John Lasseter, co-founder of Pixar and chief creative officer for Disney Animation, has announced he will take a six-month leave of absence after alleged claims of misconduct and inappropriate behaviour to employees by The Hollywood Reporter. In a letter to staff at Pixar yesterday (Tuesday 21 November) Lasseter said “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.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s expose cites multiple unnamed sources at the animation studios and across the wider community, alleging Lasseter was “known for grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes”. One source claims Lasseter had his hand “moving around” on a woman’s knee during a meeting; another remembers “awkward encounters” with him, stating “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.” Another claims his behaviour was so widely known that some employees used a move coined “the Lasseter” to prevent him touching their legs.
Lasseter was instrumental in bringing CGI to feature animation films. He directed Pixar classics including Toy Story and its sequel, and A Bug’s Life, and is also behind Disney hits including Frozen. His statement continues: “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.”
Disney has released a statement, saying: “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.” Pixar is releasing its latest film Coco today (22 November).
Last month, 217 women and gender non-conforming people working in animation sent an open letter to executives at major animation studios including Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and DreamWorks Animation demanding an end to sexism and harassment of a sexual nature in the industry.
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