One of the Walt Disney Company’s creative forces, John Lasseter has announced he will be taking a leave of absence after acknowledging what he calls “difficult” conversations and “missteps” in his role overseeing animation at Disney. In addition to helping found Pixar Animation Studios and leading its creative team, Lasseter is also the head of all Disney Animation and a executive at Walt Disney Imagineering.
If you haven’t been hiding under a rock, you know that right now is a momentous time where sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace is finally being exposed for the unwanted power play that it is. The light of exposure has been directed into all corners of life from corporate board rooms, to political hallways, to Hollywood productions, college classrooms and everywhere in between.
With Pixar’s film, “Coco” releasing tomorrow, the timing of this announcement could have been better. But there is no excuse for workplace harassment and abuse and no time like the present to end it.
While we haven’t heard any specific accusations, in his letter to employees Lasseter apologizes 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.”
Lasseter states he will take a six month sabbatical to try and set things right with himself and return as the leader the company deserves. We’ll see.
Read Lasseter’s full memo to Pixar Animation employees:
I have always wanted our animation studios to be places where creators can explore their vision with the support and collaboration of other gifted animators and storytellers. This kind of creative culture takes constant vigilance to maintain. It’s built on trust and respect, and it becomes fragile if any members of the team don’t feel valued. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen; and I now believe I have been falling short in this regard.
I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me. It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them. As a result, 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.
In my conversations with Disney, we are united in our commitment to always treat any concerns you have with the seriousness they deserve, and to address them in an appropriate manner. We also share a desire to reinforce the vibrant, respectful culture that has been the foundation of our studios’ success since the beginning. And we agree the first step in that direction is for me to take some time away to reflect on how to move forward from here. As hard as it is for me to step away from a job I am so passionate about and a team I hold in the highest regard, not just as artists but as people, I know it’s the best thing for all of us right now. My hope is that a six-month sabbatical will give me the opportunity to start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.
I’m immensely proud of this team, and I know you will continue to wow the world in my absence. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working together again in the new year.
(Hat tip to THR for sourcing the memo)
John Lasseter has always been someone I looked up to and admired for his talent, his heart, and his commitment to the Disney image. After this article, I must say that I respect and admire him all the more for his heartfelt and mature response to the situations within Disney/Pixar. I wish him the best and hope that we will see even more great things in his future.
I respect Mr. Lasseter for the way he is addressing the issue, … I’m sure it is not easy to be reflective and admit ones mistakes. I wish the best to John, and I hope he comes back with an understanding of how to treat everyone in his organization with empathy, compassion and respect,