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BREAKING: Nine Days After Leaving Disney, John Lasseter Is Named Head Of Skydance Animation

Just nine days after his job at the Walt Disney Company officially ended, the disgraced former head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios John Lasseter has been hired by Skydance Animation as the head of their animation studio.

John Lasseter will report to Skydance Media’s CEO David Ellison, and will start the job in Los Angeles later this month.

UPDATE: The industry reaction to Lasseter’s hiring has been harshly negative. Women’s organization Time’s Up says that Lasseter’s hiring is “condoning abuse” and “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

In his new role, Lasseter will be responsible for setting the overall strategy and creative direction for Skydance Animation. He will drive the division’s artistic growth, overseeing production and operations across an animation slate for all media.

Among Skydance’s announced projects: Luck, directed by Alessandro Carloni and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, and an Untitled Action Fantasy, directed by Vicky Jenson and written by Linda Woolverton. Skydance also recently snagged Tangled director Nathan Greno from Disney; Greno will direct the original feature Powerless. Skydance has a partnership with Madrid’s Ilion Animation Studios (Planet 51, Paramount’s upcoming Wonder Park), where its films are being animated.

Lasseter said in a statement:

“I’m grateful to David and the Skydance team and know that I have been entrusted with an enormous responsibility. It is a distinct privilege that I will relish. I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for. It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.

I want nothing more than the opportunity to return to my creative and entrepreneurial roots, to build and invent again. I join Skydance with the same enthusiasm that drove me to help build Pixar, with a firm desire to tell original and diverse stories for audiences everywhere. With what I have learned and how I have grown in the past year, I am resolute in my commitment to build an animation studio upon a foundation of quality, safety, trust and mutual respect.”

Skydance has a long-term deal with Paramount Pictures, and their new animation division will output some of its films through Paramount Animation.

Skydance also recently acquired live-action film and television rights to the French superhero-romance animated show Miraculous – Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir. If you’ll remember a post we did a few months ago, we suggested that Lasseter could be working with the show’s creators. It’s not clear if he’ll be working with them through this new job, but both Zag and Lasseter are now connected to different divisions of the same company.

The news of Lasseter’s hire will be disappointing to many, but it shouldn’t be surprising. At the time of the meeting with Zag, we wrote, “[This] is a reminder of Lasseter’s status in Hollywood: Disney may not be able to work with Lasseter, but there’s plenty of Disney competitors that would be thrilled to have him on their team.”

Ellison, who is the son of billionaire Larry Ellison and brother of Annapurna Pictures’ Megan Ellison, tried to address Lasseter’s many reports of sexual harassment in a letter that he wrote for the hiring. Here is the full note from Ellison about their decision-making process to hire Lasseter:

Dear Colleagues:

I wanted to share with you first some news that we are announcing today.

Industry visionary John Lasseter is joining us to lead Skydance Animation. John will be based in Los Angeles and will report directly to me.

Bill Damaschke will be transitioning from his current role, and we are hopeful he will choose to remain within the Skydance family.

The attached press release outlines the news more fully, but I wanted to share a few things that have informed our decision to bring John on board.

First, no one can dispute John’s legacy building Pixar and Walt Disney Animation into the leadership position they now enjoy. His creative vision and forward-looking approach to animation has transformed the entire industry. At his heart, John is a storyteller – with a unique ability to tell beautiful and emotionally-driven tales that resonate and inspire audiences around the globe.

Second, I know many of you are aware of John’s admitted mistakes in his prior role helming those studios. John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behavior, apologized for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analyzing and improving his workplace behavior.

Third, we employed outside counsel to thoroughly investigate the allegations, which we considered serious and have warranted our full attention as we made this important decision. The senior leadership team and I have all carefully evaluated the findings of this extensive investigation.

Let me be clear: we have not entered into this decision lightly.

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. We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague. And he has given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner that is the expectation of every Skydance colleague and partner.

We are very hopeful and excited about what the coming years will bring, as John’s art transcends generations and cultures, while deeply resonating on a fundamental level with what makes us uniquely human.

The senior leadership team and I will be hosting a town hall for all Skydance Animation colleagues shortly to speak with you directly about this transition. Additional town halls at SDM and SDI will take place today and tomorrow.

Skydance Animation colleagues, please be on the lookout for a call-to-gather email. I look forward to speaking with you in person.

Thanks,

David

Photo: Shutterstock

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