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Pixar

Rashida Jones Reveals Why She Left ‘Toy Story 4’ And It’s Not Good For Disney-Pixar

Actress and writer Rashida Jones has said in a statement that she did not leave as a co-writer of Toy Story 4 due to unwanted sexual advances from Pixar’s chief creative officer John Lasseter. The claim had been made earlier today by The Hollywood Reporter.

This doesn’t have much of an effect on the overall Lasseter story, because allegations about his behavior number in the potential dozens and occurred over multiple decades. However, Jones’s statement, made with her former Toy Story 4 writing partner, Will McCormack, does add an entirely new twist to the story.

Jones revealed that she left not just over creative differences, but philosophical differences, stemming from Pixar’s “culture,” which doesn’t value women and people of color.

The full statement by Jones and McCormack was sent to New York Times reporter Brooks Barnes, who posted it on his Twitter. It reads:

We feel like we have been put in a position where we need to speak for ourselves. The break neck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible and, in fact, counterproductive for the people who do want to tell their stories. In this instance, The Hollywood Reporter does not speak for us. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. That said, we are happy to see people speaking out about behavior that made them uncomfortable. We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.

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, as is demonstrated by their director demograpics [sic]: out of the 20 films in the company’s history, only one was co-directed by a woman and only one was directed by a person of color. 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.

The statement raises so many more questions than it answers. Obviously, Jones and McCormack would have been aware of Pixar’s ‘boy’s club’ history before joining the studio. The number of white male directors at the company was hardly a secret.

So what made them uncomfortable about that set-up after they started writing the film? What experiences did they have that made them believe that Pixar doesn’t value women and people of color? That’s not answered in their statement.

The point they make though does reaffirm what so many people have said about the company over the years, from the criticisms of firing Brenda Chapman from her film Brave and replacing her with a man, to the long-running questions about why a white male was allowed to direct Coco, a film deeply rooted in Mexican culture. The latter became such a hot-button issue – especially after Disney tried to obtain a trademark on Mexico’s cultural holiday – that Pixar was forced to hire a slew of Mexican cultural advisers and add a Mexican-American co-director to placate critics.

On the eve of Coco’s release, Jones and McCormack’s statement opens up a new lines of inquiry into the workplace environment of Pixar and what is truly going on within the Emeryville studio.

If you have more details from the inside, drop us a line. Anonymity guaranteed.

  • Andres Molina

    Well, from this to the allegations, I could pretty much confirm, Pixar truly is in a dark age. Pixar was never perfect but the cracks have opened. I always saw John Lasseter as an inspiration, and based on what I know, he does seem like a nice guy. All this news is very shocking for me. In the end, I hope John gets his act together and change, and I hope in the future, Pixar will reform into a stronger and more diverse studio.

    • Daniel Garland

      John Lassetter should be fired, but he’s never going to be because he’s “John Lassetter”. If this were some shot-gun animator in the trenches, he woulda been fired on the spot. It’s sickening that Disney is just letting this slide, but I get it; he’s the guy who’s brought them in billions in revenue.

      • Matthew

        And consider that some of this behavior went on while Miramax and Harvey Weinstein were also part of Disney. It’s sad that this is tolerated and that only now is something being done about it. Why do some people have trouble respecting the personal space of others? What is the psychology (for lack of a better word) behind that behavior?

  • Mario Bros

    White men, white men, white men. Should we just kill ourselves already?

    • Pach Pacheco

      nah bro. don’t do that. there’s good and bad people in every ethnicity.

    • Don’t be silly. Also, don’t be part of the problem.

  • Mack

    I don’t know Lee Unkrich, but if he’s a decent guy, I feel sorry for him. Adrian Molina, too. All those years of hard work on Coco, and on the eve of its big release, these are the headlines.

  • Tom B

    Idk but I find it so disrespectful and discrediting to someone like Andrian Molina to say he was only made codirector of Coco because of outside pressure. Although there truly are issues of representation do not make claims he’s only a director because of his nationality. I’m sure he’s just as talented and worked just a short hard as anyone else. I find the rhetoric here to be insulting and in the end unflattering to your site.

    • AmidAmidi

      It’s not meant to be a statement on Molina’s talent, but the fact is that he wasn’t a co-director on the film until after the whole Day of the Dead incident led to enhanced cultural sensitivity from the studio. Considering that Pixar hired one of its toughest Mexican-American critics, Lalo Alcaraz, it is quite obvious that some political calculations were made to ensure support from Mexican audiences.

      • Bob

        That could be true… but it’s also the cynical view. It’s sort of a damned if you do damned if you don’t in your scenario. If they had outside pressure and they realized they needed to include someone with cultural knowledge in order to have relevant input did they not try and do the right thing? I guess that wouldn’t be inflammatory enough for website success?

      • cookedart

        I’m not sure of the timeline here, but while it could be seen as a political calculation, one could just as easily see it as concrete steps to actually have more diverse opinions in the creative process.

      • RCooke

        What’s wrong with trying to address concerns anyone had? They may have entered into the venture somewhat naively—but spent the time, money, and effort to try and make it right. Adrian Molina has done some of the best story work at Pixar—Lee Unkrich praised his contributions to Toy Story 3. He must have something going on. And Coco is terrific! It drags a little in the middle for my taste, but the ending is so great I didn’t care. Can’t wait to see it again-it’s quite a visual feast!

  • Dante Panora

    This is the worst kind of news to come out before coco.

  • Chicken McPhee

    On top of this they’ve also turned into a sweatshop since they started doing two features a year. The people in there are tired and are burning out, all in favor of Pixar making a few more bucks in the short term while destroying what Pixar stood for in the first place.
    These are legitimate concerns though, especially in a time where nazism is on the rise in the United States.

    • Bramagola

      How was that not obvious given who bought them? Do people really think Disney buys Pixar and Pixar somehow comes out like a mystical beast? It was a mystical beast when IT WASNT WITH Disney.

      Now — it’s Disney. They are/were/are disgusting.

      Just because people “like their product” doesn’t mean the company nor its moral and ethical compasses, are not hot garbage.

  • Drew

    She is absolutely correct about the culture at Disney, but it’s not just women and people of color… who are isolated from leadership… it is also gay women and men… in Disney history there have been very few openly gay directors. Whenever a culture is male dominated… any one who isn’t a straight male is isolated from the group. I have personally witnessed many moments where gay men and women have been mocked behind their back by leadership at Disney and if you speak up… you’re a problem child. I have seen many gay employees leave the company because the culture did not welcome them in to the “collaborative” environment. Here’s some leadership advice for you — What comes around goes around– maybe now John will know what it feels like to be left under the bed just like Jessie… that is how us minorities feel every single day of our lives, except our lives aren’t movies, we don’t get to carry around popcorn.

    • Polecat

      I remember that back in the ’90s Disney was considered “the gayest place on earth,” to the point that conservative evangelical Christians were horrified and sometimes engaged in boycotts. Did things change since then? Or was that more an aspect of the parks than the animation division?

      • Animator

        No, this guy is talking out of his ass. Much like the above comment I’ve never seen this in my career and have never heard any of that vocalized.

        • Jenny

          I was at Disney in the 90s and through the 2000s it had openly gay management but hardly any artists and certainly no openly gay directors. The creative culture at Disney has always been dominated by straight white males, I know this because I was there.

    • Floor Tom Jones

      I worked at Disney TVA and my experience is the exact opposite of yours. There were many gay employees(men and women) and the split among the men and women was nearly half/half. It was a welcoming, nurturing, creative atmosphere that everyone was very appreciative of. I can’t think of any instance where we didn’t prioritize looking out for each other. Being mean to any fellow crew members for any reason was out of the question. What a horrible project you must have worked on.

    • PinataPower

      I never experienced this at WDFA, I worked on Wild Life when it was in development, That film had a gay director, gay characters and gay jokes written into the script. Thomas Schumacher was also the head of Feature Animation at the time, who was openly gay. This is back when Lilo & Stitch and Sweating Bullets(Home on the Range) was in development.

      • Matthew

        Is it true that Roy E. Disney was responsible for the plug getting pulled?

        • Pixar

          The project was pulled for being too… um… diverse… you do the math.

        • PinataPower

          That, I dont know. I remember Schumacher not being a fan of the sexualized humor, I think he felt it was a waste of time since no one across the street would approve of it. Roy did still have an office at the time, Mickeys hat was his office.

  • Polecat

    Slightly irrelevant question: why did Pixar think we needed a “Toy Story 4”? The trilogy was fine. Leave it there.

    • Mesterius

      Better question: why did the Disney company think we needed a Toy Story 4? Answer: money.

      • Polecat

        Too true.

        I think they might have made a better decision if they had decided to schedule a 20th-anniversary re-release instead.

  • Ms Caddy-doo

    most pixar animations are like watching something a group of young boys would make. Nothing new about the one-sided culture of Pixar.

    • mick

      Most but not all? Which ones definitely are made with a young boys ethos? Which ones are not? That way we can cross reference who worked on what and then list who was involved in their making and then eliminate anyone from column A who isn’t in column B, or if they worked on the ones that were seemingly not made by young boys they can go on list A-1… hang on I’ll get my pencil… I’ll start us off- Ratatouille… no wait….

  • rolo

    Consideration of the past will help studios find the artists who were silenced by a culture that dismissed them.

  • So she jumped ship simply because they weren’t “progressive” enough rather than because of any legitimate wrongdoing? How disappointing.

    • KW

      That conclusion is based off of a lot of presumptions. We dont know the specifics of why she left and to go ahead and decide for yourself it was simply because they weren’t progressive enough and nothing else is doing you and everyone else believing this comment a disservice. Its best to not come up with your own narrative on this one.

    • Lazer-Lion

      dismissing PoC and not breaking up his boy’s club is pretty damn legitimate a wrongdoing. Along with his gross sexual misconduct, that dude basically told these people’s talents should and would not be recognized due to his privilege blinding him.

  • Mesterius

    “…to the long-running questions about why a white male was allowed to direct Coco…”

    Um, because he developed the idea and was passionate about it?

    It feels like the whole slew of criticism started after the Disney company tried to trademark the Day of the Dead holiday – which I doubt Unkrich had anything to do with personally. He simply wanted to make a film about the subject. Are creative people no longer allowed to talk about other cultures beside their own?

  • James

    Maybe it’s just my experience, but TV animation must be the only industry where producers feel comfortable handing over multi-million productions to people with 4-5 years of experience just because they are female. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and twice now in the last 2 years, I’ve had to go into these productions and steer them back on track because the same person just didn’t have the necessary experience or confidence to take on the task. But she will. In a few more years, she will be an outstanding director because the talent is definitely there…she just needs more time. And I suspect that within the next 10 years, female and minority directors will be completely common place because if you look at all the graduating classes from Sheridan and CalArts, females and minorities are now the majority. You can’t force these changes…they have to happen organically. I love Rashida Jone’s work and I was excited to see what she would contribute to Toy Story, so I’m disappointed that she left, but first and foremost, Pixar are a corporation with a reputation for great films. And more and more employees will prove themselves with their short films and then they will be given a seat at that exclusive Pixar director’s table.

    • rolo

      In a rush to move women forward the controls have been given to young women somewhat overlooking women who have had experience just like you. While the industry could wait for a crop of young women to mature, you have female peers.

  • Fabian R.

    What do you mean “why a white male was allowed to direct Coco”? I am Mexican, and first of all, there are a lot of white Mexicans. We are not all ‘brown’. Second, even if what you meant is ‘white male American’, then I must say I have not problems with this. Everyone has the right to write/direct a story about any other group if they like it. It is their studio. They can run it like they please. Mexican studios have to keep improving to the point that it is their movies about Mexican culture the ones that are the best. There is a long road ahead, but saying that someone ‘is not allowed’ to create a story about other culture is nonsensical, and precisely the time of racism towards white people (yes, I do think that it is possible to be racist against any race, not only from whites to other groups) that is sadly becoming the norm.

    The part about trying to get a trademark IS a very serious issue, I agree. It would not be the first time people try to trademark something about Mexican culture (I remember Chinese tried to patent Tequila, a long time ago).

    • ocelotish

      Not that is great behavior on their part, but I could see the same trademark issue happening if Disney made a hypothetical movie called “Christmas Day.” I bet they would have tried to trademark that too (and I don’t remember how far researching the day of the dead trademark was).

    • I agree that a person should not be faulted for their nationality – I think if a culture is very well-researched with respect, it is possible to make a good movie that all will appreciate. What you mentioned about the growing Mexican animation industry reminds me of when Kung Fu Panda came out and its reception in China (I recall reading about animators in China asking “why didn’t we make this movie?” and the general consensus being at that time, their animation community wasn’t capable of the same story quality, or something to that effect; I can’t remember exactly).

      What concerns me is the statement in the article “Pixar was forced to hire a slew of Mexican cultural advisers and add a Mexican-American co-director to placate critics”. I wonder how much the cultural advisors were able to affect Coco, if they were brought in at a later stage of production? I don’t know how true “FORCED” is, but it strikes me as a big contrast to how the (white American) directors of Moana went about making that film, establishing connections with historians and anthropologists from around the Pacific region from the beginning of production.

  • PinataPower

    “Pixar was forced to hire a slew of Mexican cultural advisers and add a Mexican co-director to placate critics.”

    Adrian Molina is a Mexican-American and he’s been at Pixar since 2007.

    • Daniel Garland

      he wasn’t a director tho

  • Bob

    Aside from director demographics did something actually happen?

  • Robert Holmén

    So it turns out Pixar is just another typical commercial movie studio. I knew that after “Cars 2”

    • Renard N. Bansale

      Now, now…

    • Matthew

      None of them are charities.

  • Ushio

    So she left because there weren’t enough women there but when Pixar does hire women they leave because there aren’t enough women working there hmm.

  • Polecat

    And Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head finally adopting the alien “kids”…that was the icing on the cake. :)

  • Matthew

    There used to be a rule against same-sex dancing at the park but two men named Andrew Exler and Shawn Eliot took them to court and won. Three years after the court decision, and after the policy was quietly dropped, there was another lawsuit over a similar matter.

    https://www.upi.com/Archives/1984/06/29/Judge-affirms-gay-dancing-alright-at-Disneyland/3729457329600/

    http://articles.latimes.com/1989-09-30/local/me-327_1_discrimination-suit

    • Drew

      This is exactly what I am speaking of. “Animator” is living under a rock.

      • Matthew

        There’s always been a religious contigent at Disney’s that encompassed various faiths. Even Disney fandom is a weird mix that includes but is not limited gays and religious conservatives, two groups you’d think would have nothing in common.

  • cetrata

    Uhh, the reason why a white male was allowed to direct it is because he’s the one that came up with the idea. The production did include many Latino animators, actors, and even writers.

  • Christian Z.

    I too thought it didn’t make sense. “As a woman of color I need to leave Pixar because they mostly hire white men to make their movies.” Wait… that means, on that point at least, she should have stayed.

  • Strong Enough

    who was the non white pixar director?

    • David Zweig

      Peter Sohn directed “The Good Dinosaur”. He’s a Korean kid from the Bronx and a friend of mine from CalArts. Such an amazing talent.

      • Strong Enough

        Funny he wasn’t the first choice to direct that one either. It was bob Peterson