John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, is taking a leave of absence for what he called “missteps” in physical interactions with employees that caused them to feel “disrespected or uncomfortable,” in a memo he sent to company employees on Tuesday.
In the internal memo sent to Disney employees obtained by CNN, Lasseter, 60, who is also co-founder of Pixar Animation, said that he recently had “a number of conversations that were very painful for me.”
“It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them. As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be. It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable. That was never my intent,” he wrote.
Lasseter continued to say that he wanted 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,” he added.
According to Lasseter, he and Disney have agreed to “take some time away to reflect on how to move forward from here.”
On Tuesday, Lasseter became the latest in a string of male public figures to be separated from his area of work because of sexual misconduct accusations. Lasseter’s statement comes on the same day that The Hollywood Reporter, who first reported Lasseter’s memo, published a story with the headline “John Lasseter’s pattern of alleged misconduct detailed by Disney/Pixar insiders.”
The report quotes an unnamed Pixar employee as saying Lasseter had a reputation among employees “for grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” The article also said that Lasseter had been accused of an “unwanted advance” made toward actress Rashida Jones, who is credited as co-writer of ‘Toy Story 4,’ which caused Jones to leave the project. However, in a statement given to the New York Times, Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack said that they, “did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances,” and that they left the project for “creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.”
In July, Lasseter announced that he would be stepping down as co-director of ‘Toy Story 4’ without giving an explanation.
“We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work,” a spokesperson for Pixar told NBC News. “We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”
Lasseter, who’s married with five children, has been a prominent figure in modern animation, contributing in some compacity to a majority of the most successful animated films in the past 20 years. He has been the chief creative officer for both Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar. Lasseter directed and co-wrote Pixar originals ‘Toy Story,’ ‘A Bug’s Life,’ and ‘Toy Story 2,’ and has either a ‘director,’ ‘screenplay,’ ‘story by,’ or ‘executive producer’ credit for every Pixar movie ever made, including the upcoming film, ‘Coco.’ He is also significantly responsible for the rebirth of Disney Animation and has an ‘executive producer’ credit for ‘Frozen,’ ‘Moana,’ and ‘Zootopia.’