Citing unspecified “missteps,” the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter, announced today that he will be taking a six-month sabbatical. Although no details are given about what those “missteps” might be, Lasseter said in a memo to his staff that, “It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable,” adding, “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.” Pixar is set to release its latest feature film, Coco, on Thanksgiving, a film which Lasseter executive produced. You can read his full statement, which was first obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, 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.
In a statement provided to Vulture, a Disney spokesperson said, “We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”
Shortly after the the news of Lasseter’s leave of absence broke, THR published another story in which sources told the publication that Rashida Jones, who is credited as a writer on Toy Story 4, reportedly left the project early because Lasseter made “an unwanted advance.” Disney’s official reason for her departure is “creative differences,” but more sources told THR that Lasseter is reportedly known for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes,” and that some women within Pixar allegedly “knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering him to avoid his kisses.” Additionally, “some used a move they called ‘the Lasseter’ to prevent their boss from putting his hands on their legs.”