“What’s going on with John Lasseter?” remains an open question in Hollywood at the moment; the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar CCO—whose work on Toy Story and Pixar’s other CGI charmers has been foundational for American animation over the last 20 years—took a mostly talked-around leave of absence last year during the opening salvos of the #MeToo movement, citing only “missteps” that left some employees feeling “disrespected or uncomfortable.” Now, Lasseter has confirmed that he’s leaving his twin posts at the top of two of the world’s most successful animation studios at the end of the year.
This is per The Hollywood Reporter, which notes that Lasseter will move into a “consulting” position through the rest of 2018, before leaving both companies completely. (A Pixar founder, Lasseter also moved to Disney Animation during a major restructuring effort in 2005, where he oversaw critical darlings like The Princess And The Frog and the ridiculously successful Frozen.) Lasseter’s absence—and Disney’s general silence about it—have been conspicuous of late; he skipped out on the recent Incredibles 2 premiere, for instance, with fellow Pixar star Brad Bird simply saying, “We only know what you know” while praising Lasseter’s contributions to the film.
At the time, there were suggestions that Lasseter’s departure was somehow linked to Rashida Jones and her writing partner, Will McCormack, deciding to leave their scripting duties on Pixar’s Toy Story 4. (Jones and McCormack later clarified that they left the project, not because of “an unwanted advance,” but at least in part because they perceived “a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice” at Pixar.) A Hollywood Reporter piece from last November, when Lasseter first went on sabbatical, quotes numerous anonymous sources describing his overly familiar and discomfort-inducing treatment of female employees, including prolonged, unwanted hugs, forced moments of intimacy, and placing his hands on women’s legs. (At least one source describes a well-known defensive posture used by female employees to limit his ability to touch them as “the Lasseter.”)