by Shwetha Sundarrajan
Animation giant Pixar has been embroiled in a #MeToo controversy of sexual harassment claims against Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter. These complaints from staff members ranged from unwanted hugging to recurring behavior of grabbing, kissing and making comments about physical attributes during meetings and at work events. In addition to being increasingly physical, multiple staff members told managers that Mr. Lasseter had become domineering. In an email apologizing to staff, Lasseter said he’s sorry “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.”
Lasseter has since left his position as Chief Creative Officer and was replaced by Frozen co-director and co-writer Jennifer Lee and Inside Out director Pete Docter.
However, Pixar struggled to part ways with Lasseter. Traditionally known as a boys club, Pixar has had several instances of not treating women and people of color equally. For example, Brenda Chapman was the first credited female director of a Pixar feature film, Brave. However, she was fired halfway through production due to a disagreement between Chapman and Lasseter. Rashida Jones, actress and writer, said she left a Pixar assignment early due to the way the studio treated female and minority voices.
Since Lasseter’s firing, Pixar has taken measures to improve its workplace culture. In February 2018, Disney held a “day of listening” to improve the workplace at Pixar and Walt Disney Studios. However, Pixar has been hesitant to address Lasseter’s wrongdoings. Instead, they choose to hold him at the same celebrity status he had during his Pixar days. In a statement announcing Lasseter’s departure, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, did not address the reasons. Mr. Iger instead emphasized Mr. Lasseter’s achievements, crediting him with “reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks and telling original, high-quality stories that will last forever.”
With all of these controversies of inequality in the workplace and sexual harassment plaguing Pixar, it was interesting to see a new Pixar SparkShorts that addresses these topics.
Purl, directed by Kristen Lester, takes a shot at the toxic “bro” culture in workplaces. The short film centers in on Purl, a new hire at B.R.O. Capital, who is repeatedly shunned by her white, male, suit-wearing co-workers as she navigates her first few days at work. The film follows Purl as she transforms herself to fit in at her company when she eventually realizes that she’s simply helping perpetuate the toxic behavior.
“A few times during my career in animation, I would be in situations similar to those in the short and I would feel very alone,” Lester told Glamour. “I hoped that by making the short, people would watch and know that they are not alone and that being accepted for who you are is possible.”
Perhaps with the firing of Lasseter and with the release of Purl, Pixar might be ready to change for the better.
Featured Image: Glamour