With Coco gearing up to hit theaters this weekend, Pixar has announced some shocking and troubling news, as we’re learning today that co-founder John Lasseter will be taking a six-month leave of absence from the company after “difficult conversations” regarding some “missteps” he’s made over the years. Though the official statement from the filmmaker chose to omit the exact details surrounding his exit, THR now has the full story.
Lasseter, who’s directed numerous films for the studio, including Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Cars, is apparently known for “grabbing, kissing, [and] making comments about physical attributes” to his employees. He’s also said to be a heavy drinker and reportedly even made an unwanted advance on Rashida Jones back when she was working on Toy Story 4.
In a memo to the company that was released this morning to get ahead of the story before it broke, Lasseter said the following:
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.
THR has the full scoop on the situation, which you can read at the link below, but this is certainly troubling to hear. John Lasseter was a tremendous asset to Pixar and is hugely responsible for many of their biggest hits. As such, his departure is sure to come as a blow both to fans and the company as a whole.
Whether or not he’ll return after his “six-month sabbatical” remains to be seen, but if further allegations rear their head, which we imagine they will, his time at the animation giant may indeed be over.