Skydance Media CEO, David Ellison has announced that former Disney animation chief and Pixar co-founder, John Lasseter, has been named head of Skydance Animation.
Lasseter, who will report directly to Ellison, will be based in Los Angeles and start later this month.
“John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” said Ellison. “He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age, while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe.”
The bombshell announcement comes more than a year after Lasseter took a leave of absence from Disney following an admission that he committed “missteps” that left some employees feeling “disrespected or uncomfortable.” The Pixar co-founder never returned to the studio, which announced in June that he would retire at the end of 2018. The decision reportedly came from Alan Horn and Robert Iger.
Ellison said the decision to hire Lasseter was not taken lightly:
“John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”
Ellison sent out a memo about the massive decision:
I wanted to share with you first some news that we are announcing today.
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.
The attached press release outlines the news more fully, but I wanted to share a few things that have informed our decision to bring John on board.
First, no one can dispute John’s legacy building Pixar and Walt Disney Animation into the leadership position they now enjoy. 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.
Second, I know many of you are aware of John’s admitted mistakes in his prior role helming those studios. John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behavior, apologized for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analyzing and improving his workplace behavior.
Third, 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 senior leadership team and I have all carefully evaluated the findings of this extensive investigation.
Let me be clear: we have not entered into this decision lightly.
While we would never minimize anyone’s subjective views on behavior, we are confident after many substantive conversations with John, and as the investigation has affirmed, that his mistakes have been recognized. We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague. And 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.
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.
The senior leadership team and I will be hosting a town hall for all Skydance Animation colleagues shortly to speak with you directly about this transition. Additional town halls at SDM and SDI will take place today and tomorrow.
Skydance Animation colleagues, please be on the lookout for a call-to-gather email. I look forward to speaking with you in person.
The hiring of Lasseter just days after his contract at Disney ended has sparked a strong backlash across the animation industry, as well as the broader entertainment industry, something that has been clearly evident on social media the last few hours. Skydance clearly expected some kind of reaction, which is why they prepared a statement about how they went about hiring Lasseter, though it’s not clear if they were prepared for the force of scorn that is being heaped at both them and Lasseter.
Melissa Silverstein, the founder and publisher of Women and Hollywood, told The Hollywood Reporter:
“I was floored to read that John Lasseter has been hired to run Skydance animation following his removal from Pixar. This is a horrible message to the women at Pixar who stood up and told their truths about their experiences. This is also a message to all that the bro culture is alive and well and thriving in Hollywood.…David Ellison should be ashamed of himself.”
Here are some reactions via twitter.
John Lasseter was apparently so unable to control himself around women that he was provided a team of supervisors to keep him out of trouble, but I'm sure a year's vacation led to an entirely new personality, sure, yeah, right.
— Brendan Foley (@TheTrueBrendanF) January 9, 2019
— Kim Masters (@kimmasters) January 9, 2019
— TIME'S UP (@TIMESUPNOW) January 9, 2019