UPDATED November 21 10:25 p.m. ET: Rashida Jones has denied that she and writing partner Will McCormack left Toy Story 4 due to unwanted advances from John Lasseter, Variety reports. The news that Jones and McCormack departed due to Lasseter was published by Hollywood Reporter. Jones said that her reason for leaving the project was over "philosophical differences" and feeling that people of color and women didn't have "an equal creative voice" at the computer animation film studio.
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Pixar and Walt Disney Animation executive John Lasseter is taking a leave of absence after admitting to unspecified "missteps."
The chief creative officer announced the move in a company memo obtained by the Hollywood Reporter on Monday. Lasseter’s statement included an apology to all staffers who might’ve felt disrespected by his actions.
"It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them. As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be," he wrote.
"It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable. That was never my intent. Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down. 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. No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected."
Lasseter continued by saying he will take a six-month sabbatical to take care of himself, reflect on the matter, and hopefully recharge so he can return to his post.
The announcement came as the Hollywood Reporter compiled a piece about Lasseter’s alleged misconduct. Several anonymous persons detailed Lasseter’s inappropriate behavior, such as his habit of "grabbing, kissing, [and] making comments about physical attributes." Another source described an incident in which Lassetter was touching a woman’s thigh during a meeting more than 15 years ago.
"She was bent over and [had her arm] across her thigh. The best I can describe it is as a defensive posture ... John had his hand on her knee, though, moving around," said the source, who later spoke to the woman. "She said it was unfortunate for her to wear a skirt that day and if she didn’t have her hand on her own right leg, his hand would have travelled."
Lasseter became CCO of animation for The Walt Disney Company in 2006 and has been credited on a number of animated Disney films. His latest Pixar project Coco, a film he executive produced, will hit U.S. theaters tomorrow.
Actress Rashida Jones, as well as her writing partner Will McCormack, reportedly left Toy Story 4 after Lasseter made advances that were not welcome.
An ex-Pixar employee called Lasseter’s sabbatical "ridiculous," insisting it was "trivializing this behavior."
"To sum this up as unwanted hugs is belittling and demeaning," the source said. "If it was just unwanted hugs, he wouldn't be stepping down."