John Lasseter takes leave of absence at Pixar due to sexual assault allegations

Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar

Trouble is brewing in Pixar, and it involves Pixar and Walt Disney Animation head John Lasseter, known for directing Toy Story and Cars. Lasseter sent a memo to employees about his leave of absence due to “unwanted hugs,” which was obtained by THR. He describes his actions as “missteps” and that his leave will be for 6 months.

According to THR’s source, Rashida Jones, who is attached as the writer for Toy Story 4, left the project early due to an unwanted advance. In addition, her writing partner, Will McCormack, also left. However, a studio source said they left due to “creative differences.”

A longtime Pixar employee has said that Lasseter is known for hugging, but his actions also include “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Multiple sources have told THR about his actions, and they wished to remain anonymous since they’re afraid that their career might be jeopardized in the animation community.

Sources have said that some women have created a move called “the Lasseter,” which prevents Lasseter from putting his hands on their legs, and others have learned to avoid him completely in order to dodge his kisses.

One mentioned an incident that happened 15 years ago with a female employee and Lasseter:

“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.” The person then went up to the woman to ask about the incident. “She said it was unfortunate for her to wear a skirt that day and if she didn’t have her hand on her own right leg, his hand would have traveled.”

The same source also talked about a weirdly cropped photo featuring Lasseter standing in the middle of two women at a company event. He was told by a colleague, “We had to crop it. Do you know where his hands were?”

As for Lasseter’s statement about “unwanted hugs,” a former Pixar employee said that the memo is “ridiculous” and “trivializing this behavior.” The employee continued, “To sum this up as unwanted hugs is belittling and demeaning. If it was just unwanted hugs, he wouldn’t be stepping down.”

Check out Lasseter’s full memo to his employees below:

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

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John 'Spartan' Nguyen
John 'Spartan' Nguyen 9085 posts

Assassin, scoundrel, editor-in-chief.