Pixar co-founder and former Disney animation chief John Lasseter, who last year was forced out after acknowledging “missteps” in his behaviour with women staff members, has been hired to run the recently launched animation division of Skydance Media, the production company announced.
Lasseter, one of the most illustrious and pioneering figures in animation, stepped down from Disney last June in the wake of complaints about unwanted workplace touching. In a statement, Lasseter said he has spent the last year away from the industry in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologise for.”
“It has been humbling but I believe it will make me a better leader,” said Lasseter.
In a memo to staff, Skydance chief executive David Ellison emphasised that he didn’t take the decision lightly. Ellison said Skydance employed outside counsel to “thoroughly investigate the allegations” against Lasseter.
“John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behaviour, apologised for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analysing and improving his workplace behaviour,” Ellison told staffers.
Time’s Up, the organisation founded to combat sexual harassment and gender inequality in Hollywood and elsewhere, sharply criticised the hiring of Lasseter.
“Skydance Media’s decision to hire John Lasseter as head of animation endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence,” Time’s Up said in statement. “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.”
Lasseter, 61, was a creative force behind every Pixar release and was an executive producer on Disney hits (including ‘Frozen’, ‘Moana’ and ‘Zootopia’) released under his stewardship of the animation giant. He also directed the first two ‘Toy Story’ movies, the first two ‘Cars’ movies and ‘A Bug’s Life’.
In November 2017, in the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein’s fall, Lasseter announced that he was taking a six-month “sabbatical” from Disney and apologised “to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug” or any other gesture that made them feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.”
At the time, Lasseter suggested he might return to Disney but last June, he and the studio announced they were cutting ties permanently. Lasseter served out the year as a consultant to Disney.