Pixar Head John Lasseter Takes ‘Six-Month Sabbatical,’ Apologizes for ‘Missteps’

Lasseter apologizes “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”

John Lasseter, the head of Disney’s animation division, announced Tuesday that he would take a six-month sabbatical from Disney and the Pixar studio he has led for decades following reports of sexual misconduct.

The Oscar-winning animator also apologized for what he called “missteps” in his interactions with staffers that he said made some “feel disrespected or uncomfortable.”

“It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them,” Lasseter said in a memo sent to staff on Tuesday. “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. Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down,” he continued. “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.”

Lasseter announced that 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.”

The announcement follows a Hollywood Reporter story published Tuesday in which an undisclosed number of “former Pixar insiders” alleged that Lasseter had frequently made a habit of “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes” of women at the company.

Lasseter is best known as one of the founders of Pixar and directed films such as “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Cars” and “Cars 2.” After Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, Lasseter was named the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he oversees all the media giant’s animated films and projects as executive producer.

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.

Pixar will next release “Coco” on Thanksgiving Day, and is working on the sequel to “The Incredibles” as well as a fourth “Toy Story” film.

A spokesperson for Disney told TheWrap, “We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”

See the full memo below.

I have always wanted our animation studios to be places where creators can explore their vision with the support and collaboration of other gifted animators and storytellers. This kind of creative culture takes constant vigilance to maintain. It’s built on trust and respect, and it becomes fragile if any members of the team don’t feel valued. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen; and I now believe I have been falling short in this regard.

I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been 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. Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down. 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.

In my conversations with Disney, we are united in our commitment to always treat any concerns you have with the seriousness they deserve, and to address them in an appropriate manner. We also share a desire to reinforce the vibrant, respectful culture that has been the foundation of our studios’ success since the beginning. And we agree the first step in that direction is for me to take some time away to reflect on how to move forward from here. As hard as it is for me to step away from a job I am so passionate about and a team I hold in the highest regard, not just as artists but as people, I know it’s the best thing for all of us right now. My hope is that a six-month sabbatical will give me the opportunity to start taking 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.

I’m immensely proud of this team, and I know you will continue to wow the world in my absence. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working together again in the new year.

John