November 22, 2017 5:31 pm

John Lasseter takes leave from Disney, Pixar after harassment allegations

John Lasseter attends the premiere of "Coco" at El Capitan Theatre on November 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, has announced that he will take a formal leave of absence from his position.

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In an internal memo addressed to Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disneytoon Studios staff members on Tuesday, Lasseter revealed his intention to take a six-month sabbatical from Disney and Pixar, adding an apology “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 also wrote that he was going “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.”

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The executive 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.”

A Disney spokesperson released a statement supporting Lasseter’s decision to take a leave of absence.  “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.”

Soon after Lasseter’s memo went public, The Hollywood Reporter published allegations of misconduct against the Pixar co-founder.

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THR reported that they spoke to multiple sources at Pixar and in the animation community about Lasseter’s alleged behaviour but they asked not to be named out of fear that their career in the animation industry would be damaged.

One longtime Pixar employee said Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for allegedly “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.”

The sources alleged that many women at Pixar knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering Lasseter to avoid his kisses. Some say they used a move they called “the Lasseter” to prevent him from putting his hands on their legs.

Multiple sources alleged that Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties, but the source said the behaviour was not always confined to such settings.

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The same report said that Rashida Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack exited their roles on Toy Story 4 because of alleged sexual harassment by Lasseter.

Jones and McCormack are refuting the report by THR. In a statement to the New York Times, Jones and McCormack instead cited “philosophical differences” and Pixar’s treatment of female and minority employees.

“The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible,” Jones and McCormack’s statement began.

“We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue,” they said. “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 colour do not have an equal creative voice.”

Jones and McCormack called on 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.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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