In a controversial move, former Pixar Animation Studios chief creative officer John Lasseter has been named head of Skydance Animation.
Lasseter, who abruptly resigned from The Walt Disney Co. in 2017 following allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior, will report to David Ellison, CEO, Skydance Media, in Santa Monica beginning later this month.
“We did not enter into this decision lightly,” Ellison said in a statement. “John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”
Ellison said Lasseter is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated.
“He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age, while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe,” Ellison said.
Indeed, Lasseter’s signature animation style to Pixar’s films grossing more than $11 billion in global box-office receipts. Lasseter was the executive producer of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Academy Award-winning feature Frozen (2013), which also won an Academy Award for best original song (Let It Go). The film, which crossed the $1 billion mark in March 2014, is the number one animated feature of all time.
Lasseter made his directorial debut in 1995 with Toy Story, the world’s first feature-length computer-animated film, for which he received a Special Achievement Academy Award recognizing his inspired leadership of the filmmaking team. He and the rest of Toy Story’s screenwriting team earned an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay, marking the first time an animated feature had ever been recognized in that category.
Lasseter also directed A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011). Lasseter executive produced all Pixar features since Monsters, Inc. (2001), including the studio’s eight Academy Award-winners Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), WALL•E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Brave (2012), and Inside Out (2015), as well as films The Good Dinosaur (2015), Finding Dory (2016), Cars 3 (2017), Coco (2017) and Incredibles 2 (2018).
Lasseter said he was grateful to David and the Skydance team for the opportunity and acknowledged being entrusted with an “enormous” responsibility.
“I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for,” Lasseter said. “It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.”
In his new role, Lasseter will be responsible for setting the overall strategy and creative direction for Skydance Animation. He will drive the division’s artistic growth, overseeing production and operations, to ensure a robust slate of animated entertainment across all media.
Established in 2017, Skydance Animation has embarked on a multi-year partnership with Ilion Animation Studios, a dedicated CGI feature animation studio based in Madrid, to develop and produce a slate of high-end animated feature films and television series.
Its first two animated feature-length films have been announced: Luck, directed by Alessandro Carloni and written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger and an Untitled Action Fantasy, directed by Vicky Jenson and written by Linda Woolverton.