How Toy Story director John Lasseter is the Pixar sex pest that Dame Emma Thompson refused to work with

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HE was the cartoon king who helped to reinvent animation for the digital age with the revolutionary Pixar studio.

Not only did John Lasseter direct Toy Story and Cars, he oversaw £4.5billion worth of other computer-animated gems such as Finding Nemo and The Incredibles and then helped to save Disney’s ailing cartoon arm.

Rob Kim/Everett Collection

John Lasseter is another Hollywood executive multiple women have accused of inappropriate behaviour[/caption]

Then his seemingly unstoppable rise crashed with a humiliating thump.

It turned out the man behind those cosy family favourites was another Hollywood executive caught up in the #MeToo movement — accused of using his position of power to harass female employees.

Over the past 18 months a number of women have come forward to say Lasseter regularly groped them, leered at them and made pervy comments.

And now Dame Emma Thompson has weighed in to try to make sure Lasseter can’t simply dust himself down and start again, like one of his many cartoon creations.

Alamy

John Lasseter was the mind behind animated movies like Toy Story and Cars[/caption]

We told how the Oscar-winning British actress had quit forthcoming animated movie Luck because the production company had hired the disgraced former Pixar boss.

Her blistering letter of resignation to Skydance Studios — where Lasseter has been head of animation for less than two months — made its way into the public domain, causing an earthquake in Hollywood.

In it she states that this is not the time to forgive and forget the sexual misconduct uncovered by the #MeToo movement for women’s rights.

Emma, who voiced the character Queen Elinor in Lasseter’s 2012 animation Brave — but is not one of his victims — writes: “Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a ‘second chance’.

Rex Features

Dame Emma Thompson refused to work with John Lasseter over his sexual harassment allegations[/caption]

But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance.

“How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to give him that second chance?”

The letter raises big questions — not only as to whether 62-year-old Lasseter can stay in his new job but whether he can still have a career in showbusiness at all.

It will also raise doubts as to how his name can remain on two of Disney’s biggest forthcoming movies.

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John Lasseter is known as a colourful character thanks to his collection of 1,000 Hawaiian shirts. He is seen with Kristen Bell[/caption]

He is an executive producer on Frozen II and he is also a writer of Toy Story 4, both out this year.

If it should prove terminal for Lasseter’s career it would be another spectacular fall from Hollywood grace.

Until November 2017 anyone who was anyone in the film world was clamouring to work with the pioneer of computer animation.

Lasseter had convinced Apple boss Steve Jobs, who had funded Pixar Studios, that its future was in digital animation.

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John Lasseter with Miley Cyrus in 2008. Lasseter has won two Oscars and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[/caption]

Their collaboration led to Toy Story in 1995, which was the first feature-length film to be completely computer animated.

Since then Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have all voiced characters in movies overseen by Lasseter.

In 2004 the double Oscar winner was ranked number one in Premiere movie magazine’s power list, gained a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011 and is worth an estimated £75million.

He has a love of fast cars and is known as literally a colourful character, thanks to his collection of 1,000 Hawaiian shirts.

Then whistle-blowers came forward from within the ranks of Disney, which had bought Pixar in 2006, claiming that women were afraid to be in a room with quick-handed Lasseter.

The man who had once said: “Pixar is not about computers, it’s about people” was not treating his people well at all.

Emboldened by the 2017 public shaming of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, female staff told entertainment magazine The Hollywood Reporter that he was known for “grabbing,” kissing women on the lips, rubbing their legs and “making comments about physical attributes”.

Others alleged that women performed a move they called “the Lasseter” to fend off his wandering fingers.

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John Lasseter was Executive Producer of Monster Inc. He is worth an estimated £75 million[/caption]

They would put their arms across their thighs to prevent him moving up from the knee.

His reputation was so bad that “minders” were reportedly told to make sure he didn’t misbehave with young female staff members.

In 2010, Lasseter — a married father of five sons — was reprimanded for “making out” with an employee at an Oscar party.

There were also stories about excessive boozing, particularly at red carpet events and awards ceremonies.

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Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres have voiced Lasseter’s characters in his movies[/caption]

At first he was placed on gardening leave for six months, with him apologising to staff for “missteps”.

He said in 2017: “I especially want to apologise 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.”

Then in June last year it was announced that he would be leaving Disney for good. The entertainment giant would not have let him go unless it had to.

Yet Disney chief executive Bob Iger paid tribute to Lasseter, saying he had taken “breathtaking risks” in his work, “telling original, high-quality stories”.

Reuters

The Hollywood Reporter explained Lasseter was known for ‘grabbing’ and kissing women on the lips[/caption]

Only once he was truly gone did one staff member feel brave enough to speak openly about his reign of sexism.

Graphic designer Cassandra Smolcic said: “When I started at Pixar as an intern, I thought I’d landed my dream job.

But my excitement was quickly tempered by a flood of warnings about Lasseter’s touchy-feely, boundary-crossing tendencies with female employees.”

She claimed he would letch after women and touch them in “unwanted” ways.

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Lasseter with Shakira who appeared in the film Zootopia[/caption]

Her superiors feared Lasseter might try something on with Cassandra, but rather than punishing him she says they punished her.

Cassandra alleged: “Just after starting on Cars 2, I was told by a superior that I’d be uninvited from all our weekly art department meetings because Lasseter ‘has a hard time controlling himself’ around young women.”

It is staff like Cassandra who Emma believes should be protected from Lasseter.

Skydance, which has made Baywatch, several Mission: Impossible films and the two most recent Star Treks, had it written into his contract that he should behave professionally.

This did not reassure Emma. She wrote: “If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave ‘professionally’?”

No criminal charges were ever levelled at Lasseter.

When he joined Skydance in January, he spoke to staff for 90 minutes, trying to reassure them he was a changed man.

He also told them he was working with a therapist to help him overcome “unconscious bias”.

This reflected another allegation made against him during his time at Disney — that he had promoted men rather than women.

Most notably Lasseter replaced Brenda Chapman with Mark Andrews as director on Brave, even though she had come up with the idea of the Scottish princess.


Female animators are far from convinced that the industry will become safer and fairer for them.

Marge Dean, of pressure group Women In Animation, said after Lasseter had been given his second chance: “The announcement triggered in me the same feelings that I’ve had in abuse situations… I felt disregarded and trivialised.”

For now — to paraphrase Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase in Toy Story — it seems Lasseter’s career has already gone to infamy and beyond.

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