The half-year “sabbatical” of John Lasseter, the animator who steered Disney’s animation ventures to success, is now coming to a close – but can and should he return to Disney?
Lasseter’s leave took place amidst the height of the #MeToo conversation and was attributed to “missteps.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was known to kiss and hug female colleagues inappropriately, as well as make comments about their appearance. His public persona was that of a cheerful man in a hawaiian-patterned shirt who created multiple hits for Disney and Pixar. Among them: “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “Frozen,” “Moana” and many more.
There are rumors that Disney’s CEO Bob Iger will be breaking ties with Lasseter. But if Lasseter is welcomed back, what would that signal to women in animation? And if he loses his place at Disney, will Lasseter make a comeback in some other capacity, perhaps by starting his own company with the backing of foreign investors who want to cash in on his proven ability to crank out hits?
Meanwhile, there’s been talk of Louis C.K. performing at smaller clubs and Matt Lauer venturing into a public space, portending potential plans to make a comeback. But will and should the public give a second chance to the men felled by #MeToo?
Tom Sito, professor of animation at the USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and author of “Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation” (MIT Press, 2015); he was one of the writers on Disney’s 1994 film ‘The Lion King’ and his animation credits include ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘Aladdin,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Shrek’ and more