[UPDATE: Jones and McCormack have issued an official statement clarifying why they left Toy Story 4.]
Original Toy Story 4 writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack left the project early in its development due to actions of misconduct from Pixar's John Lasseter. The studio chief, who for years has been the face of Disney Animation, is the latest name on the continuously growing list of Hollywood personalities that have been accused of harassment. Today, Lasseter announced he was taking a six-month leave of absence, citing "missteps." Of all the cases to come out recently, this one is arguably the most shocking, because of Pixar's family-friendly image.
A week of celebration for the studio (The Incredibles 2 teaser dropped right before Coco hits theaters) has turned into one of uncertainty as they look to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. The film that is most directly impacted by the fallout is 2019's Toy Story 4, which is in need of a new scribe because of Lasseter's behavior.
According to THR, Jones and McCormack departed Toy Story 4 after Lasseter "made an unwanted advance." Further details were not provided. Some might recall the fourth adventure for Woody and Buzz Lightyear was supposed to premiere next summer, but traded places with The Incredibles 2 on the release schedule. That, along with Josh Cooley being named the sole director of the film (rather than co-helming it with Lasseter), could be a byproduct of this latest development that's come out.
UPDATE: In response to THR's report, Jones and McCormack issued the following statement to the NYT, clarifying why they stepped down as the screenwriters on Toy Story 4:
“The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. That said, we are happy to see people speaking out about behavior that made them uncomfortable. We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences. There is so much talent at Pixar, and we remain enormous fans of their films. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice. We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.”
It will be interesting to see where Toy Story 4 goes from here. Back in 2015, it was announced the film would be a love story revolving around Buzz and Woody's journey to find Bo Peep - the porcelain figure who had a romantic dynamic with the cowboy doll in the first two films. Bo did not appear in Toy Story 3 (having been sold at a yard sale prior to that movie's events), so some saw this as a way to give the character a proper sense of closure. Depending on who is brought in as a replacement, the course of the plot theoretically could change. From the sound of things, Pixar is still attempting to crack the story, seeing that Mr. Potato Head voice actor Don Rickles had not recorded any of his Toy Story 4 lines before his death in April of this year. The script could be getting a page one rewrite.
For now, Toy Story 4 remains locked in for a June 2019 debut, but that is susceptible to change. Since the film is going through a massive upheaval of its creative team, Pixar might be better served delaying the sequel further, giving Cooley and his crew enough time to craft a fittingly emotional and satisfying chapter in the series. Many believed Toy Story 3 served as the perfect ending for that franchise, closing the book in a poignant manner, so if Pixar is to forge ahead with a fourth movie, it would be a shame if they rushed it to meet a release date.
Update Source: NYT
- Toy Story 4 (2019) release date: Jun 21, 2019