Pixar co-founder John Lasseter has become the latest high profile person to be accused of inappropriate behavior toward women. In a statement released today, Lasseter apologized for his alleged pattern of showering female employees with hugs and that he’s taking a six-month leave of absence.
As Chief Creative Officer of both Disney and Pixar, Lasseter is one of the most prominent persons in the animated film industry. Steve Jobs and Lasseter had a close relationship for years after the Apple CEO purchased Pixar from Lucasfilm.
Lasseter and Jobs worked to turn Pixar into the industry’s leading animation studio which eventually got bought by Disney. Now his status in the industry could be in jeopardy after numerous former employees told Variety that he’s a habitual hugger. And not in a good way.
A few of the sources told Variety that Lasseter would make inappropriate comments about women, touch them on their legs or backs, or give hugs that went on a few seconds too long.
“There is a currency there — the currency is touch, and being touched by this person who is always in charge,” said a former Pixar employee that spoke to Variety. “It’s personal and intimate and probably not appropriate.”
Other sources claim that Lasseter could be even more brazen in his advances. He supposedly would walk up to some women in the office and kiss them on the lips as a greeting.
Lasseter released the following statement in response to the allegations:
“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. “
Some critics are skeptical that a six-month paid leave of absence is the proper solution to Lasseter’s conduct. Disney has not released a comment about the Lasseter story at this time.