John Lasseter will exit Disney on Dec. 31, the company announced Friday. The former chief creative officer overseeing Pixar and Disney Animation will assume an unspecified "consulting role" at Disney until his departure.
Lasseter announced he was taking a sabbatical in November after the publication of a Hollywood Reporter story in which "former Pixar insiders" said he frequently made a habit of "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes" of women at the company.
At the time, Lasseter said his leave of absence would provide an opportunity for him to take "better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve." But in Disney's statement announcing his departure, Lasseter said that he has "decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges."
"John had a remarkable tenure at Pixar and Disney Animation, reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks, and telling original, high quality stories that will last forever," Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement announcing Lasseter's departure. "We are profoundly grateful for his contributions, which included a masterful and remarkable turnaround of The Walt Disney Animation Studios."
In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that Disney executives were considering allowing Lasseter to return in a new role with less managerial power and no authority of hiring and firing of employees, but full creative influence over the studio's considerable animated projects. It is not known if the newly-announced "consulting role" is the end result of that consideration.
Best known as one of the founders of Pixar, Lasseter directed "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life," "Toy Story 2," "Cars" and "Cars 2." After Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, Lasseter was named chief creative officer overseeing both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he served as executive producer on all of the media giant's animated films and projects.
Lasseter has won two Academy Awards -- one for Best Animated Short Film ("Tin Toy") and one Special Achievement Award for "Toy Story." Pixar itself has won eight Academy Awards and the films have grossed over $6 billion at the box office, domestically.
Read Disney's full statement on Lasseter's exit below:
Following his sabbatical, John Lasseter will assume a consulting role at The Walt Disney Company until December 31, 2018, at which time he will be leaving the company.
"John had a remarkable tenure at Pixar and Disney Animation, reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks, and telling original, high quality stories that will last forever," said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. "We are profoundly grateful for his contributions, which included a masterful and remarkable turnaround of The Walt Disney Animation Studios. One of John's greatest achievements is assembling a team of great storytellers and innovators with the vision and talent to set the standard in animation for generations to come."
"The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities," said John Lasseter. "While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney, I have decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges. I am extremely proud of what two of the most important and prolific animation studios have achieved under my leadership and I'm grateful for all of the opportunities to follow my creative passion at Disney."