John Lasseter, one of the founders of Pixar and the current Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios, is taking a leave of absence due to what was described in a letter to employees as unspecified "missteps," as reported Tuesday by THR.
A subsequent report from the outlet detailed an alleged history of misconduct from Lasseter, including the revelation that screenwriters Rashida Jones and Will McCormack left Toy Story 4 early in the development process due to Lasseter reportedly making an unwanted advance on Jones. Jones and McCormack did not respond to The Hollywood Reporter's request for comment on the story.
It's said in the article that the incident with Jones, also a well-known actor in film and TV, was "not an isolated occurrence," with Lasseter having a known reputation for inappropriate behavior and comments towards women, including unwelcomed kisses and touches.
Lasseter became Chief Creative Officer of Disney's feature animation studios in 2006, and the division has since seen a creative and commercial renaissance with hits ranging from Frozen and Moana. He's also directed some of Pixar's biggest hits over the years, including the first two Toy Story films, A Bug's Life and the first two Cars movies.
In his letter to employees, his leave of absence is described as a "six-month sabbatical." This news comes one day before Pixar's latest film, Coco, is released in theaters.
Below is Lasseter's full memo to employees:
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.