Lasseter, Pixar co-founder, to step down at end of year

NEW YORK (AP) — John Lasseter, the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and the Walt Disney Co.'s animation chief, will step down at the end of the year after acknowledging "missteps" in his behavior with staff members.

Disney announced today that Lasseter – one of the most illustrious and powerful figures in animation – will stay on through the end of this year as a consultant. After that he will depart Disney permanently.

Lasseter in November took what he called a six-month "sabbatical." He apologized "to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug" or any other gesture that made them feel "disrespected or uncomfortable." At the time, Lasseter signaled he hoped to then return to Disney. Many in Hollywood were skeptical that was possible.

"The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities," Lasseter said in a statement. "While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney, I have decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges."

The 61-year-old Lasseter, easily recognizable for his bright Hawaiian shirts, is the highest-ranking Hollywood executive to be toppled in the wake of the #MeToo movement. A pioneer in digital animation, he has been a creative force behind every Pixar release as well as Disney hits like "Frozen," ''Moana" and "Zootopia." Lasseter directed Pixar's breakthrough feature "Toy Story" as well as it first sequel, "Toy Story 2"

After Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Lasseter was named chief creative officer of Pixar as well as Disney Animation. Under Lasseter, the previously flagging animation studio was reborn through both Pixar and Disney releases that have amassed billions in box office and a string of Oscars.

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