The Walt Disney Company will hold a “Day of Listening” tomorrow for the studio’s animation staff to air workplace concerns.
The underlying purpose of the gathering, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which first revealed news of the meeting, is to figure out how the studio will move forward in the absence of John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios who has been absent from the studio for over two months now.
Lasseter was forced to take a six-month “sabbatical” from both Disney and Pixar following news reports of decades’ worth of sexual harassment allegations that included unwanted kisses on the lips and other types of inappropriate physical contact, such as touching and rubbing women’s bodies.
According to one Disney veteran who spoke to THR, the “real reason behind this day of listening is to take the temperature of staff to see how likely it is that Lasseter can come back. That’s a stretch to put somebody back in charge of animation at such a storied brand as Disney after the revelations of his behavior.”
While such an event has never been held at Disney, similar events have been held at Disney’s other feature animation studio, Pixar. A studio source who wishes to remain anonymous told Cartoon Brew, “More than two years ago, Pixar conducted a ‘Day of Reflection’ at their Emeryville campus to understand what the issues were contributing to low morale. Much of the feedback pointed to Lasseter as the main problem. When he received the feedback, he sulked for a week before getting back to being King John.”
The John Lasseter scandal has not followed the pattern of other recent sexual harassment incidents in Hollywood. Lasseter was allowed to go on a paid sabbatical from the company, and there has been no indication of the Walt Disney Company launching an investigation to verify the allegations.
As a studio source told Cartoon Brew, Disney/Pixar animation president Ed Catmull and Walt Disney Animation Studios president Andrew Millstein “were fully aware of Lasseter’s ‘issues’ and did nothing to stop it. Instead, they shielded and protected him. They are part of the problem. Both those executives allowed Lasseter’s abusive, inappropriate behavior to flourish. And studio HR was aware of Lasseter’s bad behavior.”
A report in Vanity Fair last November confirmed that Catmull, Millstein, and other top Walt Disney Company execs were aware of Lasseter’s behavior towards women as far back as eight years ago.