John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, is the latest media executive to face allegations of inappropriate behavior.
In a memo to employees, Lasseter acknowledged “missteps” and said he will be taking a six month sabbatical. He added that after “a number of difficult conversations,” he realized, “I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable.”
“That was never my intent,” Lasseter said. “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.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, former Pixar employees and others in the animation industry have said that Lasseter is well-known for hugging employees and “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes,” while Variety reports that former employees have described the environment at Pixar as “sexist” and “toxic” for women.
Lasseter directed Pixar’s first short films, as well as its initial features starting with Toy Story. Following the studio’s acquisition by Disney in 2006, he was also placed in charge of Disney’s animation division, and it was during his tenure that Disney has released critical and commercial hits like Frozen.
“We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work,” a Disney spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”
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