The Walt Disney Co.’s executives reportedly are discussing John Lasseter’s possible return to the company, six months after the animation chief admitted to vague “missteps’ and took a leave of absence.
Disney has not indicated whether Lasseter will come back, and has not responded to Deadline’s requests for comment. However, the Wall Street Journal quotes an anonymous “person familiar with the matter” as saying he may return in a different role that would retain his creative input but limit his managerial responsibilities.
The digital animation pioneer is considered the creative force behind the success of Pixar Animation Studio and the revival of Walt Disney Animation. He also had broad influence over the company’s theme park attractions and toy designs and emerged as a celebrity in his own right.
Revelations last fall cast the affable, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing executive in a different, less genial light. Lasseter publicly admitted to “unwanted hugs” and hinted at behavior that others “felt crossed the line.” Interviews revealed uninvited kisses and touching and amorous displays at studio parties where alcohol was served.
Lasseter has been out of public view ever since, and animators and other rank-and-file employees at Pixar in Emeryville remain in the dark about his fate.
But there have been signals that Disney has been evaluating how, and under what circumstances, Lasseter might return.
The Hollywood Reporter reported that Disney Animation Studios held a “Day of Listening” with human resources professionals in January, which one veteran interpreted as a way for for the studio to “take the temperature of the staff” concerning Lasseter .
If Lasseter were to return to Disney, the Journal reports, it might be in a capacity that would allow for his creative input without the liabilities of giving him direct oversight of staff. Or, he might not return at all.
Monday marks the end of Lasseter’s six-month leave.