Former head of Disney Animation John Lasseter is heading to Skydance Media, where he will lead its new animation department. Skydance produces many science-fiction and action movies and is known for Mission: Impossible - Fallout, Annihilation and Star Trek: Into Darkness. The company launched its animation department in March 2017, merging with Madrid-based Ilion Animation Studios (Wonderpark). Skydance Animation has two untitled projects in the works.
Though a staple of Pixar Animation, Lasseter took a sabbatical in November 2017, after reports of sexual misconduct allegations began to circulate. Anonymous employees from Pixar and Disney spoke to various news outlets about their experiences with Lasseter’s behavior specifically, while notable names like Rashida Jones and Will McCormack spoke out about the culture of Pixar in general, describing it as a place “where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.” Lasseter apologized for his “missteps,” but in June 2018 he officially exited Disney, though he would continue to consult for them through the end of the year.
Hiring Lasseter is a controversial move, but Skydance Media CEO David Ellison says that it is not one that Skydance handled lightly. In a press release, Ellison explained the decision, highlighting Lasseter’s legacy at Pixar and storytelling skills as the reason for this choice.
“While we would never minimize anyone’s subjective views on behavior, we are confident after many substantive conversations with John, and as the investigation has affirmed, that his mistakes have been recognized,” said Ellison. “We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague.”
Lasseter will start work at Skydance Animation later this month.
Update: Time’s Up, the organization dedicated to ending sexual harassment in the workplace, released a statement regarding Skydance’s hiring decision:
Skydance Media’s decision to hire John Lasseter as head of animation endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence. At a moment when we should be uplifting the many talented voices who are consistently underrepresented, Skydance Media is providing another position of power, prominence and privilege to a man who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.
People often ask when a man who has abused his power “gets” to “come back.” There is no simple answer. But here are a few first steps:
1) Demonstrate true remorse.
2) Work deeply to reform your behavior.
3) Deliver restitution to those you harmed.
That’s the bare minimum.
Hiring decisions have consequences. And offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to do any of those things is condoning abuse.