Last month, John Lasseter joined a dizzyingly long list of powerful men in Hollywood to be accused of sexual misconduct. In a story first broken by The Hollywood Reporter on November 21st, allegations against Disney and Pixar’s chief creative officer were revealed. In a memo to staff, Lasseter announced that he would be taking a six month leave of absence from his role as creative overseer for the two animation studios, acknowledging “painful conversations” and“missteps.”
The three writers of Upcoming Pixar have each contributed to this post, in an attempt to process this deeply disturbing and unfortunate news.
My heart dropped when I first became aware of the news, but I was not surprised. I’ve never had first or even secondhand knowledge of John Lasseter’s alleged misconduct, but I dreaded this news anyway. Following the sexual harassment claims made against Loud House creator Chris Savino, who was subsequently fired, and the letter penned by women in the animation industry about the prevalence of sexual misconduct, I just expected more bombshell allegations. It is still shocking that Lasseter was directly involved.
It was first reported that Rashida Jones, who shared a writing credit on Toy Story 4, left the film with her writing partner Will McCormack due to an unwanted advance made by Lasseter, but she has denied this claim. Read her statement below:
“We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.
There is so much talent at Pixar, and we remain enormous fans of their films. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.
We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.”
Where does Pixar go from here?
As a woman of color who has long loved these films and this studio, I can say that all of this is very complicated for me. I have applauded Pixar’s efforts at diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera. I want to continue celebrating these efforts and supporting the artists who make these films.
But I also want John Lasseter and those who knew and likely enabled his alleged behavior to be held accountable. I don’t think he should return following his sabbatical. He is not, as some people insist, irreplaceable.
Do we care more about movies or people?
I am deeply saddened that this was allowed to continue for so long. I am deeply saddened that women at Pixar were devalued and unable to advance their careers. I believe and I hope that Pixar can emerge far greater in the aftermath. But that will not be possible if Lasseter returns and nothing changes. Things are finally changing slowly as more women and men come forward to share their stories. But we have to listen.
My heart sank along with the hearts of many others when I read the headlines about John Lasseter’s actions at Pixar. I’m sure thousands, even millions, of fans feel disgusted and hurt after finding out that the man responsible for so many of our childhood movies is also responsible for the belittling of female employees, and for helping create a culture within Pixar studios that stifles the creative voices of women and people of colour. And while we as fans feel shocked and saddened by these events, these women are the victims.
I think it’s important to remember that while Lasseter is fully responsible for his appalling actions, he is only partly responsible for the beautiful movies that have been created by Pixar over the years. Remember that Coco was worked on by thousands of talented, creative people, many of them of Latino descent. They are incredibly proud of what they have created. I feel like this situation isn’t as clearly defined as ‘separating the art from the artist’. Lasseter is one artist. Pixar movies are the result of years of hard work from entire crews of artists, writers, and a whole host of other employees. That’s not to say that separating the art from John Lasseter is easy though…
It’s unfair that sitting down to enjoy a Pixar movie doesn’t feel as simple anymore. But it’s infinitely more unfair that women and people of colour at Pixar, and in the animation industry in general, are not being given the equal opportunities that they obviously deserve. Let’s hope that this acts as a spark and sets in motion a positive change at Pixar studios. Let’s hope that, like Coco, their future projects continue to actively work towards making Pixar a more inclusive and respectful company.
John Lasseter was one of my heroes.
Like Walt Disney, he was the name I saw plastered all over my favorite animated films growing up. He was just like you and me – he had some big failures, a few obvious successes, but at the end of the day he was just a kid at heart and wanted to tell stories. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to work with him. I honestly wanted to be his best friend and talk endlessly about the history of animation and our love of Miyazaki films.
As someone who has wanted to work for Pixar since I was 7 years old, sitting in the cinema, jaw nearly on the floor in awe as I watched A Bug’s Life for the first time; the news that Lasseter was like so many abusers in Hollywood honestly crushed my heart. It was the final blow. I nearly wanted to pack my bags and leave Los Angeles and pursue another profession entirely. Maybe even channel my inner Henry David Thoreau and abandon society all together and live in the wilderness. I’ve worked in the animation industry for the last two and a half years at Renegade Animation in Glendale. My dream as a female storyteller is to learn as much as I can so I can one day direct my own animated films.
Upon hearing all these stories about Lasseter and other men in the film/animation industry I slowly realized I could’ve been one of those women. I can’t begin to tell you how that simple thought triggered my own experiences with sexual harassment in the past. It felt like my world was falling apart. It’s still soul crushing learning that all my heroes are actually the monsters under the bed everyone told me to worry about.
I also realized the real problem was that growing up, I only had men to look up to. All the women were working tirelessly in the shadows; their work gone unnoticed and unaccredited thanks to the male suppression. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it would’ve been to have female directors, animators, and strong female characters to look up to when I was a child. For years I worshipped the Pixar Braintrust even when they kept women out of their special group and fired Brenda Chapman.
I know one monster’s actions don’t account for the thousands of talented artists at the studio who are just trying to make a living and achieve their dreams – but the fact this was going on for so long and while mostly everyone knew is appalling and disappointing. I can’t look at the studio the same way again. I will continue to support the films and all the hard work that’s been put into each character, background, and scene because I know first hand how grueling it is to bring a story to life but now, unfortunately the studio is tarnished for me.
What I hope to see now are more actions to account for the past – we’ve started this revolution but now it’s up to us all to fix it. I hope to see more females take the helm of Pixar films, from the initial development to the director’s chair. I hope to one day see not only a female-driven studio or female brain trust but a Hollywood that welcomes both men and women and people of all colors and walks of life. There are so many stories that have been silenced for years and now’s the time to start telling them.