Skydance Animation criticized for hiring ousted Pixar chief John Lasseter

U.S. film production company Skydance Media names Pixar co-founder and former Disney animation chief John Lasseter as head of its animation division.

Lasseter stepped down from Disney after acknowledging "missteps" in behaviour with staff

John Lasseter, who stepped down from Disney last year after acknowledging 'missteps' in his behaviour with staff members, will head the recently launched animation division of production company Skydance Media. (Dan Steinberg/Invision/The Associated Press)

U.S. film production company Skydance Media on Wednesday named Pixar co-founder and former Disney animation chief John Lasseter as head of its animation division.

Lasseter, regarded as a modern-day Walt Disney because of his creativity and commercial success, left Disney late last year. His exit followed a six-month leave of absence after what he called "missteps," including unwanted hugs that made employees uncomfortable.

In a statement, Lasseter says he has spent the last year away from the industry in "deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable."

Skydance CEO David Ellison says he didn't take the decision to hire Lasseter lightly. He credited Lasseter with attempting to address and reform his behaviour.

In a memo to staff, Ellison said Skydance employed outside counsel to "thoroughly investigate the allegations" against Lasseter.

"John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behaviour, apologized for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analyzing and improving his workplace behaviour," Ellison told staffers.

Advocacy groups expressed disappointment at the CEO's comments.

Lasseter's hiring has drawn criticism by advocacy groups Women in Film, Los Angeles and Time's Up. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

"By saying Skydance has conducted an independent investigation and then proceeded to hire Lasseter, do they mean to suggest that they are hiring him in spite of the numerous accounts of women and colleagues?" said the group Women In Film, Los Angeles in a statement.

Hollywood anti-harassment organization Time's Up tweeted that the hiring perpetuates a broken system. 

Lasseter had been one of the most illustrious and powerful figures in animation. He was a creative force behind every Pixar release as well as Disney hits like Frozen and Moana.

Skydance Animation is a relatively new studio and has not yet released a feature film. Skydance's film division productions include Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Star Trek Beyond.

With files from The Associated Press