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John Lasseter Taking Six-Month Leave from Pixar Amid Harassment Allegations

Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios acknowledges ‘missteps’ and that he possibly made coworkers feel ‘disrespected or uncomfortable.’

Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang from the 1995 Oscar-winning CG-animated feature, ‘Toy Story.’

John Lasseter, current Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios, has announced a six-month leave of absence amid allegations of harassment and misconduct, according to multiple reports.

In a memo sent to staff on Tuesday, the two-time Oscar-winning director and Pixar co-founder acknowledged “missteps” and that he possibly made coworkers feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.” Lasseter’s full statement, available via The Hollywood Reporter, is shown below:

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.

The shocking news of Lasseter’s leave of absence was swiftly followed by allegations of sexual misconduct involving the filmmaker, including “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” A follow-up article from THR claims that Rashida Jones -- who is still credited as a writer on the forthcoming Toy Story 4 -- and her writing partner, Will McCormack, left the project early in development after Lasseter made an “unwanted advance” towards her.

The article also details how employees at Pixar Animation Studios have long been aware of Lasseter’s behavior, with numerous stories of groping:

“Sources say some women at Pixar knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering him to avoid his kisses. Some used a move they called ‘the Lasseter’ to prevent their boss from putting his hands on their legs.”

Originally hired as an animator as Disney -- a position he was fired from for promoting CG animation internally -- Lasseter is best known as a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, which first began as a part of the graphics group at Lucasfilm. Along with Ed Catmull, Lasseter popularized CG animation with early films like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Monsters Inc. Following Disney’s purchase of Pixar, in 2006, Lasseter was named the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He was also the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. Since then he has served as the face of all things Disney Animation, overseeing recent properties including Frozen and Moana, in addition to the forthcoming Coco.

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.