Skydance Animation has come under heavy criticism for hiring former Pixar and Disney Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter as their head of animation. Lasseter was an integral figure in Hollywood's shift towards 3D computer animation, helping Pixar become a dominant force in the industry by directing films such as Toy Story and A Bug's Life. In addition to serving as an executive producer on every Pixar project, Lasseter aided Disney's in-house animation department by spearheading a fruitful new era. During his tenure between 2006-2018, Disney Animation released several critically acclaimed hits including Frozen and Zootopia.
In 2017, as the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements rose to prominence, Lasseter took a leave of absence, following accusations of sexual misconduct at the workplace. After much debate about whether or not he would return, Lasseter formally left his positions at both Pixar and Disney at the end of 2018. Given his reputation and baggage, it was worth wondering if any other animation studio would be willing to give him another job, and apparently, Skydance felt it was worth the risk.
Today, it was announced Lasseter will become the new head of animation at Skydance Animation. The move has received considerable backlash from various groups, including Time's Up, Women in Film, and more. Time's Up issued a statement to THR, expressing their disappointment with the development:
"Skydance Media’s decision to hire John Lasseter as head of animation endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence. At a moment when we should be uplifting the many talented voices who are consistently underrepresented, Skydance Media is providing another position of power, prominence and privilege to a man who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace."
Lasseter's hiring at Skydance is the latest instance of the film industry's apparent reluctance to learn any valuable lessons from the Time's Up movement. While some accused of sexual harassment (like Harvey Weinstein) have seen their careers become damaged beyond repair, a disturbingly increasing amount of others are currently on the comeback trail. Notable examples include Louis C.K. returning to stand-up comedy and Bryan Singer being in talks to direct a Red Sonja adaptation. Kevin Spacey is also attempting a career revival (see: his bizarre video from December), but so far he has not lined up a new project. Skydance CEO David Ellison called Lasseter a "singular creative and executive talent" and stated Lasseter "acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes."
While there's no denying Lasseter has tremendous talent as a filmmaker and helped the art form evolve, this is still bad optics for Skydance - a new player to the animation realm that won't see its first animated movie hit theaters until 2021. It'll be interesting to see what effect this has on the studio as they look to get their new department off the ground. Ellison said the decision was not made "lightly," but he will have to deal with the blowback that comes with this choice. Obviously, Skydance is hoping Lasseter can work his Pixar/Disney magic for them, but it would have been better if they looked for someone else to provide that touch.