Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Pixar Animation Studios is known for creating some of the most popular family movies of the past two decades. From “Cars” to “Toy Story” to “Monsters Inc.,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” a generation of kids has grown up delighted by the world created by the animation company.

Recently, the Disney-owned company released their latest film, “Coco,” and wowed fans with a teaser announcing the long-awaited sequel to “The Incredibles,” set for release next year. However, those announcements were overshadowed by the news that Pixar co-founder John Lasseter has taken a leave of absence after allegations of “missteps” with employees.

According to some, Lasseter is guilty of sexual harassment and “inappropriate conduct” in the workplace. In reaction to the allegations, Lasseter offered the following statement:

“I deeply apologize if I have let you down. I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape or form … No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”

As this news began appearing in headlines, at least one entertainment publication put out a story claiming Lasseter was guilty of making an “unwanted advance” toward actress and writer Rashida Jones. According to The Hollywood Reporter, that alleged incident caused Jones to leave Pixar. Jones, however, said she didn’t leave production on “Toy Story 4” because of any unwanted advances. Jones and her co-writer left due to “creative differences,” not any allegations of harassment. Making it clear they believe the Hollywood Reporter story to be false, Jones and the other writer, Will McCormack, said the publication doesn’t speak for their side.

However, the pair’s public statement did ask Pixar to focus more on minority hires in creative positions, and they also said they appreciated the unnamed sources who admitted Lasseter’s actions made them uncomfortable. All in all, whether it was just being honest or an attempt to toe some presupposed line, the statement was a mixed bag. And that will bring out the big voices on both sides of this argument.

As an increasing number of top names in entertainment are hit with harassment allegations, there is a definite line being drawn between one side that congratulates people for taking a stand and the other which doesn’t want to see these kinds of unproven allegations be “tried in the press.” Both of these sentiments seem to be captured in the response to Jones’ statement.

At present, Lasseter has taken a six-month sabbatical, and there’s no news as to when “Toy Story 4” will resume production. Perhaps more than any others in recent weeks, this case may help set a protocol for what happens next when a power player is accused of somewhat vague unwelcome behavior.

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Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of the leading independent American PR firms.