David Ellison and his company Skydance Media reached out to advocacy group Time’s Up before hiring John Lasseter, Variety has learned. The overtures were made in November through an intermediary. An insider depicted them as information gathering in nature. Lasseter was ousted from his job running Pixar and overseeing Disney’s animation empire after he was accused of touching staffers inappropriately and kissing employees without their consent.
Skydance wanted to get Time’s Up’s thoughts about what rehabilitation would look like for a figure accused of abusing his power. However, sources close to Time’s Up said the organization grew uncomfortable because they believed that Skydance was looking for the group’s support for Lasseter’s hire.
In addition, Skydance leadership, including Ellison, met with a consultant recommended by Time’s Up to talk over the Lasseter hire. Skydance hopes to continue to work with the consultant after Lasseter begins work at the company in the coming days.
Skydance made a concerted effort to include thoughts from the Time’s Up team in crafting an apology from the animation guru for his alleged workplace misconduct while at Disney. Lasseter’s apology was intended to reflect the core values set forth in Time’s Up mission statement and materials, such as acknowledging inherent privilege and unconscious behaviors that cause workplace discomfort.
“I’m grateful to David and the Skydance team and know that I have been entrusted with an enormous responsibility. It is a distinct privilege that I will relish. I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for. It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader,” Lasseter’s statement read.
The apology was intended, the insider said, to reflect ideas of remorse, regret, and restitution. Lasseter has privately expressed to the Skydance team that he is committed to work toward achieving gender parity when it comes to staffing the animation division. Increasing representation of women in the workforce is a major cause of the group in addition to supporting victims of sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond.
Time’s Up, however, did not see a significant amount of reflection or transparency around an investigation Ellison said he conducted into Lasseter’s accusations at Disney. While Skydance indeed conducted an independent inquiry into Lasseter’s alleged misdeeds, an individual close to Time’s Up said the group felt that the company was not sufficiently transparent about its findings.
At the time, Time’s Up criticized the move and called the decision to bring Lasseter on board one that “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence. At a moment when we should be uplifting the many talented voices who are consistently underrepresented, Skydance Media is providing another position of power, prominence and privilege to a man who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.”
Time’s Up was founded in 2017 by several notable Hollywood players including Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Nicole Kidman, Constance Wu, and Shonda Rhimes. The group was formed in the wake of a series of sexual harassment scandals involving such powerbrokers and celebrities as Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, and Dustin Hoffman.
Women in Film, another industry watchdog that seeks gender parity and promotes safety in the workplace for women, had the same questions about the Skydance probe into the accusations.
“For women in this industry to feel safe, we need more transparency than the above statement and we need to know what the company plans to do to ensure that safety. By saying Skydance has conducted an independent investigation and then proceeded to hire Lasseter, do they mean to suggest that they are hiring him in spite of the numerous accounts of women and colleagues? We do think that people can learn and change, and we look forward to men who model this, but true reparation requires transparency,” the group said.
Skydance employees have also expressed frustration with and concern over Lasseter’s hire. In a town hall meeting on Wednesday, staffers grilled Ellison about his decision to employ Lasseter and expressed worries that top talent would be scared off from working with the studio because of his reputation. At the meeting, an emotional Ellison asked employees to give Lasseter time to prove he had reformed and learned from his mistakes.
A Skydance rep had no comment on the matter. Time’s Up referred back to their statement on Lasseter’s hire.