John Lasseter takes new job at Skydance Animation

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Former Pixar chief John Lasseter of Glen Ellen has been named head of Skydance Animation. According to numerous news sources, he will be based in Los Angeles and will start his job later in January.

Lasseter, 61, who was chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and co-founder of Pixar, was placed on a sabbatical in November of 2017 after complaints from employees of inappropriate behavior toward female employees. He never returned to the studio, which announced in June that he would retire at the end of 2018.

Lasseter released a public statement this week stating that he had 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.”

Time’s Up, a women’s-advocacy nonprofit formed at the height of the #MeToo movement, criticized Lasseter’s hiring in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, noting that Lasseter’s hiring “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

“People are shell-shocked,” animation director Megan Dong told the Hollywood Reporter. “Every female artist or creative who I’ve spoken to today has said they’d never work at Skydance as long as he’s involved. It’s just a terrible message to send to women.”

The industry publication also quoted a handful of people who supported the hiring decision, believing that Lasseter will actually be a recruiting boon to the animation studio.

Lasseter has lived with his family in Sonoma since 1993, first in Armstrong Estates and currently in Glen Ellen. He and his wife Nancy have been active in the community and visible donors to Sonoma nonprofits including Speedway Children’s Charities, Sonoma Children’s Home, the Sonoma wine auction, Sonoma Academy and Sonoma Valley schools.

Over the course of his career, he has been credited with hits such as “Frozen,” “Up,” A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters Inc.,” and “Toy Story,” as well as producing or executive producing every other Pixar project.

Skydance produces live-action movies which include “Mission Impossible-Fallout” and the upcoming “Terminator” and “Top Gun: Maverick” movies. It has multi-year co-production and financing deal with Paramount Pictures.

In 2017, Skydance formed an animation unit, and that division, under Lasseter’s leadership, is expected to produce a slate of animated feature films and television series.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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