In a statement released today, John Lasseter current Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios, and Pixar Animation Studios, has announced his leave of absence following “missteps” that possibly made co-workers feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.”
UPDATED June 8, 2018 — John Lasseter will be leaving Pixar by the end of 2018, read his official statement in our updated post.
News of Lasseter’s sudden sabbatical has already sent shockwaves throughout various social media channels with The Hollywood Reporter noting that Rashida Jones and Will McCormack may have left the Toy Story 4 project due to an unwanted advance (see update below).
In the statement, Lasseter acknowledged “difficult conversations” and shared that he be taking a “six-month sabbatical…to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve”. The Hollywood Reporter has shared John Lasseter’s full statement to his staff (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.
The Hollywood Reporter not only shared John’s letter to the studio staff, but they also included a secondary article that accounts for several other insiders (who have not been named) citing incidents of John’s behavior not being appropriate.
We will withhold our personal opinion and let the facts unfold on this matter — as details are released we will continue to report on them and shape our opinions as we have facts. This is never an easy thing to hear regarding someone as revered as Mr. Lasseter is — time will tell which direction this will go and who will align with or against him.
UPDATED November 21: Rashida Jones and Will McCormack have released a collective statement addressing reports that the duo left Pixar’s Toy Story 4 project due to an unwanted advance from John Lasseter. According to the statement, the pair noted their departure from the film was due to “creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.” Read the full statement below.
We feel like we have been put in a position where we need to speak for ourselves. The breakneck 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. 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. However, 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