Next year’s Hollywood award season is going to be hilariously uncomfortable for a lot of folks, as more and more allegations come out against the most powerful men in film.
The latest scandal involves John Lasseter, the (soon to be former) head of animation at Disney, and co-founder of Pixar.
In wake of a damning story being published, Lasseter told his staff that he would be taking a leave of absence to reflect on his “missteps”, as “painful” as they may be.
While he never specifies on exactly what those missteps were, there are reports that Lasseter has made several unwanted advances on his colleagues. The Hollywood Reporter claims that Rashida Jones “left the project [Toy Story 4] early on after John Lasseter, the acclaimed head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, made an unwanted advance.”
While Jones later stated that she left due to “creative differences”, there were many others willing to speak up about the behavior of one of the industry’s biggest players.
Unnamed sources told THR that Lasseter is known for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes,” in Hollywood circles. Others said that Lasseter’s fondness for alcohol was apparent, especially during movie premieres, but his behavior was not limited to those settings.
Over the years, Lasseter has been a cash cow for Disney. In 2006, after Disney had acquired Pixar, Lasseter was named CEO of both companies’ animation studios. Since then, his films have made over $6 billion, and his name has been in the credits of practically every Disney animated film since then.
Obviously, nobody at Disney wants any of the allegations to be true, but if they are meritless, why take a leave?
Here is his full memo:
“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. John”
Since the memo was released, fellow employees have voiced their own concerns. Sources have said they were insulted at the tone of the memo, and how Lasseter is making light of his misbehavior. “To sum this up as unwanted hugs is belittling and demeaning,” one source said. “If it was just unwanted hugs, he wouldn’t be stepping down.”
The Frozen producer is said to be taking a six month “sabbatical”, according to Disney, and the company is showing support for their six-billion dollar man.