Disney Animation boss John Lasseter, one of the creators of the hugely successful Toy Story franchise, is taking a leave of absence from his role with Pixar.
Lasseter is taking leave after acknowledging several “painful” discussions and some serious “missteps” on his part, following allegations of misconduct.
The decision came after The Hollywood Reporter published a story detailing accusations of Lasseter’s apparent pattern of misconduct within the company. A longtime Pixar employee told THR that Lasseter was known for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.”
The report also claimed Lasseter made an unwanted advance towards Rashida Jones, who had been due to write Toy Story 4 but has since departed the project. Jones has since issued a statement to stress that the claims related to her are “untrue” though.
“We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences,” a statement from Jones and writing partner Will McCormack said. Despite these denials, several sources did speak out to THR, while asking not to be named out of fear it would damage their career.
On insider told THR of an incident where Lasseter touched her thigh during a meeting some 15 years ago. Another recalled having to crop a photo of Lasseter standing between two women at a company function because of “where his hands were”. He was also known for awkward encounters and a habit of hugging people for an extended amount of time and invading their personal space.
Now, Lasseter is set for a six-month leave of absence, having revealed his plans in a memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “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,” Lasseter said.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
Lasseter has won two Oscars for his work with Pixar and Disney and oversaw the recent resurgence for animated movies spearheaded by Frozen. He’s also credited as one of the brains behind the original idea for Toy Story and directed the first two critically-acclaimed movies in the franchise.