Can’t say it any better than Benjy Sarlin: “Does any story capture the current mood better than “Hey, you know the most beloved children’s films in history? Well, here’s a bunch of sexual harassment allegations.'”
It’s John Lasseter, the man who directed “Toy Story,” the big cheese at Pixar first and then at Walt Disney Animation, the guy whose company effortlessly makes you cry over lonely robots and balloon-borne houses. There are few people in entertainment whose product is more closely associated with wholesomeness, especially at his stratum of success. He’s taking a leave of absence effective immediately due to “missteps” he’s made. What kind of missteps?
Put it this way. Allegedly he has a move named after him.
Sources say some women at Pixar knew to turn their heads quickly when encountering him to avoid his kisses. Some used a move they called “the Lasseter” to prevent their boss from putting his hands on their legs. A longtime insider says he saw a woman seated next to Lasseter in a meeting that occurred more than 15 years ago.
“She was bent over and [had her arm] across her thigh,” he says. “The best I can describe it is as a defensive posture … John had his hand on her knee, though, moving around.” After that encounter, this person asked the woman about what he had seen. “She said it was unfortunate for her to wear a skirt that day and if she didn’t have her hand on her own right leg, his hand would have travelled.”
The same source said he once noticed an oddly cropped photo of Lasseter standing between two women at a company function. When he mentioned that to a colleague, he was told, “We had to crop it. Do you know where his hands were?”
If you believe THR’s source he’s been doing this for 15 years at least, apparently with enough impunity that he felt comfortable caressing a woman employee’s knee in full view of a third party. Other sources say he was prone to making “comments about physical attributes” and was known as a hugger — loooong hugs in meetings, with lots of whispering. “He hugged and hugged and everyone’s looking at you. Just invading the space,” said the “insider.” That makes two accounts of Lasseter getting touchy feely in front of other staffers. Typically an “open secret” refers to knowledge of misbehavior that’s widely shared within a group but maybe only witnessed by a handful. At first blush it sounds like Lasseter’s behavior might not have been a secret at all. The only way this story could be worse would be if Pixar and Disney institutionally were covering for him. Unless THR’s reporting is wildly inaccurate it’s hard to imagine how the companies wouldn’t have known. He was doing this in front of people!
And if it’s wildly inaccurate, why did Lasseter admit to missteps and “painful” conversations in a memo to his staff a few hours before this broke?
I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me. It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them. As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be. It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable. That was never my intent. Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down. I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form. No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.
“Gotta say this is the first #DirtbagBingo square that truly surprised me,” Iowahawk laments. Same here, even recognizing that it’s naive to stereotype people who produce wholesome goods as uniformly wholesome themselves. The best Pixar films (and there are many great ones) are so appealing that they leave you feeling vaguely that the studio can read your mind. They can squeeze any emotion out of you that they like. An empathic intelligence of that caliber should be able to muster enough empathy in personal relations so as not to force women to perfect “the Lasseter” to block an unwanted thigh grope. And yet here we are. I need a drink.