Yesterday’s breaking news about John Lasseter’s six-month sabbatical from Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, resulting from accusations of “missteps” brought against him, hit me like a ton of bricks, as I’m sure it did many other Pixar fans. But before anyone starts sharpening their pitchforks to come at me, I’d like to clarify that the intention of this post isn’t to be political, or controversial. Until more concrete details come out, I respectfully choose to keep my views and opinions to myself. One thing I do want to address, however, is the insight that this situation has brought to light regarding the delays Toy Story 4 has suffered in production over the past few years.
There has been ambiguity for a while as to what happened to Rashida Jones and Will McCormack (pictured above with Lasseter at the 2015 D23 Expo) as the film’s screenwriters – first in October 2015, when the initial date change was announced, and Pete Docter was named as being a part of the writing team alongside Jones and McCormack; and then earlier this year, when Martin Hynes was mentioned briefly as the movie’s screenwriter, without any further details. An article in the New York Times yesterday finally provided some potential answers, as Jones stated that she and her partner left the film’s production due to “creative and philosophical differences” (not the “unwanted advances” that were previously and erroneously reported).
What we still don’t know is the timeline. If I were to venture a guess, I wonder if Docter was brought on to assist with the “differences” that were complicating the script-writing process; and that the writing team’s departure occurred sometime thereafter, when those differences couldn’t be resolved, leading them to be replaced by Hynes. It does seem, however, that the upheaval caused by the original writers’ conflicts and subsequent resignation played a large role in the film’s setbacks. I don’t know that we’ll ever learn the true story of this apparently-tumultous turn of events, but when we were at the D23 Expo this past July, my husband boldly asked someone at the Pixar booth (whose name I failed to get, in my star-struck state) what happened to Rashida Jones with Toy Story 4. The answer shared with us was that her work with the movie was essentially done, but that her contributions would stay in the film; and that the second delay (in October 2016) was intended to give the new director more time.
I also was at the D23 Animation Panel when it was announced that Josh Cooley – formerly the film’s co-director – was replacing John Lasseter as director of Toy Story 4. (I have been working on my D23 recap for months and promise to share that soon, with more details!) A press conference statement, published shortly after the panel presentation, explained Lasseter’s reasoning behind the decision:
I always felt like I need to keep directing, and that’s why I decided to do Toy Story 4 initially, but I oversee three studios and I think I counted 24 feature films I’m overseeing, and it was not really practical, to be blunt. But also what made it easy was Josh Cooley was amazing; wait until you see it – he is so good. And it was time to let go of the bike and let him ride, and he’s doing a great job. It’s really fantastic. And I do get creative satisfaction from being the executive producer, the chief creative officer, and helping all of these great filmmakers. So that’s what made the decision for me, and I’m loving what I do. I have the best job in the world.
I, for one, was not bothered by the change in director; I have faith that Pixar wouldn’t choose someone who would put their flagship franchise in jeopardy. And now, considering Lasseter’s leave of absence, I am so thankful that the switch had already been made. Despite some hateful comments I’ve read online in the past 24 hours concerning the sequel, I hope that Toy Story 4‘s production will continue moving forward in a positive direction, unhindered by the drama currently unfolding.
Before I close this subject, I’d like to include a statement that was made by Dawn Welch, owner of the Rock Cafe on Route 66 in Stroud, Oklahoma, who served as the inspiration for Sally in the Cars films. She posted her remarks, in defense of John Lasseter, on Facebook this morning (emphasis is her own). While I’m not trying to stir the pot and say that he’s wholly innocent or wholly guilty of any offenses, I do think that another perspective is beneficial and worth sharing:
I SUPPORT JOHN LASSETER
As the inspiration for Sally, I met with John Lasseter on several occasions. His behavior for support of strong women and the love of his wife whom he very dearly told of her strength and his love for his wife was why he wanted to develop a female character of strength and wit. On our first and longest meeting, he had several Disney Pixar “imagineers” ( I call them this because although many carry specific titles – all take part in every piece of the creation process ). Darla K Anderson, a woman producer, was among them and it was clear he carries much respect and trust for her. Their relationship was always professional which is fun, whimsical, and magic because the professionalism at Pixar is to speak the truth but from the eyes of a 10 year old just as Steve Jobs instructed John Lasseter from the onset of Pixar.
As I told my story at the Rock Cafe, John made a point for himself and Darla to share their histories and really listen to mine. I was excited to visit with them because Walt Disney was one of my childhood heroes for his choice to be an entrepreneur who creates and inspires people. I read his biography at 16 years old and it helped set my path to becoming a person who “sells burgers and magic along the Mother Road”. I knew it would only take a little sprinkle of the Disney wand over Route 66 to make 10 year old’s customers for decades.
Pixar, Disney, John Lasseter, Darla Anderson, Bonnie Hunt and all involved with the making of Cars not only met my Dreams for Route 66 but far exceeded them. John’s dream for this movie at its core was wrapped in love for his family including his father, wife, and son’s and to send a message for the World to slow down and enjoy family and close friends within the small towns and communities they come from.
Today, I say to the World; LET’S SLOW DOWN! This news media seems out of control and SWIFTLY making a wreck and joke out of these UNITED STATES.
I DOUBLE DOG DARE (as the 10 year old would say) you to SLOW DOWN, STAY AWAY FROM THIS MEDIA DEBACLE and ENJOY YOUR FAMILY AND CLOSE FRIENDS. I TRIPLE DOG DARE! THE MEDIA TO REPOST SOMETHING POSITIVE BY A STRONG WOMAN OF A SMALL BUSINESS IN SUPPORT OF A MAN IN CHARGE OF TWO HUGE CORPORATIONS!
PS! YES this is a picture where WE chose to pose with a KISS! NOTHING INAPPROPRIATE just a FUN picture with a MAN I SUPPORT!
I’ll extend a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, too! I’m thankful for this world of toys, created and brought to life not only by John Lasseter, but by a team of talented artists who are worthy of praise and admiration, and who deserve neither to be dragged into the controversy currently attached to their workplace nor demeaned based on the alleged actions of one person. Regardless of how everything proceeds in this case, I will continue to support Pixar as a studio, in gratitude for all the happiness they have brought to me, my family, and my friends. And go see Coco! It’s fantastic!
Photos © Disney/Pixar.