Another day, another hero revealed as a knee grabbing, kiss stealing abuser who treated women as his property to fondle as he liked.
Only this time it’s John Lasseter, the legendary head of Pixar.
That’s right, the guy who made Toy Story. The co-founder of Pixar, and as head of Disney Animation, the man who led the studio to almost unimaginable box office and critical acclaim.
As Kim Masters reports, behind the scenes Lasseter was known for continued inappropriate behavior – and Rashida Jones, who is credited on the story for Toy Story 4, allegedly left the production after unwanted advances from Lasseter.
Based on the accounts of former Pixar insiders as well as sources in the animation community, the alleged incident was not an isolated occurrence. One longtime Pixar employee says 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.
Moments before this story went live, Lasseter announced he would go on a six month leave of absence following “missteps:”
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.
As painful as this is, it does cast into sudden sharp relief the long time rap against Pixar for its weak female characters. From Toy Story in 1995 until Brave in 2012, a period of 17 years, Pixar did not make a female led films, unless you count The Incredibles, which was an ensemble piece. You could have said, oh this is just an antidote to Disney’s Princess line, except that….when they did make their first female-led film, Brave, and Brenda Chapman was brought on board to make it…she was painfully and humiliatingly fired from her own movie.
In an essay for a larger New York Times feature about women’s perpetual underrepresentation in all corners of Hollywood, Chapman wrote that the past year and a half had been “a heartbreakingly hard road” for her. “When Pixar took me off of Brave— a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter — it was devastating,” she writes.
While she still does not go into any specifics about why she was removed from the film, Chapman makes quite clear she did not agree with the decision. “Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them,” she writes. “We are replaced on a regular basis — and that was a real issue for me. This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels.”.
This whole story is heartbreaking … like everyone else I’ve laughed and cried at every Pixar film. To know they without question came from this culture of harassment and overt sexism is deeply, deeply upsetting.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.