Despite previous reports indicating that Disney was preparing to let John Lasseter go for good, Walt Disney executives are apparently considering bringing the disgraced Pixar chief back into the fold at the company. The chief creative officer went on a six-month sabbatical starting last November after being accused of sexual misconduct and unwanted physical contact. Now that his six-month leave is coming to a close, The Wall Street Journal reports that execs have discussed bringing Lasseter back to Disney in a new position—one that slows his managerial control but allows him to “retain creative influence.”
The final day of Lasseters sabbatical is May 21, which is rapidly approaching. Per the W.S.J., employees have adjusted to day-to-day life without their old boss, though his absence has been noted. Prior to leaving the company, Lasseter was a towering figure at the studio: he “consulted on every movie at Pixar and Disney Animation, weighing in anywhere from every few weeks to every few months depending on how smoothly production was running, employees said,” per the W.S.J. In his absence, the company has spread decisions out among a group of artists, producers, and executives. Current employees are reportedly unclear about the companys next steps. Representatives for Disney have not yet responded to Vanity Fairs request for comment.
Prior to the W.S.J.s report, there were rumblings that Disney might break ties with Lasseter altogether after his sabbatical. Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter was being floated as a potential replacement for the head of Pixar, while Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore and Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee were eyed for Disney Animation. However, potential replacements have yet to be confirmed. One anonymous Disney veteran told The Hollywood Reporter previously that it seemed likely that Disney chief Bob Iger would lean toward bumping Lasseter out for good. “Bob is about keeping peace in the family,” the source said. “Hes not anxious to take on defending somebody with that kind of reputation.”
The accusations surrounding Lasseter first cropped up in November, when he announced he was taking a temporary leave of absence due to unspecified past “missteps.” Shortly afterward, it was reported that he had been accused by employees of sexual misconduct and unwanted physical contact. In his initial memo announcing his break, Lasseter issued a broad apology for making employees feel “disrespected and uncomfortable.”
“I especially want to apologize 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,” he wrote.
Should he be brought back into the fold, his re-entry would fit into a larger, dispiriting narrative: powerful men plotting and executing their comebacks just months after being accused by numerous people of sexual harassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement. But until Disney makes an announcement, its unclear whether Lasseter will become part of that trend.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.