Disney Animation head John Lasseter announced today that he is taking a six-month sabbatical from Pixar Studios as a result of "painful" and "difficult" conversations that he has had with Disney about actions he describes as "missteps."
In a statement that has been obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, John Lasseter says that it has been brought to his attention that he has "made some of you feel disrespected and uncomfortable." While he says that it was never his intention, Lasseter acknowledges that his actions around co-workers -- from "an unwanted hug" to "any other gesture they felt crossed the line" -- has created a rift in the creative culture at Pixar.
This announcement appears to arrive on the heels of a separate story at THR, where the trade reports that Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, the credited writers on Toy Story 4, left after Lasseter made an unwanted advance on Jones. The trade publication cites accounts by former Pixar insiders to say that Lasseter's alleged advance on Jones was not an isolated event. There are details in the THR piece about maneuvers Pixar employees would adopt to block unwanted physical advances from Lasseter.
John Lasseter's name has been associated with Pixar Animation Studios from the earliest days. He has been front and center as the animation studio rose from pioneering storytelling outfit -- with the release of Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Monsters Inc. -- to an industry behemoth with the ability to earn Oscars and box-office receipts with each new release.
Lasseter's name, however, now is caught up in the current string of allegations being levied at power brokers in Hollywood who might have a reputation for being aggressive with female co-workers and possible collaborators. The floodgate of accusations started around the time that Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual allegations. Since then, the list of potential aggravators has grown longer with each passing day.
Here is the memo John Lasseter sent to Pixar employees, as obtained by The Hollywood Reporter:
In 2007, John Lasseter shifted away from Pixar Animation Studios to oversee the films at Walt Disney Animation Studios, helping that division deliver such hits as Bolt, Tangled and Frozen. Pixar, meanwhile, has a new movie reaching theaters this weekend in Coco, a musical from Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich.
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