Disney announced Friday that Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter would leave the company at the end of the year. The announcement follows Lasseter's six-month sabbatical that began in November 2017 after the Toy Story director admitted to "missteps" involving female Pixar employees.
"The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities," Lasseter said in a statement Friday (via Variety).
"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."
In the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo, several Pixar employees came forward with allegations against Lasseter ranging from unwanted advances to "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes" to serial hugging.
"It's been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable," Lasseter wrote in the November 2017 staff memo that announced his leave of absence. "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."
Lasseter will spend the remainder of 2018 as a consultant for the studio but won't have an office at Pixar/Disney. His employment with the company will then terminate at year's end. "It feels very weird he can stay on payroll for the next six or seven months. They do know there's a problem,” a Disney employee told Variety. "It doesn't feel like a great compromise."
Disney's announcement comes one week before the studio's Incredibles 2 opens in theaters; Lasseter served as executive producer on the original film in 2004, and directed films like the Toy Story trilogy, Cars, Cars 2 and A Bug's Life while at Pixar.
"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," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement Friday.
"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."