Former Pixar Chief John Lasseter Will Reportedly Remain With Disney Until the End of 2018
When there’s late-breaking news from the wonderful world of Disney on a Friday, it’s usually something positive — Star Wars casting, Marvel updates, et al. That’s not really the case with today’s report, which reveals that John Lasseter, the former chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, will remain with the company through the end of 2018 in a consultant position before making a permanent exit.
The New York Times broke the news this afternoon, noting that Disney has yet to name a replacement for Lasseter, who was accused by numerous employees of sexual misconduct, harassment and groping. In allegations detailed by The Hollywood Reporter last fall, Lasseter’s inappropriate behaviors included “grabbing, kissing and making comments about physical attributes.” Lasseter responded to the report in November by announcing that he would be taking a six-month sabbatical. After admitting to what he absurdly described as “missteps,” Lasseter sent an email to employees apologizing “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.”
Lasseter is the co-founder of Pixar and has been integral to the success of films like Toy Story and Frozen. The Times reports that Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee is expected to be promoted at Walt Disney Animation, while Inside Out director Peter Docter will “take on greater responsibilities” at Pixar.
Although Lasseter is expected to permanently leave the company at the end of 2018, the news of his continued employment — in any form — at Disney is disappointing. In the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, in a world where Harvey Weinstein was finally arrested and formally charged for sexual assault, and at a time when men all over the country in almost every corner of the professional landscape are being forced to reckon with violent, misogynistic behaviors that have gone unchecked for far too long — at a time like this, it seems insane that the Walt Disney Company, the proprietors of the happiest movies and places on Earth, would allow a man accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct and misogyny in the workplace, to remain employed there.
The Times notes that Lasseter will not have an actual office through the end of the year, and the consultant role implies unseen participation from a distance (via phone, email, etc.). But the mere fact that Disney will continue to work with this man, in any way, is — and should be — unacceptable. Imagine that someone at your job assaulted you. Now imagine that your boss decided to remove that person from the physical workspace, but continued working with them; paying them, talking to them in private, placing value on their insights and opinions.
What sort of message does that send to the victimized party? It says that despite what this person has said and done — even if it involves sexually harassing and groping other employees and making his female subordinates feel uncomfortable, allegedly — he is far more valuable than those real human beings he hurt.
When I’m writing about Disney late on a Friday afternoon, it’s usually something exciting that I’m thrilled to talk about. This just sucks.