John Lasseter, Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief, has announced he was taking a six-month leave of absence after sexual misconduct allegations.
According to a memo by Lasseter posted online on Tuesday, he told the staff that he was taking the leave following what he called “missteps” including unwanted hugs that made employees uncomfortable, Xinhua news agency reported.
Lasseter, 60, who always wears a Hawaiian-shirt even on stage delivering speech, is known for directing films like “Toy Story”, “Toy Story 2”, “A Bug’s Life” and “Cars,” and has produced every Pixar feature since 2001’s “Monster’s, Inc.”
He won a special achievement Oscar for “Toy Story”, the first feature-length computer-animated film, and has been credited with leading a resurgence of Disney Animation.
His movies not only brought two Academy Awards, for Animated Short Film and Special Achievement to him, but also earned more than 10 billion US dollars in global box office.
Tuesday’s news comes as Pixar’s “Coco” readies to hit theatres on Wednesday for the long Thanksgiving Day weekend.
Lasseter is the latest entertainment titan to be exposed for claims of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace since October when US film producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of similar misconducts with aspiring actresses and others.
Lasseter also apologised “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”.
He said, after a number of difficult conversations with Disney that have been very painful for him, he found stepping away from his post immediately was “the best thing for all of us right now”.
The Deadline.com, the leading online entertainment news, reported Tuesday that one woman who worked with him described he is a very tactile person who expresses himself in weird, uncomfortable ways.
“We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, supporting Lasseter’s sabbatical.