For reasons officially unstated, The Walt Disney Company has decided to give John Lasseter a brief reprieve allowing him to return to the company in a consulting role before stepping down entirely at the end of the year. Lasseter had been on a leave of absence from his roles directing Disney and Pixar animation and working with Walt Disney Animation after his inappropriate behavior toward coworkers was finally addressed in the light of the Times Up movement and the wake of accusations toward Harvey Weinstein.
It’s an end few saw coming for the man once believed by many to be the savior of Walt’s legacy. Instead, he has become a symbol of a culture of misogyny and sexual harassment that pushed out many of the company’s potential bright stars due to his inappropriate workplace behavior.
Disney CEO and Chair Bob Iger said in a statement, “John had a remarkable tenure at Pixar and Disney Animation, reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks, and telling original, high quality stories that will last forever. We are profoundly grateful for his contributions, which included a masterful and remarkable turnaround of The Walt Disney Animation Studios.”
While that may be technically true, it doesn’t acknowledge the damage he did to careers and mental state of the people who encountered his inappropriate behavior.
Lasseter has also issued a statement, “The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities. While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney, I have decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges. I am extremely proud of what two of the most important and prolific animation studios have achieved under my leadership and I’m grateful for all the opportunities to follow my creative passion at Disney.”
The future of The Walt Disney Company will hopefully involve a lot of close-up work with with its unions, employees, managers, and outside experts to continue to foster a culture that promotes and celebrates diversity. To be fair, Disney is much further down this path than most companies with a similar history. Animation specifically has a history of gender segregation the effect of which has been to create a defacto boys club, largely because it was only boys who had the opportunity to learn from the old men of animation. Now that these boys are men, they have work to do to balance the scales. The end result will be a vastly better product and a world that honors their craft and their humanity.