Sadly, the entertainment industry has been badly tainted in recent weeks, as more and more powerful males in Hollywood have been accused of various degrees of sexual misconduct up to and including rape. It seems that not even the creators of beloved children’s entertainment are above such behavior. John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Studios Animation, has issued a lengthy statement after such charges were raised against him and has announced a reported six month leave of absence, on the verge of the release of the company’s latest would-be hit, ‘Coco’.
Unfortunately, this comes as news has arisen that writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack have parted ways with Pixar after signing on to pen ‘Toy Story 4’. It was initially reported that their departure followed an inappropriate advance from Lasseter toward Jones, best known as an actor from ‘Parks and Recreation’, ‘The Office’, ‘Web Therapy’ and ‘Angie Tribeca’ among other projects. But Jones and McCormick, who co-wrote the movie ‘Celeste & Jesse Forever’ and the TV series ‘A to Z’ together, issued a statement refuting that. Unfortunately, their reason for leaving isn’t much nicer.
Their statement reads:
“The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.”
The statement goes on to say:
“There is so much talent at Pixar, and we remain enormous fans of their films. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice. We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.”
As for Lasseter, following the allegations against him, he issued this statement:
“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.”
Lasseter is a massive force behind the success of both Disney and Pixar, with him having shepherded such massive hits as the ‘Toy Story’ franchise and ‘Frozen’ just to name two examples. The charges against him include “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” It’s also said that female employees actually referred to making “a Lasseter,” a defensive move to prevent unwanted touching from their boss.
Here’s hoping the new year brings an end to all of these nasty revelations involving Hollywood bigwigs. But at least victims have the courage to speak up and shine a light on these shady behind-the-scenes situations.
‘Toy Story 4’ is currently in production and as of now, Jones and McCormick are still listed as the only screenwriters, with the original story credited to Lasseter, Peter Doctor, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich. The film is slated for release on June 21, 2019. And yes, most of your favorites, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Estelle Harris, Laurie Metcalf and Jodi Benson are returning, along with Annie Potts as Bo Peep, who was sadly absent from ‘Toy Story 3’, having been given away before the events of that film.
Hopefully, that film and others like ‘Coco’ can still entertain distance themselves from the dark behind the scenes events.