Pixar

Disney animation and Pixar chief John Lasseter takes leave of absence after sexual harassment claims

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 6:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 3:11pm

Just days before Pixar’s “Coco” is set to hit theatres, Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter announced he is taking a six-month leave of absence citing “missteps” with employees.

The boisterous, Hawaiian shirt-wearing personality behind some of the most beloved children’s films of the past 30 years like “Toy Story” is the latest entertainment titan to be exposed for claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace, including a reported “unwanted advance” toward actress and writer Rashida Jones, who had been working on the script for “Toy Story 4.”

In a vaguely-worded memo on Tuesday, Lasseter said he knows he has made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable.

“I deeply apologise if I have let you down. I especially want to apologise 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,” Lasseter wrote. “No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”

A Disney official said the company is committed to maintaining a respectful work environment and fully supports Lasseter’s sabbatical. Representatives for Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lasseter, 60, is known for directing films like “Toy Story,” ‘’Toy Story 2,” ‘’A Bug’s Life” and “Cars,” and has produced every Pixar feature since 2001’s “Monster’s, Inc.” He has been the chief creative officer for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2006, when Disney bought Pixar, and has overseen the recent Disney Animation renaissance with hits like “Frozen” and “Moana.”

A report in the entertainment trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, citing unnamed sources, details a culture in which Lasseter was known to hug, kiss and grope female employees.

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His well-documented hugs were at one time apparently publicly regarded as a quirk of employment under Lasseter. The Wall Street Journal had even cheekily detailed his proclivity for hugs in a 2011 story and photo spread subtitled “A Sampling from among the 48 hugs administered by Pixar chief John Lasseter during the WSJ’s day-long adventure with him.”

Lasseter said he will use the sabbatical to take better care of himself, recharge and “ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.” He told employees he looks forward to working together again in the new year.