Actress and screenwriter Rashida Jones has addressed her exit from Pixar’s Toy Story 4 in the wake of John Lasseter, the animation studio’s chief creative officer, taking a formal leave of absence due to unspecified “missteps.”
In a statement issued Tuesday and obtained by EW, Jones and her writing partner, Will McCormack, refuted a report by The Hollywood Reporter that said they parted ways with the project after Lasseter made “an unwanted advance” toward Jones. Rather, the duo said, their departure had to do with the company’s treatment of female and minority voices.
“The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible,” Jones and McCormack’s statement said. “We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. 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.”
Noting that only one of the 20 films in the company’s history was co-directed by a woman and only one was directed by a person of color, Jones and McCormack called on 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.”
Jones and McCormack, who previously co-wrote the 2012 film Celeste and Jesse Forever, had been brought on to pen the fourth installment of Pixar’s flagship franchise, which is currently scheduled to hit theaters in June 2019.
Lasseter announced in an internal memo Tuesday morning that he was taking a six-month sabbatical from his role as chief creative officer of Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Disneytoon. He also offered an apology “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.” Shortly after Lasseter’s memo went public, The Hollywood Reporter reported allegations of misconduct against him.
A Disney spokesperson said of Lasseter’s leave, “We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”