may have just outed another celebrated person for inappropriate sexual behavior: John Lasseter, the award-winning Disney animator, Pixar co-founder, director and executive producer behind many of Walt Disney’s most successful modern films.
Lasseter reportedly emailed employees today to say he’s taking a six-month leave of absence from his post as chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, after making “missteps” and having “painful” conversations, according to a leaked memo obtained Tuesday by The Hollywood Reporter.
“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,” Lasseter wrote.
We haven’t independently confirmed the memo’s origin, and it’s not clear what, exactly, Lasseter is talking about when he suggests in vague terms he may have let his company down.
But minutes later, The Hollywood Reporter published a separate story alleging that actress Rashida Jones, who co-wrote “Toy Story 4,” is among women who received unwanted sexual advances from Lasseter. That’s according to anonymous Pixar employees who spoke to the publication.
“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,” reads a portion of The Hollywood Reporter’s story.
Representatives for Lasseter didn’t respond to a request for comment. Disney also didn’t respond to a request for comment, but confirmed Lasseter’s leave of absence in a statement to The New York Times and Associated Press.
Lasseter’s memo suggests he intends to return to work after his leave of absence: “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.”
Here’s Lasseter’s official Disney bio. Among many other notable accomplishments and a long string of producer credits, Lasseter won an Oscar for “Toy Story” and served as executive producer for “Frozen” and “Moana.”
Update, 6:52 p.m. PT: In a statement, Rashida Jones and “Toy Story 4” co-writer Will McCormack say they parted ways with Pixar due to creative differences, not unwanted sexual advances. The statement doesn’t explicitly say that an unwanted sexual advance didn’t occur, though. We’re attempting to clarify now.
Here’s the full statement:
We feel like we have been put in a position where we need to speak for ourselves. The break neck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible and, in fact, counterproductive for the people who do want to tell their stories. In this instance, The Hollywood Reporter does not speak for us. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. 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.
There is so much talent at Pixar and we remain enormous fans of their films. But it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice, as is demonstrated by their director demographics: out of the 20 films in the company’s history, only one was co-directed by a woman and only one was directed by a person of color. We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring, and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack
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