It doesn't look like Disney Animation Studios head John Lasseter will return to the company as staff are warned to put aside a 'Day of Listening.'
Known as the brilliant mind behind movies like Toy Story, Cars, and A Bug's Life, you don't get much bigger in animation than John Lasseter. However, amid the various sexual assault scandals in Hollywood, Lasseter himself became embroiled. The chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios announced that he would take a six-month sabbatical back in November, but it now looks like it could be more permanent.
According to THR, all staff will have to attend a mandatory talk with HR professionals to discuss workplace conduct. The site also states that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the future of the company in Lasseter's absence and see where it goes next. While it has yet to be confirmed that Lasseter has been shown the door, one Disney veteran certainly made it sound that way:
"[The] real reason behind this day of listening is to take the temperature of staff to see how likely it is that Lasseter can come back. That’s a stretch to put somebody back in charge of animation at such a storied brand as Disney after the revelations of his behavior.”
Coming off the back of an apology to those who thought he had wronged them, Lasseter left the following message to the staff when he departed the studio last year:
"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."
Among over a decade's worth of allegations made against Lasseter, there were intimate accounts of kissing on the lips and rubbing female colleague's bodies. There were also worrying claims that Disney/Pixar animation president Ed Catmull and Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein were aware of Lasseter's behavior and did nothing to stop it. As of yet, there has been no word on any investigation into the Lasseter scandal, and the head has been on paid leave since his departure. Unlike the likes of Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, Disney has yet to sever ties with Lasseter, but it could be just around the corner.
Should Lasseter not return, the big question would be naming his replacement. THR notes that Up and Inside Out director Pete Docter could be a candidate for Pixar, although it's also possible he works in tandem with Finding Nemo's Andrew Stanton. The two have been part of Pixar's brain trust for a number of years, overseeing the studio's projects. On the Disney side of things, it's thought Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee and Zootopia duo Rich Moore and Byron Howard would be the ones calling the shots together. Filling Lasseter's shoes would be a tall order for anyone, but all of the names here have won Oscars, so they'd be as fit for the job as anyone. Disney and Pixar should stay in good hands.