John Lasseter, who created the animation program at CalArts/Pixar/Disney and went on to become chief creative officer for Walt Disney Studios and Pixar, will resign his post at the end of the year in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, Disney announced Friday.
According to a statement released to Variety by Disney CEO Bob Iger, “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.
“We are profoundly grateful for his contributions, which included a masterful and remarkable turnaround of The Walt Disney Animation Studios,” Iger said. “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.”
In his own statement published by Variety, Lasseter said: “The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities. 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,” Lasseter said.
Lasseter, 61, had announced in a memo to employees on November 21 that he was taking a six-month sabbatical, admitting to unspecified “missteps” that resulted in complaints from employees.
In the last couple of weeks, though, a groundswell of social media posts from members of the animation community using the tag #LoseLasseter urged Disney to call for Lasseter’s resignation.
According to Variety, Lasseter was known to drink to excess at wrap parties, and was also known as a hugger around the office. The story noted that some employees appreciated the physical affection, while others felt he lacked boundaries. At various times, Lasseter had minders who were tasked with reining in his impulses.
Lasseter, a two-time Oscar winner, is considered the most influential animator since Walt Disney. Lasseter joined Pixar in 1984, when it was a wing of George Lucas’ Lucasfilm. A computer animation pioneer, Lasseter directed “Toy Story” in 1995.
As Iger noted in his statement, Lasseter is credited with returning Disney to the top of the animation industry. He has served as producer or executive producer of every Pixar project and every Walt Disney Animation feature.
Lasseter was also instrumental in Disney’s theme parks, “making him perhaps Disney’s second-most valued employee after Iger,” as Variety noted.
Lasseter’s most recent feature, “Incredibles 2,” opened in theaters June 13.
Disney has not announced a replacement to head the two studios as of Monday afternoon.