Normally, animation is an incredible outlet for creativity and an escape of sorts from the harsh realities we experience in the world. The best productions take us to places and locales we could only dream of, with charismatic characters and incredible stories, waiting to unfold. Unfortunately, that facade can still be broken when a man behind much magic for countless minds over the years has been swept up into the ever-growing Pandora’s Box of misconduct in Hollywood that was often suspected, but never dragged out so openly in the public like it is now.
I write about animation, and I’m perfectly capable of shifting to a more serious topic involving my expertise, and I should start by saying this is *not* at all a defense of John Lasseter. If anything, the story just dropped within an hour of me writing this piece, and while the details haven’t emerged fully in all their detail, the fact that he decided to take a leave of absence himself suggests he was trying to get out in front of a landmine that was set to explode. You can read between the lines about what’s going to happen, and while the implications themselves are ugly, there are other parts of the fallout that are huge here as well: the well-being and security of people, specifically women, and what exactly this will mean for the twin titans of Western animation- Pixar and Walt Disney Animation- going forward.
On the former point, it has been said ad nasuem in other places and contexts, but the potential culture of harassment that may have existed at Pixar and perhaps Disney too as a result of Lassester’s actions is unacceptable and downright despicable. I don’t particularly take sides on “gender issues” as our society today defines them, but a safe work environment, free of fear and of backroom tactics is key in nurturing positive change. In many ways, it seems the “old boys’ club” mentality still exists in workplaces, and what should be rejected as wrong is instead overlooked due to power, status and position. In Lassasster’s case, it does not matter how brilliant an animator or storyboarder he was- the consideration and acknowledgement of real human lives should always come first, in a culture that too often lacks true compassion for others. The latter point in particular is sickening given what Pixar itself stands for in movies- good, wholesome and downright incredible entertainment.
But it’s just that- entertainment. It’s not reality, much as it’s uniquely able to craft realities of its own- and the magic in those many amazing films became a bit tainted today. I’m not suggesting you have to chuck your copy of Toy Story out the window now, but the man influential in forming many a childhood dream and formative in the dominant decade of Pixar to open the early 2000’s has now been swept up in a growing scandal of powerful individuals that should serve as a warning to the values our culture holds and the sort of diligent watchfulness that should be cast upon those in positions of great responsibility.
Finally, this may in fact mark the end of the so-called Lasseter Renaissance at Disney. While a trivial point to the other aspects of this moment in time I’ve reflected on, it is of some importance in an animation context, as Disney had been rolling off hits since the man took over their struggling animation department back in 2008, and Pixar had still produced some fairly good films in the past decade despite the perception that they took a slight step back (which was more about the ridiculously high standard the studio set for itself.) Whatever happens next for these studios now is no longer connected with Lasseter though, but it will be interesting to see how a very promising 2018 turns out now for both Pixar and Disney’s animation studio.
Here’s hoping the truth continues to show itself, and the proper course of action continues to be taken.
Feel free to chime in on this issue, if you wish. Serious dialogue is the mark of a healthy republic.