Ever since John Lasseter took a leave of absence from Pixar, the company’s top brass have been largely silent about their feelings on the situation and Lasseter himself.

The few who have been pressed for their thoughts have dodged and deflected and managed to get away without saying anything directly related to the situation.

In a new interview with The Daily Beast, director Brad Bird has become the first significant Pixar figure to offer any kind of substantive personal opinion on the matter. As pointed out in the piece, the interview took place the day before Lasseter was controversially announced as the new head of Skydance Animation.

Bird told the publication that his feelings about Lasseter are “complicated” and that he doesn’t view Lasseter “in black and white” but “as a person like anyone else.” He also gives credit to Lasseter for being “very protective of us at a time when we needed it,” citing Lasseter’s role in championing The Incredibles.

The Incredibles 2 director also says that he doesn’t put Lasseter in the same category as Harvey Weinstein, the former movie executive who has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by over 80 women. Weinstein is currently awaiting trial in New York on rape and assault charges.

Here is the full excerpt with Bird’s comments about Lasseter:

Bird has a hard time talking about the allegations against Lasseter. “These times are not good for nuance,” he says. “You’re either 100 percent for something or you’re 100 against something.”

He tells me a story about Lasseter coming to bat for him when Michael Eisner and Steve Jobs didn’t want to give a movie to the guy “who just did this flop The Iron Giant,” referring to Bird’s 1999 box-office misfire. They were told their script idea for The Incredibles was too much like Spy Kids—“which is beyond me”—and didn’t have enough fantasy elements, “like little blue fish or blue monsters.” Basically, they wanted Lasseter to direct another movie instead.

“John kind of flung his body between us and the executives and said I think these guys are onto something and let’s give them a little more time to develop it,” Bird says. “By the time we finished our story reels, that guy was gone and the reels spoke for themselves. He stuck his neck out in a way that few in Hollywood are willing to.”

“I don’t at all put John in a category with Weinstein,” he continues. “You’re navigating a world where men have acted a certain way for thousands of years. Way too late, but all of a sudden, they’re expected to change that on a dime and it’s necessary and it’s right. But it’s a little bit a gray area. It’s not as hard of a cut as people want to make it. I’m an old friend of John’s and I don’t see him in black and white. I see him as a person like anyone else. He was a person who was very protective of us at a time when we needed it. So my feelings are a little bit more complicated.”

Photo: John Lasseter and Brad Bird at “Ratatouille” premiere, via Shutterstock.

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