Former Pixar head John Lasseter has been hired to run Skydance Animation. This move comes as quite the shock, as Lasseter had left Disney in late 2017 amidst a wide-ranging harassment scandal. This is something that Skydance CEO David Ellison is well aware of and, despite that, he feels Lasseter is the right man for the job.
John Lasseter will be working out of Los Angeles and will be reporting directly to David Ellison. Lasseter will be starting his position later this month. He takes over for Bill Damaschke, who Ellison hopes will remain with Skydance as he transitions out of his current role. Here's what Ellison had to say about it in a statement.
"John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated. He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age, while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe. And yet we did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them."
John Lasseter, the director behind such hits as Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Cars, who also produced many of Pixar's other massive titles over the years, was accused of harassment by various employees who worked at the studio over the years. In November 2017, Lasseter announced that he would be taking a leave from the Disney offices as a result of his alleged behavior coming to light. Lasseter never returned to his former post and has since been replaced.
Setting aside the controversy to just look at the man's work output, John Lasseter is one of the most accomplished figures in the history of animation. Skydance Animation will give the studio a leg to stand on in the animated feature world, after having worked on such successful live-action movies like the recent Star Trek movies, the Mission: Impossible franchise, World War Z and last year's Annihilation. It's easy to see, in some ways, why someone would take a chance on Lasseter. But this is a decision that will surely be met with controversy. David Ellison sent out a lengthy memo to his colleagues addressing the situation, acknowledging the "missteps" of Lasseter's past. The memo expresses confidence that Lasseter has changed.
"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. We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague. And he has given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner that is the expectation of every Skydance colleague and partner."
In his new job, John Lasseter will be tasked with coming up with the overall strategy for Skydance animation division. In the memo, David Ellison also revealed that the company will be holding several town hall meetings to address the situation directly with their employees. At the time of this writing, Lasseter has yet to make a statement about his new position. This news was previously reported by Deadline.