John Lasseter takes leave of absence from Disney/Pixar, apologizes for unwanted hugs

John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, acknowledged Tuesday that he had crossed the line with employees, and is taking a leave of absence.

Lasseter sent a memo to staff apologizing for making employees feel disrespected or uncomfortable, Variety has confirmed.

“That was never my intent,” he wrote. “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.”

His leave was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.

Lasseter is the most powerful and influential figure in animation. As the co-founder of Pixar, he led the development of computer animation. When Disney bought Pixar in 2006, Lasseter took the helm of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Lasseter has long been known as an ebullient figure around the studio’s Emeryville offices, and is a prolific hugger.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 08: John Lasseter attends the premiere of 'Coco' at El Capitan Theatre on November 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Jim Morris, John Lasseter, and Ed Catmull pose for a photo during The Walt Disney Family Museum's 3rd Annual Fundraising Gala at the Golden Gate Club on November 7, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Walt Disney Family Museum)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 07: John Lasseter poses for photos on the red carpet during The Walt Disney Family Museum's 3rd Annual Fundraising Gala at the Golden Gate Club on November 7, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Walt Disney Family Museum)
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 14: Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios John Lasseter took part today in the Walt Disney Studios animation presentation at Disney's D23 EXPO 2017 in Anaheim, Calif. (name of film) will be released in U.S. theaters on (release date). (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 10: John Lasseter and Nancy Lasseter arrive at the premiere of Disney And Pixar's 'Cars 3' at Anaheim Convention Center on June 10, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Nancy Lasseter and John Lasseter attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Presley Ann Slack/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
John Lasseter attending the EE British Academy Film Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, Kensington, London. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Chief creative officer of Pixar John Lasseter arrives at the AFI FEST 2016 presented by Audi premiere of Disney's 'Moana' held at the El Capitan Theatre on November 14, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Chief Creative Officer Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter attends The Walt Disney Family Museum's 2nd Annual Gala at Disney�s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at The Disneyland Resort on November 1, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for The Walt Disney Family Museum)
ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Master of Ceremonies, Neil Patrick Harris (L) and Presenter John Lasseter speak onstage at The Walt Disney Family Museum's 2nd Annual Gala at Disney�s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at The Disneyland Resort on November 1, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for The Walt Disney Family Museum)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 19: President at Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, (L) and CCO at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter, speak onstage during 'Inside the House of Disney' at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 19, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 08: (L-R) Actress Ellen DeGeneres, Executive producer John Lasseter and actor Albert Brooks attend The World Premiere of Disney-Pixar�s FINDING DORY on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Disney Toon Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter (L) and Bennett Lasseter attend the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
ONCE UPON A TIME - The cast and crew of Once Upon a Time celebrated the series' 100th episode on location in Storybrooke. The 100th episode, entitled 'Souls of the Departed, airs SUNDAY, MARCH 6 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EST) , on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Jack Rowand/ABC via Getty Images) JOHN LASSETER (CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER, WALT DISNEY AND PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS), NANCY LASSETER
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 17: John Lasseter arrvies at the Walt Disney Animation Studios' 'Zootopia' Premiere at the El Capitan Theatre on February 17, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Executive producer John Lasseter attends the Los Angeles premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios' 'Zootopia' on February 17, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
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Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October, however, some female employees have begun to discuss how Lasseter’s behavior has crossed the line into creepiness. In the letter to employees, Lasseter acknowledged that he has “recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me.”

Pixar has long been known as a “boys club,” though the company has taken steps in recent years to acknowledge and encourage its female employees.

In the memo, Lasseter said he would return to the company after a six-month “sabbatical.”

The full memo:

I have always wanted our animation studios to be places where creators can explore their vision with the support and collaboration of other gifted animators and storytellers. This kind of creative culture takes constant vigilance to maintain. It’s built on trust and respect, and it becomes fragile if any members of the team don’t feel valued. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen; and I now believe I have been falling short in this regard.

I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me. 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. 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.

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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. 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. As hard as it is for me to step away from a job I am so passionate about and a team I hold in the highest regard, not just as artists but as people, I know it’s the best thing for all of us right now. My hope is that a six-month sabbatical will give me the opportunity to start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.

I’m immensely proud of this team, and I know you will continue to wow the world in my absence. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working together again in the new year.

John

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