Pixar CCO John Lasseter is taking a leave of absence from the company following admitted “missteps.” The past two months have seen a slew of allegations of sexual harassment and assault being levied at some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The string of accusations started in the entertainment journalism industry against some well-known bloggers and on-camera talent, then traveled upward. The Weinstein Company’s Harvey Weinstein was biggest entertainment name to fall, a reckoning that many in and around the industry had been waiting for for years.
The dozens of women speaking out about Weinstein triggered a seismic shift in the way Hollywood thinks about and reacts to systemic sexism and sexual misconduct. Rather than denying allegations or paying off the women as would have happened in years past, TWC moved to kick Weinstein out and has been in a bit of a financial free fall since, with the expectation that TWC will declare bankruptcy soon. Since then, a number of companies and brands have parted ways with other men accused of sexual assault: Arrowverse producer Andrew Kreisberg was suspended due to sexual harassment allegations; HBO was quick to cut ties with comedy king Louis C.K. following his admission of guilt after accusations of sexual assault resurfaced; DC Comics fired longtime editor Eddie Berganza after his history of inappropriate behavior could no longer be ignored; House of Cards wasted no time in firing Kevin Spacey after his sexual assault came to light, though he is the face of the series.
Now, THR reports head of Disney Animation John Lasseter is the latest to be added to the list of men who have stepped down from their positions after misconduct. In a memo sent to staff, Lasseter acknowledged certain “missteps,” and though he did not go into the exact nature of those blunders, there was enough in the memo to gather that it was of the sexual misconduct sort. He refers to unwanted hugs and gestures that crossed the line, and that many of the complaints had been made clear to him after a number of difficult and painful conversations. The result of those conversations between Lasseter, his staff, and Disney, is that the chief creative officer of Pixar will be taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.
THR spoke with numerous employees about Lasseter’s alleged missteps and learned new information about the sexual misconduct that has sent Lasseter for the door. While their names are still listed as writers, sources say Toy Story 4 writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack left the project after Lasseter made an unwanted advance on Jones. Everyone spoke under the condition of anonymity, but one longtime Pixar employee revealed that Lasseter’s misconduct included “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” So well-known were his wandering hands that another employee even said the women in the company had a name for the defensive posture they adopted to keep his hands from traveling up their thighs when seated next to him in a meeting. They called it “the Lasseter.”
Still, what sets Lasseter apart from the other named men in this article is that both he and Disney are being proactive in him stepping down. It was a decision that, for now, seems to have been started internally, rather than as a reactive measure to the external catalyst of victims publicly naming Lasseter. It’s likely that Disney was aware of THR or another outlet preparing the piece outing his behavior, but for the time being it appears to be something the company has addressed on its own. Likewise, unlike the number of apologies that have come across as incredibly self-serving at best and that have made excuses and placed blame elsewhere at worst, Lasseter’s statement comes across as sincere, genuinely contrite, and written by a man who seems to fully grasp the inappropriateness of his behavior. It is by no means a reason to praise him or suggest he doesn’t deserve to be held accountable for his actions, but it is at least a progressive change of pace in how sexual misconduct in Hollywood is being addressed by those who perpetuate it.
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