Pixar co-founder and Disney executive John Lasseter announced in an internal memo on Tuesday that he would be taking a leave of absence — that announcement came just as the Hollywood Reporter was preparing to publish a report detailing allegations of ongoing, inappropriate behavior against Lasseter.
In the memo, obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, Lasseter mentioned his “missteps” and said “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 also said he wanted 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.”
The Hollywood Reporter story detailed Lasseter’s alleged patterns of harassment, which sources said were somewhat of an open secret among women at Pixar, some of whom “knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering him to avoid his kisses,” sources said.
Another source said Lasseter was known at Pixar for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Lassester, whom the New York Times called “one of the Walt Disney Company’s most important executives,” has been one of the driving creative forces behind the powerhouse animation studio. According to the Times, he’s known to cry in public when speaking about emotional moments in Pixar films and to wear Hawaiian shirts to events.
Lasseter is also known for his habit of hugging and touching colleagues, even in business meetings the Times reported, citing a 2011 Wall Street Journal story that documented Lasseter’s practice of hugging in the workplace, saying that he had hugged some 48 people over the course of a day.
However, sources who spoke to the Hollywood Reporter said his touching went far beyond the hugs — and one said that the internal memo Lasseter released about his leave of absence was an attempt to downplay the seriousness of his actions.
“To sum this up as unwanted hugs is belittling and demeaning,” one anonymous former Pixar employee told the Hollywood Reporter. “If it was just unwanted hugs, he wouldn’t be stepping down.”