Rashida Jones has denied a Hollywood Reporter article that claimed she left “Toy Story 4” as a writer, along with writing partner Will McCormack, over an unwanted advance from Pixar and Disney animation chief John Lasseter.
Jones instead said they left over “philosophical differences,” and asserted that their exit was over the fact that they believed women and people of color did not have “an equal creative voice” at Pixar. Lasseter was originally the co-director of “Toy Story 4,” but stepped down in July, with Josh Cooley taking over as the sole director.
In a statement first given to the New York Times, and later obtained by Variety, Jones and McCormack said, “We feel like we have been put in a position where we need to speak for ourselves. The break neck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible and, in fact, counterproductive for the people who do want to tell their stories. In this instance, The Hollywood Reporter does not speak for us. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. That said, we are happy to see people speaking out about behavior that made them uncomfortable. As for us, 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,” the statement went on. “But it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice, as is demonstrated by their director demographics: out of the 20 films in the company’s history, only one was co-directed by a woman and only one was directed by a person of color. 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.”
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In its story, which was aggregated by several other outlets, THR noted that Jones and McCormack did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Lasseter announced a six-month leave of absence from Disney/Pixar on Tuesday, acknowledging in a memo to staff members that he crossed the line with employees. “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,” he wrote in the memo.
A number of Pixar employees have described to Variety a “sexist and misogynistic” culture at the company with Lasseter at the helm, creating something of a “whisper network.” According to sources, women at Pixar were warned about Lasseter for the unwanted hugs and other attention he allegedly showered on young women.