.
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