Pixar's John Lasseter takes leave of absence citing 'missteps'

John Lasseter arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Coco" at the El Capitan Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter is taking a six-month leave of absence citing "missteps" with employees.

In a vaguely-worded memo obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday, Lasseter says he knows he has made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable. He apologized to anyone who has received an unwanted hug or gesture and to those he has "let down."

The Hollywood Reporter broke the story.

A Disney spokesperson says the company is committed to maintaining a respectful work environment and fully supports Lasseter's sabbatical. Pixar, which was bought by Disney, is based in Emeryville, Calif. Pixar representatives on Tuesday canceled a scheduled interview to discuss the upcoming children's movie, "Coco," with KTVU the following day. "Coco" hits the movie theaters on Thanksgiving Day.

Lasseter is known for directing films like "Toy Story" and "Cars" and has produced every Pixar feature since "Monster's, Inc." He has been the chief creative officer for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2006, overseeing hits like "Frozen" and "Moana."

KTVU received a copy of an internal email sent from Lasseter to Pixar and Disney employees just before noon on Tuesday.

I have always wanted our animation studios to be places where creators can explore their vision with the support and collaboration of other gifted animators and storytellers.  This kind of creative culture takes constant vigilance to maintain.   It’s built on trust and respect, and it becomes fragile if any members of the team don’t feel valued.  As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen; and I now believe I have been falling short in this regard.

I’ve recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me.  It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them.  As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be.  It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable.   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.  No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.

In my conversations with Disney, we are united in our commitment to always treat any concerns you have with the seriousness they deserve, and to address them in an appropriate manner. We also share a desire to reinforce the vibrant, respectful culture that has been the foundation of our studios’ success since the beginning.   And we agree the first step in that direction is for me to take some time away to reflect on how to move forward from here.  As hard as it is for me to step away from a job I am so passionate about and a team I hold in the highest regard, not just as artists but as people, I know it’s the best thing for all of us right now.   My hope is that a six-month sabbatical will give me the opportunity to start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.

I’m immensely proud of this team, and I know you will continue to wow the world in my absence.  I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working together again in the new year.