Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee have been named Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Disney Animation, respectively, following the announcement former CCO John Lasseter will leave the studio by the end of the year. Lasseter, who spearheaded a new era for the animation medium thanks to films like Toy Story, was one of the biggest names to be hit with allegations of sexual harassment last year. In November 2017, he took a leave of absence from Disney, admitting to "missteps" made in a memo to employees.
Over the past six months, there's been some question over whether or not Lasseter would return. Eventually, it was decided he could come back in a consulting role, but he will be leaving Disney in December 2018. For a long time, Docter and Lee have been the two many presumed would fill Lasseter's old positions, and today the Mouse House made it official.
According to Deadline, Docter is the new CCO of Pixar and Lee is the CCO of Disney Animation. In a statement from the studio, it was revealed the two will have "creative oversight over all films and associated projects of their respective studios" and report to Disney chairman Alan Horn. Both Lee and Docter commented on the development, expressing excitement for what's to come:
Lee: “I am deeply grateful to everyone at Walt Disney Animation Studios and The Walt Disney Company for this opportunity. Animation is the most collaborative art form in the world, and it is with the partnership of my fellow filmmakers, artists, and innovators that we look ahead to the future. My hope is to support the incredible talent we have, find new voices, and work together to tell original stories. The great films of Disney Animation – the films I loved as a kid and my daughter has grown up loving – are magical, timeless, and full of heart, and it is our goal to create films that carry on and grow this 95-year legacy for future generations.”
Docter: “I am excited and humbled to be asked to take on this role. It is not something I take lightly; making films at Pixar has been my chronic obsession since I started here 28 years ago. I am fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented people on the planet, and together we will keep pushing animation in new directions, using the latest technology to tell stories we hope will surprise and delight audiences around the world.”
The selections read as excellent choices, as Lee and Docter have experienced a great deal of success in their careers. Docter is arguably Pixar's greatest director, having called the shots on Monsters, Inc., Up, and Inside Out. He's currently developing another feature for Pixar which will be released in 2021 and was an original member of their famed Brain Trust. Lee was a co-director on Frozen, one of Disney's biggest hits of all-time, and was a key member of the creative teams for Wreck-it Ralph and Zootopia. All of these films received widespread critical praise and were box office smashes, so they clearly have the ability to craft heartfelt and entertaining stories that resonate with audiences. Considering their résumés, Lee and Docter should be able to carry on the great traditions of their studios and deliver a string of great movies.
It will be interesting to see what directions Docter and Lee decide to take their companies in. For Pixar's part, they intend to place less of an emphasis on sequels following next year's Toy Story 4 (which was conceived by Lasseter) and instead develop more original films. Disney Animation has two followups on the horizon (Ralph Breaks the Internet and Lee's Frozen 2), but after that, they just have two dates secured for unnamed projects. There's no telling how the studios will evolve under their new leadership, but it's a thrilling new era.