Pixar chief on leave for 'missteps'

AP
Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter said he is taking a six-month leave of absence, citing "missteps" with employees.
AP

Just days before Pixar’s “Coco” is set to hit theaters, Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter said he is taking a six-month leave of absence, citing “missteps” with employees.

The boisterous, Hawaiian shirt-wearing personality behind some of the most beloved children’s films of the past 30 years such as “Toy Story” is the latest entertainment titan to be exposed by claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

In a vaguely-worded memo, Lasseter said he knew he had made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable.

“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,” he wrote. “No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”

The Hollywood Reporter published a story that said “unwanted advance” toward actress and writer Rashida Jones led to her departure from Pixar, where she had been working on the script for “Toy Story 4.”

Jones said the allegation in the Reporter story was untrue.

“We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances,” Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack wrote in a joint statement. “That said, we are happy to see people speaking out about behavior that made them uncomfortable. As for us, we parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.”

Disney said it was committed to maintaining a respectful work environment and supported Lasseter’s sabbatical.

Lasseter, 60, is known for directing films such as “A Bug’s Life” and “Cars,” and has produced every Pixar feature since 2001’s “Monster’s, Inc.” He has been the chief creative officer for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar. 

The Reporter story, citing unnamed sources, details a culture in which Lasseter was known to hug, kiss and grope female employees. His well-documented hugs were at one time apparently publicly regarded as a quirk of employment under Lasseter. The Wall Street Journal had even detailed his proclivity for hugs in a 2011 story and photo spread.

Lasseter said he would use his sabbatical to recharge and “ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.” He told employees he was looking forward to working with them again in the new year.


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