LOS ANGELES (CNS) - John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, announced today he is taking a leave of absence, just prior to a report of sexual harassment allegations against him.
In a memo sent to Pixar staff and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter just prior to its publication of a story outlining the harassment allegations, Lasseter said he is taking a "six-month sabbatical" to reflect on his future at the company, saying he needs to confront his "missteps."
"I've recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me," said Lasseter, who directed Pixar blockbusters including "Toy Story," "Toy Story 2" and "Cars."
"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."
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Disney. The Hollywood Reporter cited sources within Pixar who said "Toy Story 4" staff writer Rashida Jones and her then-writing partner Will McCormack left the project in response to an unwanted advance made by Lasseter.
Pixar sources told the trade publication that Lasseter was known for "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes."
Sources also told THR that Lasseter, who has a reputation for hugging his staffers, was known to drink heavily at company gatherings.
The 60-year-old Lasseter is credited with rejuvenating Disney's animation studio through projects including the smash hit "Frozen," the "Toy Story" and "Cars" franchises and the soon-to-be-released "Coco."
He conceded in his staff memo that he has "been falling short" in his effort to create a company culture of support, trust and respect.
Lasseter wrote that he has spoken to Disney officials, and they share a desire "to reinforce the vibrant, respectful culture" that has led to the studio's success.
"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," he wrote.
"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."