Hollywood's sexual predator class is falling like dominos.
The latest casualty in the sexual harassment blowback appears to be Disney Animation head John Lasseter, who according to the Hollywood Reporter is taking a leave of absence from Pixar after acknowledging "painful" conversations & "missteps," he disclosed in a memo to staff Tuesday.
Lasseter is best known as one of the founders of Pixar, which began as a part of the graphics group at LucasFilm. Along with Ed Catmull, he popularized CGI in animation with early films like Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Monster's Inc. In 2006, after Disney purchased Pixar, Lasseter was named the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. He has since become the face of all Disney animation, overseeing the recent resurgence of the studio's namesake brand with properties like Frozen and Moana.
According to THR, and based on the accounts of former Pixar insiders as well as sources in the animation community, Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Multiple sources say Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties but this source says the behavior was not always confined to such settings.
Sources say some women at Pixar knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering him to avoid his kisses. Some used a move they called “the Lasseter” to prevent their boss from putting his hands on their legs. A longtime insider says he saw a woman seated next to Lasseter in a meeting that occurred more than 15 years ago.
“She was bent over and [had her arm] across her thigh,” he says. “The best I can describe it is as a defensive posture ... John had his hand on her knee, though, moving around.” After that encounter, this person asked the woman about what he had seen. “She said it was unfortunate for her to wear a skirt that day and if she didn’t have her hand on her own right leg, his hand would have travelled.”
Taking a page out of Donald Jr's playbook, Lasseter's statement was published as THR said it was preparing a story detailing alleged misconduct by the executive at Disney/Pixar.
The full memo from Lasseter - who clearly used the celebrity perv random apology generator generously in the past day - to employees is 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.