Pixar co-founder John Lasseter is taking a leave of absence from the storied animation house after a report detailed several allegations of misconduct from company employees.
In a memo to company employees issued Tuesday, the 60-year-old executive said he had recently had a “number of difficult conversations” he described as “very painful.”
“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,” Lasseter wrote in the statement, obtained by the Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
The memo comes after the Hollywood Reporter published a story Tuesday featuring accounts from Pixar employees and insiders detailing allegations of a history of misconduct against Lasseter.
Sources told the outlet that actress Rashida Jones, who had been working as a writer on Toy Story 4, left the project early after Lasseter made an unwanted advance on her, though the report did not go into further detail about the alleged incident. Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack did not comment for the THR story.
The report also quoted a longtime Pixar employee who alleged that Lasester was known for “grabbing, kissing, [and] making comments about physical attributes.” Other sources told the outlet that employees had a move they termed “the Lasseter,” meant to discourage the executive from putting his hands on their legs.
Lasseter will reportedly take a six-month leave of absence amidst the allegations.
“In my conversations with Disney, we are united in our commitment to always treat any concerns you have with the seriousness they deserve, and to address them in an appropriate manner,” Lasseter wrote to employees Tuesday. “We also share a desire to reinforce the vibrant, respectful culture that has been the foundation of our studios’ success since the beginning. And we agree the first step in that direction is for me to take some time away to reflect on how to move forward from here.”
Lasseter co-founded Pixar in 1986 and went on to direct Toy Story, the first fully computer-generated animated film, for which he won a Special Achievement Academy Award. The filmmaker also directed Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Cars, and Cars 2, and has served as a producer on all of Pixar’s films.
Pixar is set to release its latest animated film, Coco, on Friday.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum