John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animations Studios, is taking a six-month leave of absence from the company after allegations that he made several unwanted advances toward his female co-workers.
The news was reported by The Hollywood Reporter, who obtained a note Lasseter sent Disney employees internally. The statement, published below, describes unnamed “missteps,” but a second report, published minutes later, specifically details several incredibly inappropriate actions.
Here’s Lasseter’s statement:
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 second article surmises that actress Rashida Jones, a writer on Toy Story 4, left the project because of Lasseter’s unwanted advances. (Though the actress denies this, read her statement below) Other sources tell the trade that many women at Disney were aware of his actions and well-versed in blocking them before they happened. You can read more of the upsetting details here.
Lasseter is one of the co-founders of Pixar and has been a major driving force in Disney’s animation resurgence in the past decade. He and his team have been responsible for everything from Toy Story through Moanaand even Coco, which opens tomorrow.
When asked for comment, a Disney spokesperson said the following:
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.
Rashida Jones and writing partner Will McCormack issued the following statement to the New York Times saying John Lasseter was not the reason they left Toy Story 4.
Rashida Jones says she did not leave Pixar due to unwanted advances from Lasseter. Rather, she says in statement (below) to the NYT, her exit was about a workplace where women and people of color were not valued. pic.twitter.com/ANkmKgsS9z
— Brooks Barnes (@brooksbarnesNYT) November 22, 2017