Once the CCO of Disney and Pixar Pictures, Lasseter was shunned by the company after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against him. Following the Weinstein scandal, women everywhere, particularly in the entertainment industry, were motivated to stand up to sexual harassment in the workplace. Likewise, the #MeToo social media movement and Time’s Up, a movement against fighting abuse, sprung up.
John Lasseter took leave in November 2017 and officially left Disney-Pixar in June 2018. His leadership added fuel to the flames in that the work culture at Disney-Pixar is allegedly widely sexist and toxic for women.
Former Pixar employee, graphic designer Cassandra Smolcic, was published in Medium and Variety detailing Lasseter’s pointed, inappropriate behavior toward women. According to Smolcic, he commented on women’s physical qualities and made unwanted advances by hugging and otherwise touching female subordinates. Smolcic was left out of weekly art meetings for her assignment because, according to a superior, Lasseter could not manage himself around young women.
She also expanded on how women were brushed off at the company in comparison to men and on other employees’ lewd actions toward female coworkers. At Pixar, women stood behind each other but could not voice their complaints in fear of being seen as difficult to work with and feared demotion, among other things.
The production company, Skydance Media, known for Star Trek, GI Joe, and Mission: Impossible movies hired John Lasseter as head of the nascent animation department. CEO David Ellison wrote a lengthy memo to employees for the purpose of justifying his rationale behind hiring Lasseter. He believes Lasseter learned from his mistakes and will be a competent leader at Skydance.
Lasseter spoke for himself in a statement: “I’m grateful to David and the Skydance team and know that I have been entrusted with an enormous responsibility. It is a distinct privilege that I will relish. I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for. It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader. I want nothing more than the opportunity to return to my creative and entrepreneurial roots, to build and invent again. I join Skydance with the same enthusiasm that drove me to help build Pixar, with a firm desire to tell original and diverse stories for audiences everywhere. With what I have learned and how I have grown in the past year, I am resolute in my commitment to build an animation studio upon a foundation of quality, safety, trust and mutual respect.”
The Time’s Up movement condemned Skydance for giving Lasseter a job in spite of his distasteful workplace conduct. Part of their statement reads: “At a moment when we should be uplifting the many talented voices who are consistently underrepresented, Skydance Media is providing another position of power, prominence, and privilege to a man who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.”