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Report: Paramount Execs Are Unhappy They Weren’t Told About John Lasseter Hiring

Executives at Paramount Pictures are reportedly unhappy that they were not told that Skydance Media was hiring John Lasseter as the new head of its animation division.

Paramount has a multi-year deal with Skydance, and they’ve already agreed to release Skydance’s first two films: Alessandro Carloni’s Luck and an untitled feature film project directed by Vicky Jenson and written by Linda Woolverton. Paramount is also co-financing at least one of the films, and possibly both.

According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount was not informed of Lasseter’s hiring until shortly before the announcement on Wednesday. Per THR’s story:

Separate sources have said the move has been particularly poorly received on the Paramount lot, with some wishing the studio could refuse to distribute films made by Skydance’s Lasseter-led animation division. It is unclear if Paramount could extricate itself from its deal, even if studio chairman Jim Gianopulos wanted to.

The relationship between Skydance and Paramount runs deeper than just animation. The two companies are currently in the middle of a four-year co-financing and production pact. Skydance was a slate financing partner for new installments in the Mission: Impossible and World War Z franchises, and more recently, Skydance is producing films like Terminator Genisys and a new Top Gun film for 2020.

As a major studio, Paramount could have easily forecast that hiring a toxic industry figure like Lasseter would lead to a strong and unanimous industry backlash. This apparently was not as big a concern to Skydance, which decided that the benefits of hiring Lasseter outweighed the negatives.

Paramount’s feature animation division, in fact, has already shown that it is unwilling to work with anyone who engages in inappropriate conduct. Last January, the studio fired ex-Pixar animator Dylan Brown, who was directing the studio’s upcoming film Wonder Park, following an internal investigation over complaints of “inappropriate and unwanted conduct.”

But now, Viacom-owned Paramount has to become a partner in dealing with the backlash, as they’re responsible for releasing Skydance’s Lasseter-produced animated films. It could lead to a broader negative impact on the whole company. Says THR:

A sustained backlash against Skydance could be problematic for the company within Hollywood. But Paramount could bear an even bigger brunt if it is targeted because it is a brand name among consumers. Paramount also is owned by Viacom, a publicly traded media conglomerate that, like CBS Corp., is controlled by Shari Redstone. Late last year, CBS chief Leslie Moonves was forced out over multiple allegations of sexual assault and harrassment.

In addition, Paramount works with a wider array of talent than Skydance does, meaning any creative backlash could hit Paramount harder.

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