Pixar’s John Lasseter: Another Hollywood “Inappropriate” Hugger?

cocoWhen I saw the trending headline “Lasseter Takes Leave of Absence Over Missteps,” my first thought was “On no, Disney/Pixar’s pre-releasing testing suggests ‘Coco’ will flop.”

And then, of course, the mind runs to how that could be? It’s their best film in years. Sure, you could pummel John Lasseter over the cynical toy-selling “Cars” movies — entirely his baby — the weak sequels, the general “Pixar’s lost its touch” over the last few movies. Or maybe Disney’s market research suggested nobody wants to take the kids to watch a sympathetic cartoon about Mexicans in Trump’s America.

But that is skipping past the obvious. Lasseter, it seems, is another Hollywood mogul whose position of power allowed him (he thought) the privilege of “inappropriate” hugs of employees and others in his presence.

The Hollywood Reporter broke this latest scandal, tipped that Lasseter has a habit of holding hugs, whispering in ears and “invading the space,” which sounds a lot more power trippy than sexual.

“I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form,” he writes. “No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected,” Lasseter wrote in an internal email The Reporter obtained.

A Disney spokesperson said in a statement, “We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”

The memo has arrived at the same time as an investigation by the Hollywood Reporter into complaints about Lasseter’s behavior. “You’d hug him and he’d whisper in your ear, a long time,” a former insider said. “He hugged and hugged and everyone’s looking at you. Just invading the space.”

That’s a bit vague. Strong-arming, threatening men? Women? Coming on to either?

The scuttlebut has been that actress/writer Rashida Jones, working with a partner on scripting “Toy Story 4” (Ugh, really?) quit the film over Lasseter’s grabbing/groping behavior. She denies it, but it’s out there.

“Coco” opens tomorrow, and is delightful. But like everything else out of America’s movie capital, it opens under a cloud. Lasseter didn’t direct it, but he OKs everything Pixar touches. Including his own touching, apparently.

Lasseter’s appearance on this season’s “Jay Leno’s Garage” TV show had me wondering if he was looking at retirement — just in terms of how he presented himself there (a train collector, like Walt, an animation with a great legacy, like Walt, etc).

Now this.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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