In today’s hiring announcement of John Lasseter, Skydance CEO David Ellison said his company “employed outside counsel to thoroughly investigate the allegations” and that they have “carefully evaluated the findings of this extensive investigation.”
The company said that “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.”
It’s a troubling statement to say the least. Nonconsenual sexual contact with another person is not a “subjective view on behavior,” but an objective action. An investigation into Lasseter should have been able to verify whether those actions occurred, and if they did occur, a full accounting should be made available to the studio’s employees, so that company personnel understand the full extent of Lasseter’s past behavior.
It’s important to note that many of Lasseter’s alleged actions at Disney, as confirmed by numerous different individuals to numerous different media sources, go beyond what is typically defined as sexual harassment and into areas that would legally be considered as sexual assault. Further, the allegations against Lasseter were not isolated incidents, but represent a consistent pattern of behavior that stretched over a period of more than a decade.
To date, Skydance has not been transparent about the findings of its investigation into Lasseter, nor has it explained what safety precautions it is implementing to assure the personal safety of its female personnel, who will now have to answer to a boss with an extended history of assault and harassment accusations against him.
Further, as confirmed by former Pixar artist Cassandra Smolcic, who wrote a lengthy essay on the topic, Lasseter created a studio culture at Pixar in which women were denied opportunities for advancement, sometimes due to Lasseter’s own personal behavior. This was additionally confirmed by Rashida Jones, the former writer of Toy Story 4, who left mid-production, saying that Pixar has “a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.” Again, these patterns of behavior and thinking, combined with the alleged assault and harassment allegations, raise serious concerns about Skydance’s hiring of Lasseter and the effect it may have on women at the company’s new animation division.
Here is a partial list of the allegations that have been put forward about Lasseter’s behavior, as reported by various media sources over the last year:
- Lasseter was known for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” (sources: Hollywood Reporter, Variety)
- His phsyical assaults at Pixar were so common that women had developed a defensive posture they referred to as “the Lasseter” to prevent Lasseter from putting his hands on their legs, which would then lead to rubbing their thighs and trying to slide his hands up their skirts. (sources: Hollywood Reporter)
- Lasseter would walk up to women and kiss them on the lips. At one wrap party, he French kissed and fondled a female Disney employee. (source: Variety, Vanity Fair)
- He took a male employee to a strip club. According to that employee, “He’d get dances and point at me to pay for it. I was supposed to entertain him. It was so uncomfortable. He liked to have a good time. He liked his wine.” (source: Vanity Fair)
- Women at Pixar were uninvited from meetings if Lasseter found them attractive. One woman was told, “We’ve decided it’s best if you don’t attend art reviews on this production. John has a hard time controlling himself around young pretty girls, so it will be better for everyone if we just keep you out of sight.” (source: essay by former Pixar employee)
- A former female Pixar employee said, “He leaned into my monitor and whispered into my ear, ‘You look so beautiful, that light in your eyes.’ It was the way a lover would talk to you. I remember him touching my back or leg or knee and just feeling . . . ugh. And then we talked about the work.” (source: Vanity Fair)
- He was not allowed to attend film wrap parties without Disney-assigned handlers, who would try to prevent him from sexually harassing women. (source: Deadline)
- At a New York event with young models portraying Disney’s Fairies, Lasseter took the young women out drinking one night, and to a party the following evening. According to one witness, “He was inappropriate with the fairies,” referring to physical contact and long hugs. (source: Deadline)
- At Pixar’s Halloween party, “If Lasseter found a woman attractive when she got on stage, he’d ask her to repeatedly spin around or bombarded her with suggestive comments, turning the event into yet another lewd spectacle.” (source: essay by former Pixar employee)
For more reactions to John Lasseter’s hiring at Skydance, including a response from the organization Time’s Up, see this earlier article.
Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX/Shutterstock