Skydance hires ousted Disney animation head John Lasseter

FILE PHOTO: John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, speaks during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File photo

(Reuters) – U.S. film production company Skydance Media on Wednesday named Walt Disney Co’s former animation head and co-founder of Pixar, John Lasseter, as head of its animation division.

Lasseter, regarded as a modern day Walt Disney because of his creativity and commercial success, left Disney late last year. His exit followed a six-month leave of absence after what he called “missteps,” including unwanted hugs that made employees uncomfortable.

“… We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.” Skydance Chief Executive Officer David Ellison said in a statement.

In a memo to staff, Ellison said, Skydance employed outside counsel to thoroughly investigate the allegations, which the company considered serious and warranted its full attention.

However, advocacy groups expressed disappointment at the CEO’s comments.

“By saying Skydance has conducted an independent investigation and then proceeded to hire Lasseter, do they mean to suggest that they are hiring him in spite of the numerous accounts of women and colleagues?” Women In Film, Los Angeles said in a statement.

Hollywood anti-harassment organization Time’s Up in a Twitter post said, “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.”

Lasseter directed the 1995 hit “Toy Story” and was the creative force behind movie hits like “Frozen” and “Finding Nemo”.

Lasseter, who will report to Ellison, will be based in Los Angeles and start later this month.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Maju Samuel

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