John Lasseter, the former Pixar head who retreated from the company amid accusations of sexual misconduct, has charted a comeback. On Wednesday, Skydance C.E.O. David Ellison announced in a memo to company employees that the ex-Disney employee has been tapped to run Skydance Animation. He will be taking over a position previously held by Bill Damaschke.
“No one can dispute Johns legacy building Pixar and Walt Disney Animation into the leadership position they now enjoy,” Ellison wrote in the memo, according to Deadline. “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.”
Lasseter was a founding member of Pixar and, most recently, the chief creative officer of Disney Animation. Throughout his career, he was responsible for pioneering classics like the Toy Story franchise. Lasseter came under fire in November 2017 after being accused of a pattern of unwanted touching and sexual misconduct by multiple women. There were also allegations that he had for years fostered a toxic company environment for women, turning Pixar into a boys club; those claims were echoed by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, who were tapped to write Toy Story 4, but left because they said the company promoted “a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.” Shortly after the misconduct allegations went public, Lasseter admitted to “missteps” during his tenure, apologizing vaguely for past behavior that might have “crossed the line in any way, shape, or form.” He also announced he was taking a leave of absence from Disney and Pixar, but vowed to return. In June, it was reported that he would, in fact, be leaving the company at the end of the year.
In the Skydance memo, Ellison wrote that his company “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.”
He added that the senior leadership team had “many substantive conversations with John” regarding the allegations. However, they ended the investigation “certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague,” he said, adding that Skydance would host town halls for employees on Wednesday and Thursday.
Times Up, the anti-sexual misconduct organization founded in the wake of the #MeToo movement, released a statement about Lasseters hiring almost immediately after the announcement was made.
“Skydance Medias decision to hire John Lasseter as head of animation endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence,” the statement reads. “At a moment when we should be uplifting the many talented voices who are consistently underrepresented, Skydance Media is providing another position of power, prominence and privilege to a man who has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.”
Per Deadline, Skydance Animation, founded in 2017, has two projects currently in the works: Luck, directed by Alessandro Carloni (Kung Fu Panda 3) and written by duo Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (the Kung Fu Panda series), and an action-fantasy film directed by Vicky Jenson (Shrek) and written by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast).
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Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:Your Passport Inside the 2019 Golden GlobesYohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.