COMMENTARY: Why Did ‘Coco’ Producer Darla K. Anderson Ditch Pixar Just Days After Winning The Oscar?
Coco producer Darla K. Anderson, a key longtime figure at Pixar Animation Studios, has left the company just days after winning an Oscar.
A 25-year veteran of the company, Anderson also produced A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Cars, and Toy Story 3. She is leaving to pursue other creative and philanthropic endeavors, according to The Hollywood Reporter. (Anderson’s wife, Kori Rae, is also a 20 plus-year veteran at Pixar and most recently produced Monsters University.)
Anderson’s departure comes just three-and-a-half months after Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter admitted to “missteps” and took a leave of absence from the studio.
The timing of Anderson’s exit raises new questions about what is happening right now internally at Pixar. Even Brenda Chapman, who left Pixar following the release of Brave, waited for one month after her film’s theatrical release before exiting.
So, it’s extremely telling that Anderson, a staunch Pixar loyalist who was known by people at the studio to be extremely protective of the company brand, had planned to leave immediately after the end of Oscar season.
To mitigate the appearance of dysfunction at the studio, Anderson received an unlikely and painfully overcompensating string of endorsements from Pixar and Disney Animation president Ed Catmull, Pixar chief Jim Morris, and Disney CEO Bob Iger. Said Iger, “Darla has been a creative force in animation and a strong voice at Pixar for 25 years. She’s made an indelible mark on the industry as an Oscar-winning producer and a relentless champion for stories that reflect the diversity of the global audience. She takes my best wishes with her as she sets a course for her next adventure.”
The endorsements signal that Anderson is likely not finished with her animation career.
While it’s unlikely that Anderson will speak anytime soon about why she chose to leave Pixar (she has also demurred on adequately addressing Lasseter’s actions), it would not be surprising to see other longtime Pixar upper brass follow the same path. That’s because one of the most damning revelations that has emerged out of the entire sordid Lasseter scandal is that his “missteps” were widely known to people who worked at the studio, and the studio’s management spent years protecting Lasseter at the expense of his victims.
As former Disney animation artist Minkyu Lee tweeted when news of Lasseter’s behavior was first revealed, “Also, outsiders should note that nobody in the animation industry with personal working experience with [Lasseter] is like, “WHAAATT??? I HAD NO IDEA.”
If that’s the case, it means there are a lot of management figures at Pixar who are now tainted by association – influential people who had the power to speak up for years, but instead chose to stay quiet.
Anderson’s Pixar career may or may not be collateral damage of the Lasseter scandal, but her decision to sever ties with the company at the first convenient moment, not to mention the ringing endorsements from Disney brass, suggest that there’s more to the story. Whatever her particular situation may be, other Pixar careers will almost certainly come undone before the Lasseter drama has ended.