Another Hollywood bigwig takes leave of absence after being accused of sexual misconduct

Another Hollywood bigwig takes leave of absence after being accused of sexual misconduct
The chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation and a two-time Oscar winner has taken a leave of absence from his position after The Hollywood Reporter detailed several accounts of alleged sexual misconduct. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Who is it?

John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation, has taken a leave of absence from his position after The Hollywood Reporter detailed several accounts of alleged sexual misconduct, stating he had recently had “a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me.”

Lasseter, 60, is one of the founders of Pixar Animation, the studio best known for popular CGI animation movies like “Cars” and “Toy Story” and has won two Oscars.

What are the accusations against Lasseter?

According to THR, women in the industry who knew Lasseter well would turn their heads quickly upon encountering him to avoid him kissing them. Even more, some said they  coined a term, “the Lasseter,” to describe how they would avoid Lasseter putting his hand 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 traveled.”

Another source told THR that Lasseter was known for giving long, uncomfortable hugs.

“You’d hug him and he’d whisper in your ear, a long time. He hugged and hugged, and everyone’s looking at you. Just invading the space,” the source said.

Although THR reported that an insider claimed actress Rashida Jones left Pixar’s upcoming project, “Toy Story 4,” because of Lasseter’s unwanted advances, Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack disputed the allegations in a statement:

We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. 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 color do not have an equal creative voice.

What does Lasseter say?

Lasseter released a statement announcing a six-month sabbatical.

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.

John

What does Disney say?

“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,” Disney said in a statement.

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