A former Pixar employee wrote a scathing column criticizing the company's culture of 'open sexism'

  • A former Pixar employee wrote a column for Variety criticizing the "open sexism" of the film company's corporate environment under Pixar cofounder John Lasseter.
  • In her column, Cassandra Smolcic, a former graphic designer at Pixar, said she personally experienced sexual harassment over her five years of employment with the company, from Lasseter, her unnamed former department head, and other male coworkers.

A former Pixar employee has written a column for Variety criticizing the "open sexism" of the film company's corporate environment under the leadership of Pixar cofounder and former chief John Lasseter. 

Disney announced earlier this month that Lasseter would depart the company at the end of this year. Lasseter took a six-month sabbatical in November shortly after The Hollywood Reporter published a report on allegations of Lasseter's inappropriate workplace behavior with his employees, which included "grabbing, kissing, [and] making comments about physical attributes."

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Pixar cofounder John Lasseter
Filmmaker John Lasseter of the U.S. poses at the opening of the Lumiere Grand Lyon film festival in Lyon, France, October 12, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Pratta
Executive producer John Lasseter poses at the world premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Moana" as a part of AFI Fest in Hollywood, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Voice actress Amy Poehler (L), executive producer John Lasseter (C) and voice actress Melanie Laurent pose on the red carpet as they arrive for the screening of the animated film "Inside Out" (Vice Versa) out of competition at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, May 18, 2015. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney animation studios, poses at the world premiere of "Planes" at El Capitan theatre in Hollywood, California August 5, 2013. The movie opens in the U.S. on August 9. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
John Lasseter, two-time Academy Award winning director and chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios speaks about his late friend Steve Jobs during ceremonies honoring Lasseter with a star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood November 1, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
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)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 08: John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar Animation, Walt Disney Animation and DisneyToon Studios (L) and Edwin Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios arrive at the premiere of Disney Pixar's 'Coco' at the El Capitan Theatre on November 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
D23 EXPO 2017 - Friday, July 14, 2017 - The Ultimate Disney Fan Event - brings together all the worlds of Disney under one roof for three packed days of presentations, pavilions, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, shopping, and more. The event, which takes place July 14-16 at the Anaheim Convention Center, provides fans with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, games, theme parks, and celebrities. (Image Group LA / Disney via Getty Images) JOHN LASSETER (CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER, PIXAR AND WALT DISNEY ANIMATIONS STUDIOS)
US animator, film director, screenwriter and producer John Lasseter addresses a press conference during the D23 Expo fan convention at the Convention Center in Anaheim, on July 14, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS DELMAS (Photo credit should read CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 10: John Lasseter arrives 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)
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)
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: Executive producer John Lasseter and actress Ellen DeGeneres attend the world premiere of Disney-Pixar's 'Finding Dory' at the El Capitan Theatre on June 8, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Director John Lasseter arrives at the premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios' 'Zootopia' at the El Capitan Theatre on February 17, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 17: John Lasseter arrives at the Walt Disney Animation Studios' 'Zootopia' premiere held at the El Capitan Theatre on February 17, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Animator John Lasseter attends The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 42nd Student Academy Awards at AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theater on September 17, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vincent Sandoval/WireImage)
D23 EXPO 2015 - D23 EXPO, the ultimate Disney fan event, brings together all the past, present and future of Disney entertainment under one roof. Taking place August 14-16, this year marks the fourth D23 EXPO at the Anaheim Convention Center and promises to be the biggest and most spectacular yet. (Photo by ABC/Image Group LA via Getty Images) JOHN LASSETER (Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios; Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering)
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In her column for Variety, Cassandra Smolcic, a former graphic designer at Pixar, said that Lasseter's "open sexism" had the effect of "emboldening others to act like frat boys in just about any campus setting" at the company.

Smolcic wrote that she personally experienced sexual harassment over her five years of employment with Pixar, from Lasseter, her unnamed former department head, and other men at the company. She said her harassment included "many unwelcome, objectifying interactions" and a physical groping from one male coworker. 

"Just after starting on 'Cars 2,' I was told by a superior that I would be uninvited from all our weekly art department meetings because Lasseter 'has a hard time controlling himself' around young women," Smolcic wrote. 

Smolcic described how "management teams across the studio were well known for cleaning up the messes of powerful male superiors, regardless of their poor behavior or challenging leadership styles," while Pixar's "few female leads lacked backing and basic respect from the institution and the masses."

Smolcic said she left the company at 30 after being "physically and mentally burnt out after years of bumping up against the glass ceiling" at the company.

Smolcic closed her column by praising Pixar's decision to move forward with Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter as chief creative officers at Disney Animation and Pixar, respectively.

"But dismantling John’s legacy will take more than just replacing a single executive, because such deeply ingrained biases require deliberate, conscientious effort to identify and dismantle. Disney and Pixar must recognize that women and underrepresented minorities are just as capable, talented, complex, and dimensional as the white fraternity of men who have monopolized animation thus far," she wrote.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the matter.

Read Smolcic's full column at Variety.

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