Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter will split John Lasseter’s duties at Disney, as the studio’s animation division tries to move forward after the tumultuous departure of its leading creative force.
Lee, the director of “Frozen,” has been named chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios, while Docter, the director of “Inside Out,” has been tapped as chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios. Both had been rumored to be in the running to assume those roles.
Despite being credited with reviving Disney’s animation offerings and helping create film classics such as “Up” and “The Incredibles,” Lasseter is leaving the company under a cloud. Last fall, he took an extended sabbatical after allegations broke that he engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior. Earlier this month, Disney announced that Lasseter would leave the studio at the end of the year. He is consulting for Disney, but will not have an office at the animation headquarters.
Lee joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2011 as co-writer on “Wreck-It Ralph.” Her work as a co-director on “Frozen,” earned an Academy Award for best animated feature. Docter’s credits also include “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” He was one of Pixar’s first employees and is an original member of its “brain trust,” the company’s name for its committee of storytellers who help shape its films through an exhaustive development and production process. Both will report to Alan Horn, the studio chairman.
“Animation is the most collaborative art form in the world, and it is with the partnership of my fellow filmmakers, artists, and innovators that we look ahead to the future,” said Lee. “My hope is to support the incredible talent we have, find new voices, and work together to tell original stories.”
“I started here 28 years ago,” said Docter. “I am fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented people on the planet, and together we will keep pushing animation in new directions, using the latest technology to tell stories we hope will surprise and delight audiences around the world.”
Lasseter presented a major dilemma for Disney. He was seen as a visionary, with a keen story sense and an uncanny ability to understand what audiences craved. However, his professional behavior was a liability. Female employees told Variety that he 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 said. Disney has not commented publicly on whether or not it conducted an investigation into his behavior. Instead, it praised Lasseter’s “remarkable tenure” at the company while announcing his exit.
Despite the bad headlines involving Lasseter, Disney’s animation team continues to deliver hits. Last weekend, “The Incredibles 2” opened to rave reviews and scored the biggest animated debut in history, earning a massive $182.7 million.