Everybody loves Pixar films. How could you not? Toy Story is a stone cold classic, WALL-E is adorable, Finding Nemo is a perfect story. Don’t pretend you didn’t cry your little eyes out at Up and Inside Out. So what’s the problem?
Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter ran a story accusing John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios and director of several Pixar films, of misconduct, including “grabbing, kissing [and] making comments about physical attributes”. Lasseter later released a statement apologising for “missteps” (including “an unwanted hug or any other gesture”) and announced he would be taking a six-month leave of absence.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, several outlets jumped to conclusions about why Rashida Jones and Will McCormack – who had originally signed on to write the Toy Story 4 screenplay together – had left the film, with many falsely assuming Jones had been harassed by Lasseter. But the pair claim another kind of unequal workplace treatment caused them to quit.
“We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue,” the two wrote in a joint statement. “We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences. There is so much talent at Pixar, and we remain enormous fans of their films. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.”
In the absence of inside knowledge of how Pixar functions as a workplace, looking at the credits on their films provides some back-up for Jones and McCormack: since its inception, Pixar has been a white boys’ club.
Pixar has released 19 films since 1995. Almost all of those films have been directed by white men. There are some exceptions: The Good Dinosaur was directed by Korean-American Peter Sohn. Brave is directed by both Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Filipino animator Ronnie del Carman is listed as the co-director of Inside Out, while Pete Docter gets the main directing credit (just “director”, without the “co-”). There are only currently white men attached as directors to upcoming projects.
Of the 109 major writing credits across Pixar’s films, only 12 go to women or people of colour. 15 of Pixar’s 19 films feature a white male voice lead.
In their statement, Jones and McCormack added: “We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.”
Lasseter mentioned no such changes in his statement, instead saying, “My hope is that a six-month sabbatical will give me the opportunity to start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve.” It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to start a radical culture change at the studio.