It’s a bittersweet moment for Pixar Animation Studios (and owner The Walt Disney Company) as it approaches the release of its highly-anticipated new sequel “Incredibles 2,” as today the company announced the permanent departure of Disney/Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios‘ chief creative officer John Lasseter.
Lasseter took a six-month leave of absence back in November, after allegations arose surrounding his conduct in the workplace. Now at the end of that sabbatical Disney has said in an official statement that he “will assume a consulting role at The Walt Disney Company until December 31, 2018, at which time he will be leaving the company.”
“John had a remarkable tenure at Pixar and Disney Animation, reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks, and telling original, high quality stories that will last forever,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “We are profoundly grateful for his contributions, which included a masterful and remarkable turnaround of The Walt Disney Animation Studios. One of John’s greatest achievements is assembling a team of great storytellers and innovators with the vision and talent to set the standard in animation for generations to come.”
“The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities,” said John Lasseter. “While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney, I have decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges. I am extremely proud of what two of the most important and prolific animation studios have achieved under my leadership and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities to follow my creative passion at Disney.”
According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter, “Up” director Pete Docter and “Frozen” director Jennifer Lee will take on greater roles at Pixar and Disney Animation after Lasseter’s departure, though no direct successor has been named.
John Lasseter helped establish Pixar as the premiere animation studio in Hollywood through the late 1990s and into the present. He directed the original “Toy Story” as well as the features “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2,” “Cars,” and “Cars 2,” in addition to numerous short films for the company. He has personally won two Academy Awards and became the public face of Disney animation over the past decade. Last fall he acknowledged “missteps” that left some employees feeling (in his words) “disrespected and uncomfortable.”
Last summer I briefly spoke with John Lasseter at the reopening of the Disneyland Railroad. He was jubilant over the occasion and it was a pleasure to interact with him at the time. But as a fan for more than twenty years, I have to accept that he has made some mistakes and is (alongside the powers that be at Disney) probably taking the best path to atonement.