John Lasseter, like several fallen men of the bloodshed of 2017, is back! The once-king of Pixar and possible inspiration for the scary teddy bear in Toy Story 3 has returned with a new movie, and according to a new New York Times puff piece, he’s really, really different now.
After leaving Pixar following allegations of, among other things, “grabbing, kissing, [and] making comments about physical attributes” of coworkers, Lasseter shifted over to Skydance Media, where his new film Luck will premiere on Apple TV+ this week. The Times piece is rife with quotes from women high up at Skydance, all of whom promise that Lasseter is great to work with. “John has been incredible,” says Holly Edwards, the president of Skydance’s animation department. “John has been a great mentor,” claims Luck’s director Peggy Holmes.
The Times write-up is light on Lasseter and tough on Pixar, eager to mention that Lightyear was not the boon for the company that they thought it might be. Though Lasseter refrains from commenting on his former company, he has an air of watching a sinking ship safely from shore. In fact, the Times is a little too in love with Lasseter’s rebound in the face of imminent Disney floppage. There’s a case to be made, a case that the Times seems particularly invested in, that Lasseter was the only reason Pixar was ever good in the first place, and that allegations of hugging and megalomania undid his legacy:
Almost overnight, his many accomplishments — building Pixar from scratch, forging the megawatt “Toy Story” and “Cars” franchises, reviving a moribund Walt Disney Animation, delivering “Frozen,” winning Oscars — became a footnote.
Among the few Lasseter detractors in the Times piece is the actress Emma Thompson, who not only backed out of a role in Luck in 2019 but wrote to the head of Skydance with her concerns about Lasseter’s entrance into the project, voiced in characteristically British fashion: “It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct.” Her role was subsequently cut.
Everyone is expendable and replaceable, of course, except Lasseter, who is singular and exemplary, even when he’s misbehaving. Bad bosses are a dime a dozen, and it’s possible that though Lasseter was an unrivaled creative force, his behavior — rampant overhauling, intrusion of personal space, a general disregard for the status of “employee” — is a pattern across not only Disney and Pixar, but the entertainment and media industries in general. Now in a different role, during a slightly different cultural moment, he can settle back into a version of his old life. The Times piece concludes with a quote from Peggy Holmes about Lasseter’s flexibility in the face of creative differences: “When the answer is no, he’s really OK with it. He’s really OK with it.” Don’t worry. I really believe that.