Little over one year after former Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animations Studios chief creative officer John Lasseter was ousted over alleged multiple instances of sexual harassment, Skydance has decided it’s fine to put its own female employees at risk by hiring him.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that Skydance Media CEO David Ellison has announced Lasseter will replace Bill Damaschke as the head of Skydance Animation, a newer branch of the media company that’s currently working on a series of films for 2021 and beyond.
This comes just six months after Lasseter officially retired from Disney and Pixar, which was preceded by a temporary leave of absence that stemmed from reports of alleged misconduct, which included kissing, groping, and making advances toward the women who worked with him. In a statement made at the time, Lasseter admitted to “missteps.” Of his new position he said, “I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for. It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.”
In a statement about Skydance’s hiring of the ex-Disney exec, Ellison praised Lasseter’s “talent” while noting that he didn’t make the decision to hire him lightly—adding that Skydance hired outside counsel to look into the allegations. The Hollywood Reporter also shared a memo that Ellison emailed to employees:
While we would never minimize anyone’s subjective views on behavior, we are confident after many substantive conversations with John, and as the investigation has affirmed, that his mistakes have been recognized. We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague. And he has given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner that is the expectation of every Skydance colleague and partner.
We are very hopeful and excited about what the coming years will bring, as John’s art transcends generations and cultures, while deeply resonating on a fundamental level with what makes us uniquely human.
The memo also called for a series of employee town hall meetings to talk about the transition, and address employee concerns. Note: If you have to hold a series of town hall meetings to justify hiring someone, maybe you shouldn’t hire them in the first place.
Skydance Media’s decision to hire John Lasseter as head of animation endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence. 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.
Lasseter might have admitted to his misconduct, and he may very well be working on addressing his issues, but that doesn’t mean this is the right decision. Lasseter has proven that he is not a trustworthy leader. The women at Skydance Animation are now being forced to work for a man they may not trust or even be comfortable being in the same room with, and that’s wrong.
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