Rashida Jones is refuting reports that she ended her work on Toy Story 4 early because of “unwanted advances” from Pixar chief John Lasseter, who took a leave of absence Tuesday citing unspecified “missteps.”
Multiple news outlets have reported that Lasseter allegedly engaged in misconduct with Disney and Pixar employees, with the Hollywood Reporter reporting that the allegations included “grabbing, kissing” and “making comments about physical attributes.” The same THR report said that Jones and her writing partner Will McCormack exited their assignment on Toy Story 4 because of alleged sexual harassment by Lasseter.
In a statement to the New York Times, however, Jones said McCormack instead cited “philosophical differences” and Pixar’s treatment of female and minority employees.
“We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue,” they said. “We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.
“It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them,” Lasseter said. 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.”
In their statement to the Times, Jones said McCormack lamented a culture at Pixar “where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice. … We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.”
Pixar has been criticized for not portraying a more diverse cast of characters in the past. Prior to this week’s release of Coco, the studio’s newest movie featuring a Mexican boy as the main character, Pixar had yet to feature a non-white protagonist.
Lasseter had noticed that himself, telling the Guardian back in 2015 that “it’s very important for us to have female, ethnic characters.”
In his memo to employees this week, Lasseter said he aims to take a six-month sabbatical from Disney and Pixar.
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