Disney and Pixar animation chief John Lasseter is taking a six-month leave of absence following “a number of difficult conversations” about how he has made colleagues “feel disrespected or uncomfortable.” The Hollywood Reporter reports that Lasseter, well-known for dispensing hugs to his employees and collaborators, is also notorious for “grabbing” and “kissing” female coworkers, according to several unnamed sources at Pixar.
The Toy Story director’s memo to co-workers (first published in The Hollywood Reporter and confirmed by Disney) was vague on details, but indicated that he had dispensed unwanted hugs and other gestures that crossed acceptable boundaries.
Lasseter is widely credited as the creative genius behind a series of hits for Pixar and the Walt Disney Animation Studios, overseeing movies with domestic box office revenues of more than $6 billion. The text of Lasseter’s Nov. 21 memo to staff is below:
From: John Lasseter
Sent: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 11:58 AM
Subject: To My Pixar, WDAS and DTS Family
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.
A spokesperson for Disney told Quartz that the company is “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.”