John Lasseter, Pixar co-founder and mastermind behind Toy Story, Cars, and Frozen, is officially leaving Disney. Lasseter has been on leave from the company since complaints surfaced of unwanted hugging, along with a series of unspecified “missteps” that made some employees feel disrespected or uncomfortable. As reported by The New York Times, Disney stated that Lasseter would assume a consulting gig at the company until the end of 2018, and then he will leave permanently. He will not have an office, and a replacement for his current role has not been assigned.
Lasseter, chief creative officer and co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, more recently transitioned to a similar creative role at the Walt Disney Animation studio. Following his exit from Disney, Jennifer Lee, one of the writers and directors of Frozen, is expected to receive a promotion at Walt Disney Animation, while Pixar’s Pete Docter (director of Up and Inside Out), may also benefit from Lasseter’s departure.
A self-labeled Peter Pan, Lasseter, 61, is known for his outgoing personality and affinity for giving giant bear hugs with reckless abandon. He left Disney in November of 2017, planning a six-month “sabbatical,” e-mailing co-workers and apologizing “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.” The #MeToo movement is credited with shining a light on Lasseter’s behavior, which allegedly includes “grabbing, kissing and making comments about physical attributes,” particularly at company events where alcoholic beverages were served.
Disney held a “day of listening” in February in an effort to improve employee relations at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation. Pixar in-particular has a reputation for being a boy’s club. Of Pixar’s 20 films, only one (Brave) is credited with having a female director (Brenda Chapman), and she was fired midway through production following a disagreement with Lasseter. Actress and writer Rashida Jones stated in November that she abandoned a Pixar assignment early due to unfair treatment of minority and female employees.
Disney’s chief executive, Robert A. Iger, has thus far failed to address the specific reasons behind Lasseter’s exit. Rather, Iger focused on Lasseter’s achievements, such as “reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks and telling original, high-quality stories that will last forever.” Iger also pointed out that the studio still has “a team of great storytellers and innovators,” which includes the folks working on Toy Story 4 and Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, both of which list Lasseter as an executive-producer.
Lasseter said in a statement that he will “begin focusing on new creative challenges. I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney.”