Former Disney•Pixar and Walt Disney Animation head John Lasseter has found a new animation home. Reports confirm that Lasseter will be acting as the new head of animation over at Skydance. The production company, which is best known for its Mission: Impossible and Star Trek films, recently branched out into animation in 2017.
However, this move comes at a time when the man, who was responsible for bringing us films like Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Wall•E, and so much more, was ousted after reports of sexual harassment allegations and alcohol abuse surfaced. More on the report below.
THR says in addition to overseeing Skydance Animation, Lasseter will also be reporting directly to Skydance CEO David Ellison. In a memo written to the Skydance staff, Ellison said that he did not enter into this decision lightly. And attempted to justify his decision by saying Lasseter has apologized for his actions and spent the past year on a sabbatical reflecting on his actions. Here’s what the portion of the memo says:
“I know many of you are aware of John’s admitted mistakes in his prior role helming those studios. John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behavior, apologized for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analyzing and improving his workplace behavior.”
The sabbatical that Ellison is speaking of is the one Lasseter took from working with Disney•Pixar and Walt Disney Animation after allegations of sexual harassment were being reported. Although, many saw that as more of a paid vacation than a time of reflection. Ultimately, he never returned to the studio, and Lasseter would end his career with the studio he helped found at the end of 2018.
But in his absence, it looks like Lasseter has been busying trying to “drum up interest” with studios to hire him to oversee their animation department. According to Variety, he has been busying meeting with Warner Bros. and other major studios. However, they were wary of working with him considering his past indiscretions. Something that seemed to be overlooked by Ellison. Here’s what Ellison had to say about Lasseter’s contributions to the animation industry in that same memo:
“John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated. He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe.”
And it hasn’t taken to long for the backlash to be seen. #TimesUp released a statement to THR that reads:
“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. 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.”
It’s certainly disappointing to see Skydance hire Lasseter so quickly, especially when he hasn’t shown any signs of remorse. I don’t think a sabbatical really qualifies, especially when you come out of it not supporting and bolstering women in the industry. And to hire him so soon after he was ousted seems like Ellison and company were more interested in scooping up Lasseter as soon as possible for that high-profile role than thinking outside of the box by hiring someone who is not only qualified but also new and fresh.
That being said, it appears that Lasseter will conduct himself in a very professional manner. At least we hope. Here’s Ellison in that memo:
“While we would never minimize anyone’s subjective views on behavior, we are confident after many substantive conversations with John, and as the investigation has affirmed, that his mistakes have been recognized. We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague. And he has given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner that is the expectation of every Skydance colleague and partner.”
The Skydance CEO is optimistic that things can change:
“We are very hopeful and excited about what the coming years will bring, as John’s art transcends generations and cultures, while deeply resonating on a fundamental level with what makes us uniquely human.”
After Lasseter departed his previous positions, Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee were hired as his replacements at Pixar in Emeryville, CA and at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, CA respectively.
[Source: THR | Variety | THR (TimesUp)]