Pixar studio in Emeryville Pixar studio in Emeryville

The corporate culture at Pixar, the world’s most prominent animation studio, is once again in the spotlight.

A blogger identified as “Brown Muslim woman” has posted a damning account of her time at the studio on Medium. She describes a workplace rife with racism, sexism, and class insensitivity, and writes that her attempts to address these problems led to her dismissal. The post is worth reading in full.

The writer has chosen to remain anonymous, explaining that she’s worried about being targeted at her current workplace, and this makes it impossible to independently verify her account or establish exactly when she was at the studio. However, the post has drawn sympathy and/or corroboration from a number of former Pixar employees writing in the comment section, including one who has used her real name.

The article recounts many instances of discrimination the woman witnessed and experienced at Pixar’s Emeryville, California campus, ranging from indifference about racial injustice to highly aggressive behavior. In this “overwhelmingly white” environment, senior white women got away with calling Asians “stingy” and telling a black assistant that they were “not subservient enough.” (Colleagues are identified by their initials.)

The writer recalls feeling uncomfortable when a male colleague casually “objectif[ied] women, discuss[ing] their appearances and his sexual encounters.” When she called him “sexist,” he warned her never to say that again. Another time, she was groped by a different male colleague during a ride share. “I wanted to report him to HR but knew HR was not going to be supportive.”

She gives a harrowing account of her pregnancy, and the physical and mental issues she suffered after giving birth. Far from supporting her through this difficult time, her bosses put her on a Performance Improvement Plan, threatening her with dismissal and eventually firing her. “In contrast, a white female co-worker who became a mom around the same time … was eased back into work with part time hours.” The writer argues that her race and political views led to her being targeted and pressured.

Racism, she adds, extends all the way to the most senior leadership at Disney (Pixar’s parent company). Following American soldier Robert Bales’s massacre of 16 Afghan civilians in 2012, “the head of Disney immediately sent an email out to all employees including Pixar, saying how they support the troops and veterans, there was no mention or condemnation of this horrific act of terror that had made the world news.”

This person’s account also resonates with other insider reports of Pixar’s work culture. In 2018, former employee Cassandra Smolcic published an essay titled “Pixar’s Sexist Boys Club.” In it, she gave detailed descriptions of the ways in which women were demeaned and abused at the studio — not least by its former chief creative officer John Lasseter, who eventually left after allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment emerged in 2017.

Pixar has a poor record when it comes to promoting women and people of color to senior creative roles. Of its 23 feature films (including the upcoming Soul), the studio has only ever had a single woman director, and that director — Brenda Chapman — was dismissed during the production and replaced by a male director. The forthcoming Soul features Pixar’s first black co-director, Kemp Powers, although he was hired from outside the studio.

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