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John Lasseter, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer, Accused of Misconduct

Lasseter is taking a leave of absence from the company following reports from insiders that he has behaved inappropriately towards female employees.

John Lasseter poses for photographers upon arrival for the screening of the film Inside Out at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern FranceInside Out Red Carpet, Cannes, France - 18 May 2015

John Lasseter at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015.

Rya/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

John Lasseter has been accused of misconduct by insiders at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. In an article published by The Hollywood Reporter, insiders say Lasseter has been known to make unwanted advances on female employees. Rashida Jones, who co-wrote “Toy Story 4,” reportedly left the project early after Lasseter made an unwanted advance.

One longtime Pixar employee told THR that Lasseter has been known for “grabbing, kissing, [and] making comments about physical attributes” to female employees. Another insider says women working at Pixar “knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering him to avoid his kisses.” One woman shared a story that took place 15 years ago in which Lasseter made an inappropriate physical advance on another employee.

“She was bent over and [had her arm] across her thigh,” he says. “The best I can describe it is as a defensive posture…John had his hand on her knee, though, moving around. She said it was unfortunate for her to wear a skirt that day and if she didn’t have her hand on her own right leg, his hand would have travelled.”

“You’d hug him and he’d whisper in your ear, a long time,” another source said of Lasseter, who was known to give hugs during meetings. “He hugged and hugged and everyone’s looking at you. Just invading the space.”

In the wake of the story’s publication, Lasseter sent a memo to Pixar staff announcing he would be taking a leave from his position as Chief Creative Officer of Pixar, citing “painful” conversations and unspecified “missteps” that have taken place. His official statement reads as follows:

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.

A Disney representative issued the following statement to IndieWire: “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.”

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