The John Lasseter saga

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The John Lasseter saga

Postby Randall » July 2nd, 2018, 12:31 pm

It seemed appropriate to create a thread for this subject, to keep from sullying other threads.

So, here's a nasty look behind the scenes from someone brave enough to pen an insider's article:
https://byrslf.co/pixars-sexist-boys-club-9d621567fdc9

Or, summarized here:
https://www.cartoonbrew.com/artist-righ ... 61540.html

Then there's the discussion of the Lasseter children's book!
https://www.cartoonbrew.com/books/repor ... 58990.html

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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Dacey » July 2nd, 2018, 3:06 pm

I don't think the shot at Up for "failing the Bechdel Test" was needed at all there, especially since the article was overall favorable towards Pete Docter.

Actually, there's a shot at every Pixar movie under the concept art (including a complaint about changing the Dean in MU to a woman?), so I kinda wish the article didn't "go there" as it more or less detracts from the many valid points it otherwise offers.

But anyway, since it's a rather lengthy read, here are the more disturbing quotes...

But before I even had the chance to sit down in the fancy swivel chair in my new office, a seasoned employee waved a red flag about the kind of behavior (or misbehavior) I could expect in the studio.

“Oh, John’s gonna LOVE you,” he remarked about one of Pixar’s highest ranking executives, teasing and warning me at the same time. During the next few days, male and female employees alike told me that the company’s Creative Chief Officer, John Lasseter, could be touchy-feely with members of the opposite sex; that he had a tendency to make sexually charged comments to and about women; that interactions with him were often uncomfortable or even mortifying for female Pixarians. The women who endured this unwanted attention often had a less flippant take on it, but on a broader level there was a collective attitude of, “Oh, ha ha; that’s just our John.”


But my tactic of “going along with the program” wasn’t the most fruitful for my career path either. In 2010, shortly after I’d started working on my third feature film, Cars 2, my female art department manager approached me to relay some unsettling news.

“We’ve decided it’s best if you don’t attend art reviews on this production,” she announced, looking over the wall of my cubicle. “John has a hard time controlling himself around young pretty girls, so it will be better for everyone if we just keep you out of sight,” she said with a shoulder shrug, referring to our film’s director and the company’s CCO. Before I had a chance to respond, her floating head disappeared.



Lasseter’s open sexism set the tone from the top, emboldening others to act like frat boys in just about any campus setting. I’ll never forget the day a director compared his latest film to “a big-titted blond who was difficult to nail down” in front of the whole company, a joke that received gasps of disapproval.


And there's a lot of speculation regarding Brenda Chapman being fired from Brave as well...

To the general population of the studio — many of whom had never worked on Brave because it was not yet in full-steam production — it seemed as though Brenda’s firing was considered justifiable. Rumor had it that she had been indecisive, unconfident and ineffective as a director. But for me and others who worked closely with the second-time director, there was a palpable sense of outrage, disbelief and mourning after Brenda was removed from the film.


Overall, it all sounds pretty...well, sleazy, and the rumors about JL's behavior at Pixar parties are more or less confirmed here. The big question is...what does this kind of talk mean for Pixar releases down the road? What about re-issues of older titles? Do they remove the JL commentary tracks from Pixar films? Are JL's interviews from the Tinker Bell movies taken off of their respective discs? I don't see how there was a way out of releasing the children's book (it was apparently nearly done), but I have a feeling it might become very hard to find once Disney stops publishing it down the road.
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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Randall » July 2nd, 2018, 7:02 pm

The "shots" at the Pixar films were fair. They were intended to illuminate how women were treated or ignored in Pixar's output. She didn't pan the films, she only pointed out how the masculine POV showed itself in the Pixar films. And though she did not drive the point home, it's notable that the change in gender to the Monsters U character had the effect of making the antagonist the sole female of note in the film. That seems telling in itself.

That said, the images and their notations seemed to come from a different person, as they didn't blend all that well with the text. Nevertheless, they all made valid points, and I didn't find that they detracted from the article.

Sleazy, indeed; but unfortunately believable. Nice that she has some faith in Docter, at least.

The children's book, it was reported, was undergoing a complete change in order to erase Lasseter's likeness and change the character's name, but that decision was reportedly reversed due to insistence by Lasseter loyalists. How true this is, is hard to say.

As for "erasing" Lasseter from future catalog releases... that's an interesting question. I would vote to keep those commentaries, but to take out anything that comes off as self-promoting or gratuitous. For example, I switched over to all the new Ghibli Blu-ray releases and ditched the Disney versions; a pleasant side-effect of that was losing the lame Lasseter intros.

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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Ben » July 2nd, 2018, 10:04 pm

So now we all "hate" John Lasseter now, even though he really was probably just a big kid until he got too big in his own house and by then had made himself so pivotal to the place that the new owners couldn’t control him?

Let’s not forget that the guy - and I can’t believe I’m defending him since I’ve never really bought into the overgrown kid stuff - actually did revolutionise modern animation and has been responsible for some genuine contemporary classics.

Yes, those commentaries should stay! Whatever else was going on, the guy made those films and has valid things to say about them. If we really started not watching, listening or having such tracks from any number of filmmakers and celebrities because they did a bad thing, or were in some way inappropriate or offensive to someone else, then let me tell you that half of any of your discs collections could be branded "illegal" right here and now.

Yes, lines were crossed, and how. But the guy has been punished...he’s lost his job, and he won’t be appearing on any commentary tracks or interview extras for a long while yet, if ever. But what’s out there is out there, and it would be really silly and foolish to start scrubbing such an important name from the history books.

The way it will go is exactly like Eisner and Katzenberg, in that his name will slowly fade until he is a brief footnote. But let’s not be revisionist and claim that Pixar could have happened without him. Or that, for that matter, that his tenure at Disney Animation has seen almost nothing but strong female characters, from Princess And The Frog, Rapunzel, Vanellope von Schweetz, Judy Hopps, Moana, and Tinker Bell (yes, already underway but retooled and championed by JL), not to mention a little female empowerment movie called Frozen.

I’m not saying he was solely responsible for these, natch, but not everything JL did was evil...the guy was a creative leader who achieved a lot while in the driving seat. It’s just a shame that he couldn’t keep his hands on the wheel...

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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Randall » July 3rd, 2018, 12:57 am

"Hate?" Well, repulsed maybe. The dude behaved badly, by the sound of things (way past the notion of being "just a big kid;" I'd come down hard on my kid if he was that disrespectful towards women). Unfortunately, there's a lot of that going around, and those players are paying the price for their bad behavior.

No, we cannot and should not revise history. I often found him a little creepy (even well before the revelations, and probably with increasing regularity as his power and fame grew), and am certainly in favour of him losing his position; but there's no denying that he was an immense creative force that revolutionized animation (with CGI, at Pixar), then revitalized Disney animation. Modern animation would be very different without him, and likely for the worse. So, yes, the vintage bonus features should stay, while any future bonus features may just have to shy away from being overly fawning, while just sticking to the facts.

As life often is, it's complicated.

That kids' story book though? That project is looking inappropriate now.

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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Ben » July 3rd, 2018, 7:53 am

Agreed on all counts. (I did give "hate" in quotes, and say "a big kid UNTIL..." though, not that this was an appropriate ongoing excuse, getting worse, as I said, as he got more powerful.)

Sexual harassment is exactly that: it’s harassment. Having been on the receiving end (yes, it happens that way around too!) twice, actually, to varying degrees of creepiness, I still wouldn’t put that sort of behavior anywhere near what the likes of the Weinsteins and the Cosbys were up to.

No, we don’t know the extent of JL's actions, but - and again I can’t believe I’m actually trying to play advocate for this guy!! - there is and should be a difference *in terms of punishment* as to how they are dealt with. Rape? That’s clear prison time. And there’s a fudgy line between that and heavy physical groping. But we just don’t know how deep Lasseter's behavior went. It certainly wasn’t at Harvey levels, and I think that his whole losing of his studio and basic banishment from there is about as bitter a pill he could possibly swallow, and be subjected to swallow. Let him wither away into obscurity, career possibly over.

As for the book? I’m in two minds, though heavily coming down on one side. Yes, JL is a toxic figure now, but is that enough to stop a kids book? Did he actually act inappropriately with children? No. Would the book have any affect on them, even if they even actually cared or really knew who he was? No. BUT...the decision has been made to remove JL from his public role and therefore he shouldn’t be fronting any major studio publicity items, whoever they are aimed at. This is another element in him seeing his own legacy starting to erode in his own lifetime. The guy is basically done.

I wonder what Ed Catmull thinks of all this, and where he stands on it...? ;)

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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby EricJ » July 3rd, 2018, 1:45 pm

Dacey wrote:And there's a lot of speculation regarding Brenda Chapman being fired from Brave as well...


The reasons why Chapman were fired are pretty obvious ("They're changing MY story! The empowering message I was sending to my daughter, and everyone's daughter!"), but let's just say it does shed some light on why she was so stubbornly insistent on blaming the "Male Hollywood Conspiracy", quote, for why the Brain Trust took over her script and tried to put more actual plot in it to fill ninety minutes.
And then, lordy, that public "They've turned her into a sexist Barbie doll!" tantrum when they tried to tweak Merida's image for park costumes and 2D toy/book marketing...To think, all this time, we thought she was just a nut, when she was just working out other issues.

To the general population of the studio — many of whom had never worked on Brave because it was not yet in full-steam production — it seemed as though Brenda’s firing was considered justifiable. Rumor had it that she had been indecisive, unconfident and ineffective as a director


(...YyyyYEAH. :? )

Are JL's interviews from the Tinker Bell movies taken off of their respective discs? I don't see how there was a way out of releasing the children's book (it was apparently nearly done), but I have a feeling it might become very hard to find once Disney stops publishing it down the road.


What "children's book"?--Take it you don't mean Gail Carson Levine's "Fairy Dust & the Quest for the Egg"?
Which had been commissioned as the "bible" for the Disney Fairies series from the beginning, but ran up against basic studio decisions, like Tink not being the central character, and the events directly sequelizing Peter Pan, which Lasseter had just outlawed along with the other DisneyToon movie-based vidquels.

(You can say anything bad about Lasseter that you want, but be honest, he DID finally bury the vidquels.)
Last edited by EricJ on July 3rd, 2018, 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Dacey » July 3rd, 2018, 2:18 pm

I have no "hate" for Lasseter. But the entire situation is rather uncomfortable, to the point where it's even kind of hard to talk about.

Granted, there is some "hysteria" going on right now, with some accusations being fuzzy at best (Chris Hardwick being one of them, in which the story more or less fell apart once some texts from the accuser contradicted her story) or sometimes discredited entirely (George Takei). In Lasseter's case, he did make a "confession," which may or may not have helped his endgame. I'm not saying he should fall in the Spacey/Weinstein/Cosby category by any means (which is sadly where some of these people are landing by default), but I'm sure he'll be back to doing interviews and what-not withing a few years, however fair or not fair that might be.

I think one "issue" with Lasster's legacy is that the praise towards him has been so fawning, with many of the extras on the early Pixar releases (not to mention that documentary included on WALL-E's DVD) almost going as far as to say he's just like Walt Disney. That's hard for Disney to live down, so it will be interesting how to see how they handle next year's "Toy Story: Four Movie Collection" set (or how Lasseter gets credited for that movie, since he was originally the director!).

And I'm glad to know Eric was apparently there at Pixar when Brave got made, hence how he must know all these secrets about it. ;)
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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby EricJ » July 3rd, 2018, 2:32 pm

Dacey wrote:I think one "issue" with Lasster's legacy is that the praise towards him has been so fawning, with many of the extras on the early Pixar releases (not to mention that documentary included on WALL-E's DVD) almost going as far as to say he's just like Walt Disney. That's hard for Disney to live down, so it will be interesting how to see how they handle next year's "Toy Story: Four Movie Collection" set (or how Lasseter gets credited for that movie, since he was originally the director!).


He wasn't the director on TS3 either, and they seem to have handled that nicely. :roll:

You could say that Michael Eisner from '05-'06 made any new executive at the studio look good, but the initial praise on Lasseter when we got the transitional '00 films--even "Princess & the Frog", as underwhelming as it was, had the right idea, which most of the Stainton-era films didn't--was not misplaced.
Maybe it became a little too fawning when more and more Pixar fans came out of the adult-fan closet after "Finding Nemo" and "Incredibles", and then got over their surprise that Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph turned out to be good films...But the "Just like Walt!" comparisons was the refreshing idea that someone at the studio knew how to tell actual stories again with some emotional attachment to the characters, and--more importantly to the "Who's going to replace the Bad Man?" discussion--look what happens to the studio when someone doesn't.

Walt may not have had a 100% shining personal reputation either, but go back and look at his story-session memos on the 30's films, back when he was still hands-on involved, and there's clear instincts of What Makes a Story and Why Should They Care, and an aggressive instinct for cutting every other bit of baggage that doesn't. After "Chicken Little", that's what the 00's studio needed, and to our surprise, that's what they GOT.

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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby ShyViolet » July 5th, 2018, 12:24 pm

I really don’t have much to add here, just wanted to say that, again, I’m glad that Disney did the right thing and let Lasseter go. Behavior like that, even if it’s not on the level of Weinstein or Cosby, should not be tolerated.

But I also completely agree with Ben that his many contributions should not be overlooked; and that his DVD commentaries/interviews/appearances should remain. After all, he was a HUGE part of Disney history. (Plus completely whitewashing someone from Disney history happened before with Jeffrey Katzenberg, and while the circumstances of their leaving were not in anyway similar, both were considerably HUGE contributors to Disney Animation, and as Ben said it’s just silly to remove someone like that from the Walt Disney narrative.)

On Ed Catmull: Yeah, I’d like to hear what he’s got to say too. :roll:

One more thing, just wanted to add that, on the whole insular “Pixar boy culture” thing: actually I first got that impression quite a few years ago, as much as I’ve always enjoyed their films. It was pretty obvious from behind-the -scenes interviews/making of segments that the guys in charge (and it was always guys) were very tight and that a “Manolescent” culture thrived there. Also, (and I might not be remembering exactly right, so forgive me if I’m screwing this up) I think I once saw an article about why Disney, by and large, no longer produces animated musicals (I think it came out before Tangled and Frozen; Pixar had already taken over); there was a quote from Don Hahn about specifically Pixar, and his response was: “Because they’re boys with toys.” :|


BTW, as much as I flat-out adore WALL-E, I’ve always found the teaser trailer to be snobby and elitist: :roll:

https://youtu.be/nuAGE5_fglA
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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Dacey » July 5th, 2018, 3:13 pm

The buzz involving Tangled before it was released was that JL wasn't a big fan of it, and announced prematurely that Disney was "done with movies like that" before it came out. Then when it ended up being a surprise hit (against Harry Potter, no less), JL was all like "This is what Disney should be doing!"

In other words, JL liked taking the credit when the movie was a hit, but usually kept his distance when a movie (Cars 2) didn't land critically. And he was always going to have enemies, since he fired Chris Sanders and Mark Dindal were fired immediately after he took his new position at the company (Elton John, following the Gnomeo drama, was pretty open when it came to bashing JL publicly).

Still, from a movie fan standpoint, it's a little sad to see him go, as Pixar and especially Disney have been doing extremely well for the last few years. Here's hoping the Mouse House's winning streak can continue without him being involved.
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Re: The John Lasseter saga

Postby Randall » July 6th, 2018, 12:54 am

Even aside from the allegations, it might be good that JL moves on at this point. Keep things fresh. Pixar and Disney have lots of good people to take over. Fresh visions are good--- we don't need a Cars 4 anyway. ;)