Does Pixar Have a Culture Problem?
The animation studio's chief creative officer will take a six-month sabbatical after "missteps."
Yesterday, Pixar's chief creative officer, John Lasseter, released a memo that he would take a six-month sabbatical from the famed animation studio — the studio which he helped build alongside Steve Jobs.
In the note, obtained by Entertainment Weekly, Lasseter apologized "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."
With this news, the studio behind some of our most canonical childhood films is now implicated in the greater Hollywood reckoning with sexual harassment. And Lasseter's memo brings an equally pervasive issue into the spotlight: the glaring lack of women at Pixar.
Actress, writer, and tropical sunfish in human form, Rashida Jones, was in line to co-write Toy Story 4 until she walked away from the project early. After Lasseter's memo, The Hollywood Reporter released an article stating that Jones left the Toy Story gig after the Pixar chief made unwanted advances towards her.
Jones quickly corrected the piece, stating instead that she and her writing partner, Will McCormack, left Pixar due to a culture that did not value the voices of women or people of color. Jones' statement read:
Among animation circles, it's no secret that Pixar has long been a (white) boys' club.
Since 1995, Pixar has released 19 animated films. Only three of them are centered on a female lead. All 19 of those movies were directed by men. There is one exception: Brave. Brenda Chapman wrote and directed Brave until she was ousted from her position, which was handed over to Mark Andrews.
In an essay written The New York Times, Chapman revealed that having the film "taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels."
According to New Statesmen, of all of Pixar's films, only 11 major writing credits are given to women or people of color out of 109.
"You were there in your place, being a girl. It minimized your point of view," one former Pixar employee told Vanity Fair. "There’s a reason that more women haven’t been creatively successful there. The leadership are men."
What has been the consistent variable in the wake of these sexual harassment stories? Men (and mostly white men) in positions of power — and that's something the entertainment industry has in spades.