Disney has announced that Pixar mastermind John Lasseter, who has shepherded the animation studio through its entire slate of films, is leaving at the end of the year.
Update (June 19): As rumored, Disney has confirmed that Inside Out director Pete Doctor will become Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, while Jennifer Lee (Frozen) will become the new Chief Creative Officer at Disney Animation. Both roles were previously helmed by Lasseter.
Said Walt Disney Chairman Alan Horn, “Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter are two of the most gifted filmmakers and storytellers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Pete, the genius creative force behind Up, Inside Out, and Monsters, Inc., has been an integral part of Pixar almost since the beginning and is a huge part of its industry-leading success. Jenn, in bringing her bold vision to the boundary-breaking Frozen, has helped infuse Disney Animation with a new and exciting perspective. Each of them embodies the unique spirit, culture, and values of these renowned animation studios, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have them to lead us into the future.”
Original story (June 8): In November, Lasseter took a six-month leave of absence from the company after allegations of inappropriate misconduct surfaced in the media.
Disney did not name Lasseter’s replacement, but the rumor mill indicates that Frozen director Jennifer Lee and Inside Out helmer Pete Docter will take on larger roles at Disney Animation and Pixar respectively.
Lasseter will serve as a consultant at Pixar through the end of the year, but according to The New York Times, he won’t have an office.
Comments from Disney and Lasseter himself, issued with the news of his departure, do not touch on the visionary’s problematic behavior.
Said 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. 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.”
“The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career, and personal priorities,” said Lasseter. “While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and am 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.”
In addition to serving as executive producer on literally every Pixar film and the past decade of movies from Walt Disney Animation, Lasseter helmed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2.
Notably, Lasseter was slated to direct Toy Story 4. It was originally set to debut in the summer of 2017, until creative snags and possible misconduct by Lasseter found the studio hitting pause on the project. The movie is now scheduled for a summer 2019 release with Josh Cooley, the director of the Inside Out short film Riley’s First Date, at the helm.