Now it’s the turn of Pixar co-founder and Disney chief creative officer John Lasseter to lose his halo. The animation legend has apparently taken a leave of absence from the company following alleged misconduct and missteps. The leave is expected to be for six months.
A number of reports appearing in the US media have Pixar employees over the years alleging that Lasseter hugged them or kissed them wantonly. In fact, many employees were petrified to come out in the open and talk about their sordid experiences with the twice Oscar winner wherein he intruded on their personal spaces or commented on their bodies. Many stated that they had got used to his moves and even found ways to avoid. Some partners, over the years, chose to discontinue working with the studio, according to media reports.
In a memo to his company staff, Lasseter stated: “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. 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.”
Disney’s response to the media on the allegations and Lasseter’s sabbatical read as follows: “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.”
The last few months have seen a spate of senior executives and talents in Hollywood fall from grace following allegations that they abused their positions and made sexual advances or indulged in questionable behavior. Among these were: Harvey Weinstein, Amazon’s Roy Price, actor Kevin Spacey, and director James Toback. Now the name of Lasseter has been added to the list of alleged sexual offenders.
Surely, the characters Walt Disney Animation or Pixar – whether Woody from Toy Story or Moana from the Disney hit Moana – created must be cringing and holding their heads in shame.