December 14, 2018

John Lasseter, a Pixar Founder, Takes Leave After ‘Missteps’

John Lasseter is the force behind Disney franchises like “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “Frozen.” Credit Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — One of the Walt Disney Company’s most important executives, the Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, said Tuesday that he would take “a six-month sabbatical” after unspecified “missteps” that made some staffers feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.”

Mr. Lasseter made the announcement in a lengthy email sent to employees at Disney’s animation division, which he leads as chief creative officer.

“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,” Mr. Lasseter wrote in the email, a copy of which was viewed by The New York Times. “No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”

Disney said in a statement: “We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”


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A spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Shortly after Mr. Lasseter’s announcement, The Hollywood Reporter published an article by Kim Masters that cited “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes” as recurring behavior by Mr. Lasseter.

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Like many executives in Hollywood, Mr. Lasseter has long used hugs and kisses on the cheek in lieu of handshakes in business settings. Over the years, he has taken the practice to the extreme, giving long hugs to both men and women wherever he goes. In 2011, The Wall Street Journal published a photo slide show about his frequent hugging, saying he had embraced 48 people in one day.

Mr. Lasseter, 60, is the force behind Disney franchises like “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “Frozen,” each of which generates $1 billion or more in annual revenue for the company. He announced his departure one day before Disney is set to release Pixar’s latest film, “Coco,” in North American theaters.

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