John Lasseter, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios’ chief creative officer, will leave both companies by the end of 2018, following revelations last year that he sexually harassed employees, according to The New York Times. Lasseter has been on a leave of absence from the studio since November, when he first acknowledged what he worded as “missteps” that left his employees feeling “disrespected and uncomfortable.” In the months since, media organizations and entertainment industry critics widely speculated on whether he could return to Pixar, or whether Disney would force him to resign.
Lasseter was one of Pixar Animation Studios’ first employees, and he directed its earliest hits — including Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2. He has been one of the primary authors of Pixar’s house style and voice since its inception, and he has similarly directed Disney’s animation division since Disney acquired Pixar in 2006.
“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,” Lasseter wrote employees in a memo in November, when he started his six-month leave of absence. Not coincidentally, the memo and Lasseter’s decision coincided with the publication of numerous misconduct allegations by The Hollywood Reporter, which published its story on Lasseter as part of dozens of others accounts of harassment and assault that came to light during the beginning of the #MeToo movement last fall.
“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,” Lasseter’s statement said. “No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”
Lasseter will stay on at Pixar in a consulting role until the end of 2018. He is then scheduled to depart Disney completely. In the interim, Disney representatives tell The New York Times that Lasseter will not have an office, meaning he will likely not be directly interfacing with any current employees or executives with any great frequency. Although Disney has not named his successor, The Times reports that Frozen director Jennifer Lee will take up Lasseter’s role as CCO of Walt Disney Animation. Up and Inside Out director Pete Docter is expected to take on some of Lasseter’s duties within Pixar, the report states, though it’s unclear whether he’ll assume the position of chief creative officer as well.