Disney exec to take leave, cites ‘missteps’
Los Angeles — Just days before Pixar’s “Coco” is set to hit theaters, Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter announced he is taking a six-month leave of absence citing “missteps” with employees.
The boisterous, Hawaiian shirt-wearing personality behind some of the most beloved children’s films of the past 30 years like “Toy Story” is the latest entertainment titan to be exposed for claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace, including a reported “unwanted advance” toward actress and writer Rashida Jones, who had been working on the script for “Toy Story 4.”
In a vaguely-worded memo obtained by the Associated Press Tuesday, Lasseter says he knows he has made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable.
“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,” Lasseter wrote. “No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”
A Disney representative says the company is committed to maintaining a respectful work environment and fully supports Lasseter’s sabbatical.
Lasseter, 60, is known for directing films like “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” “A Bug’s Life” and “Cars,” and has produced every Pixar feature since 2001’s “Monster’s, Inc.” He has been the chief creative officer for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar, and has overseen the recent Disney Animation renaissance with hits like “Frozen,” “Moana” and “Zootopia,” which won the Oscar for best animated feature this year.
A report in the entertainment trade the Hollywood Reporter, citing unnamed sources, details a culture in which Lasseter was known to hug, kiss and grope female employees.