This piece was updated with additional information after publication.
Pixar cofounder and head of Disney Animation John Lasseter announced Tuesday that he is taking a leave of absence from the company in the wake of his own personal “missteps.” In a company memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Lasseter said he would take a six-month sabbatical after having “painful” conversations about his behavior with employees. He added, “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.”
Shortly after the memo leaked, the Reporter published a separate report detailing some of Lasseter’s alleged behavior. One longtime Pixar employee, who wasn’t named, said Lasseter was known for “grabbing, kissing,” and “making comments about physical attributes.” Actress Rashida Jones, who is credited as a writer for Toy Story 4, reportedly left the project along with writing partner Will McCormack after Lasseter made an “unwanted advance” toward her.
Lasseter is best known as one of the founders of Pixar, the animation studio behind a plethora of critically and commercially successful films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Up, Wall-E, and The Incredibles. He has served as the chief creative officer for both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2006, when Disney acquired Pixar. The studio’s latest film, Coco, arrives in theaters on Thanksgiving Day.
Update, November 22: Hours after The Hollywood Reporter published its story, Rashida Jones denied that she left Toy Story 4 over an “unwanted advance” made by Lasseter. In a statement sent to multiple outlets by Jones and writing partner Will McCormack, the duo said, “The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue.” Instead, Jones and McCormack said they departed the project over “philosophical differences,” and specifically because Pixar has “a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.”