Skydance is well aware of the negative press hiring John Lasseter will bring but they are willing to give him a second chance.
Skydance CEO David Ellison announced Lasseter, who was ousted from Pixar in light of sexual harassment claims, will head up their Skydance Animations division. Ellison addressed the controversy surrounding the decision in a letter to staff, published by Variety.
“I wanted to share with you first some news that we are announcing today,” Ellison stated. “Industry visionary John Lasseter is joining us to lead Skydance Animation. John will be based in Los Angeles and will report directly to me. Bill Damaschke will be transitioning from his current role, and we are hopeful he will choose to remain within the Skydance family.
“No one can dispute John’s legacy building Pixar and Walt Disney Animation into the leadership position they now enjoy,” he continued. “His creative vision and forward-looking approach to animation has transformed the entire industry. At his heart, John is a storyteller – with a unique ability to tell beautiful and emotionally driven tales that resonate and inspire audiences around the globe.”
That being said, Ellison anticipates resistance. “I know many of you are aware of John’s admitted mistakes in his prior role helming those studios,” he wrote. “John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behaviour, apologized for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analyzing and improving his workplace behaviour.
“We employed outside counsel to thoroughly investigate the allegations, which we considered serious and have warranted our full attention as we made this important decision,” the CEO insisted. “The senior leadership team and I have all carefully evaluated the findings of this extensive investigation.”
The company head wanted this point to stick out. “Let me be clear: we have not entered into this decision lightly.
“While we would never minimize anyone’s subjective views on behaviour, we are confident after many substantive conversations with John, and as the investigation has affirmed, that his mistakes have been recognized,” he assured. “We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague.
“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,” Ellison said. “We are very hopeful and excited about what the coming years will bring, as John’s art transcends generations and cultures, while deeply resonating on a fundamental level with what makes us uniquely human.”
One organization that is absolutely and vehemently against Lasseter’s new role at Skydance is Time’s Up.
“Skydance Media’s decision to hire John Lasseter as head of animation endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence,” Time’s Up said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “At a moment when we should be uplifting the many talented voices who are consistently underrepresented, Skydance Media is providing another position of power, prominence and privilege to a man who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“People often ask when a man who has abused his power ‘gets’ to ‘come back.’ There is no simple answer,” the organization shared. “But here are a few first steps: 1) Demonstrate true remorse. 2) Work deeply to reform your behaviour. 3) Deliver restitution to those you harmed.”
Time’s Up insists, “That’s the bare minimum. Hiring decisions have consequences. And offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to do any of those things is condoning abuse.”
On Monday, Jan. 14, Variety reports, Lasseter appeared at a Skydance town hall meeting to face blunt questions from staff, with a source telling the outlet that Lasseter “admitted to wrongdoing, committing himself to proving he had reformed.”
Describing the conversation as “long” and “heavy” in tone, Variety acknowledges that when the meeting ended, “it was unclear if Lasseter had been specific enough about what lessons he had learned during his imposed sabbatical and how he intended to earn back the trust of the animation community.”
Lasseter took a six-month sabbatical from Disney Pixar after acknowledging allegations of workplace sexual misconduct. The alleged misconduct included grabbing, kissing, and making physical remarks about the staff. He described his behaviour as “missteps” in a memo to staff.