×

John Lasseter Will Exit Disney at the End of the Year

John Lasseter, once the most powerful man in animation, will leave the Walt Disney Co. at the end of the year following a sexual harassment scandal, the company announced on Friday.

Lasseter, who was chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, has been on a “sabbatical” since Nov. 21, when he sent a memo to staff apologizing for “unwanted hugs.” Female employees told Variety at the time that Lasseter had a reputation for touching women inappropriately in the office, including rubbing their legs and kissing them on the lips. Lasseter was also reprimanded for making out with a subordinate at an Oscar party in 2010, sources told Variety.

Over the last two weeks, many in the animation community have urged Disney to oust Lasseter for good. Social media users adopted the tag #LoseLasseter. Though Lasseter was executive producer of “Incredibles 2,” he did not appear at the film’s premiere on Tuesday.

In a statement on Friday, the company said that Lasseter will take a consulting role until Dec. 31, when he will leave the company. The statement did not acknowledge the reasons for Lasseter’s departure, nor did it give any indication that the company investigated his conduct.

Popular on Variety

“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,” CEO Bob Iger said. “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.”

In his own statement, Lasseter said, “The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities. 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.”

Disney did not announce a replacement for Lasseter at either studio. It is believed that Jennifer Lee, the writer-director of “Frozen,” is the frontrunner at Walt Disney Animation Studios, while Pete Docter, the director of “Inside Out” and “Up,” is the top contender at Pixar.

Lasseter is not expected to have an office at Disney or Pixar during the period of his consultancy. Several Disney employees have told Variety they would be uncomfortable with Lasseter’s continued employment at the studio.

“It feels very weird he can stay on payroll for the next six or seven months. They do know there’s a problem,” said one Disney employee. “It doesn’t feel like a great compromise.”

Lasseter was the most influential animator since Walt Disney. He joined Pixar in 1984, when it was still just a division of Lucasfilm. Together with Ed Catmull and others, he pioneered the use of computer animation in a series of short films. He directed the company’s breakout hit, “Toy Story,” in 1995. He oversaw the company’s remarkable run of hits and its exponential growth. When the company was sold to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion, Lasseter was put in charge of Disney’s moribund animation operation, and helped revive it as well. Lasseter also had a hand in the theme parks, making him perhaps Disney’s second-most valued employee after Iger.

Lasseter was a dominant personality at Pixar, and the company was largely shaped by his enthusiasms as well as his blind spots. Lasseter was known to drink to excess at wrap parties, and was also known as a hugger around the office. Some employees appreciated the physical affection, while others felt he lacked boundaries. At various times, Lasseter had minders who were tasked with reining in his impulses.

While Pixar was an astonishing success, Lasseter’s legacy will also reflect its struggles with gender representation. The company waited almost 20 years to produce a film with a girl in the lead role, “Brave,” and when it did, the female director was fired and replaced by a man. Women within the company complained that their careers were stifled, or that their ideas were not afforded adequate weight.

Last fall, Rashida Jones explained her departure as a writer on “Toy Story 4” by pointing to “creative and philosophical differences,” saying that Pixar had developed “a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.”

Disney declined to comment beyond its official statement.

More Film

  • Claire Denis attends the 32nd European

    Claire Denis and Phedon Papamichael Join Doha Film Institute's Qumra Lineup

    The Doha Film Institute has added French auteur Claire Denis and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (“Nebraska”) to the lineup of star talent who will act as mentors for the Qumra Masters program during its upcoming Qumra event dedicated to fostering fresh Arab film fare that is opening up to TV projects. They join previously announced [...]

  • Persian Lessons Russian Cinema

    'Persian Lessons': Film Review

    In “Schindler’s List,” most of the actors spoke English, using accents to indicate their characters’ origins. In “Son of Saul,” the cast struggles to communicate in a mish-mosh of languages, as Jews of different nationalities were thrown together in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Stories about the Holocaust — so vital in trying to reconcile the horrors of the [...]

  • KARNAWAL

    Beta Cinema Celebrates ‘Karnawal’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Beta Cinema has acquired international sales rights to debut Argentine director Juan Pablo Félix’s “Karnawal,” winner of the Le Film Français, Ciné Plus, Gomedia and Titrafilm awards at December’s Ventana Sur. “Karnawal” featured co-producers from five countries: Argentina’s Bikini Films, Brazil’s 3 Moinhos Produçoes, Chile’s Picardía Films, Mexico’s Phototaxia Pictures, Norway’s Norsk Filmproduksjon and Bolivia’s [...]

  • Italian Xmas movie

    Italy's True Colours Scores Slew of Early EFM Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

    Italian sales company True Colours has scored multiple sales at the EFM on several titles including Christmas comedy “Once Upon a Time in Bethlehem,” which was Italy’s top-grossing domestic title in 2019. “Bethlehem,” which scored roughly $17 million domestically, toplines comic duo Ficarra and Picone as a thief and a priest who time-travel to Palestine [...]

  • All-the-dead-ones

    Caetano Gotardo, Marco Dutra Talk Berlin Competition Entry ‘All the Dead Ones’

    Directed by Caetano Gotardo and Marco Dutra, Brazilian Berlin competition entry “All the Dead Ones” kicks off in Belle Epoque 1899 São Paulo. Ana, the daughter of a plantation owner and her nun sister attempt persuade a reluctant Ina, a former slave, to perform an ancient African ritual to cure their mother. A time warp [...]

  • The Daughter

    Caramel, Mod, Film Factory Unveil Manuel Martin Cuenca’s ‘The Daughter’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Caramel Films has boarded Manuel Martin Cuenca’s “The Daughter,” produced by Fernando Bovaira (“The Others” ) at Mod Producciones and Cuenca’s own La Loma Blanca. Pic was unveiled at Berlin’s European Film Market by its sales agent, Film Factory Entertainment. Set to be released in Spain by Caramel in late 2020, “The Daughter” marks the [...]

  • Sugar Rush

    Berlin: Nigeria's FilmOne Makes Global Push With China-South Africa Pact (EXCLUSIVE)

    FilmOne Entertainment, the Nigerian distributor and production company, has gone into production on the first movie to cash in on the $1 million film fund it launched with China’s Huahua Media and South Africa’s Empire Entertainment in December. “Kambili,” by director Kayode Kasum, is the first of what FilmOne co-founder Moses Babatope expects to be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content