A Disney hero is in a heap of trouble. The beloved creative head of the Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter, has taken a sudden leave of absence under a cloud of suspicion for unwanted touching. The Hollywood Reporter claims that Lasseter was known for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” He is also a known heavy drinker who occasionally does inappropriate things when under the influence. Though, these allegations do not appear to be exclusive to his drinking problems.
Here is the memo sent to his colleagues regarding his sudden absence:
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.
None of you need to hear from us about John’s outsized role in Disney Animation’s current success. He is the godfather of PIXAR studios and a primary driver of quality in Disney’s creative divisions. But if the allegations are true, and you can be sure that Disney’s Human Resources Department is taking this very seriously, it will be difficult for him to return to the company.
It was widely expected that John was already planning his eventual retirement. He began his ascent with Toy Story, the groundbreaking computer-animated film. He was recently announced as the director of the upcoming Toy Story film which everyone expects to be the last in the series. Some also expected Lasseter to retire after the final Toy Story film, an appropriate bookend to his career. Time will tell if he’ll be afforded that opportunity.
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We encourage your comments on what you may know about this case, how the company may move forward without him, whether or not you think he should be allowed to return – however, we ask that you kindly not attack one another. Such conversations are fraught with emotion and we appreciate your help in keeping the conversation at a tone which makes this a safe place for everyone. Thank you!