Pixar’s John Lasseter Takes A Leave Of Absence Due To Allegations Of Harassment

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John Lasseter has been with Pixar from the beginning, and has been the creative mind and driving force behind Toy Story and ultimately much of Disney’s current success with feature animation. But it appears Lasseter will be leaving Pixar, if only temporarily, after releasing a statement that vaguely mentions “missteps.”

The Hollywood Reporter received a copy of Lasseter’s statement to Pixar’s employees, which seems to imply Lasseter is taking a leave of absence over inappropriate behavior in the workplace:

“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.”

A separate article from the Hollywood Reporter discusses the “missteps” in more detail, including the fact that Rashida Jones and her writing partner — the credited writers of the upcoming Toy Story 4 — allegedly left the project due to his behavior:

Sources say some women at Pixar knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering him to avoid his kisses. Some used a move they called “the Lasseter” to prevent their boss from putting his hands on their legs. A longtime insider says he saw a woman seated next to Lasseter in a meeting that occurred more than 15 years ago. “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.”

Lasseter will be stepping away for six months, and likely the time will be used to evaluate his role going forward. Lasseter is widely seen as the “genius” behind Pixar and is fundamental to the company’s animation strategy; his name is on every Disney animated film either as producer or executive producer. Where, precisely, Disney will go from here is an open question, but it’s one the company will likely need to confront.

(via the Hollywood Reporter)