A shadow has fallen over Pixar.
On the eve of one of Disney/Pixar’s biggest family films of the year, John Lasseter has been accused of sexual misconduct. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lasseter has a history of unwanted sexual advances including “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about sexual attributes.” Rashida Jones was a writer on Toy Story 4 until the advances made working with Pixar difficult. She left the project early with her writing partner Will McCormack. At the time it was officially deemed a departure over “creative differences.”
Apparently, this isn’t an isolated innocent. Insiders at Pixar note that Lasseter has a history of being too friendly with his employees. He would greet employees and others in the entertainment community with a hug, but for some, he got too physical. Multiple sources also noted that Lasseter would drink heavily at social events that would lead to some of this behavior, but that was not the only time he would act out.
Before the story was set to be published, Hollywood Reporter received a statement that Lasseter has sent out to his employees regarding his behavior. Here are some excerpts:
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.
…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.
There is no denying the influence John Lasseter has over everything Pixar does. It was his original direction behind Toy Story that launched the company to the level they are today. He has had input in every project that has come out of the studio, including the upcoming film Coco, that launches this very weekend. He took charge of Walt Disney Animation in 2006 and was highly involved in the success of such mega-hits like Frozen and Inside Out. He is also a close friend of Hayao Miyazaki and spearheaded the American interest in many Studio Ghibli films. He is a titan of the animation industry. Lasseter has said he will take a six-month leave from his company, but no word yet from Disney regarding this sensitive issue.