The Imagineering Story interview

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks is about to unveil her newest documentary. The Imagineering Story is a six-part documentary series which tracks the history and evolution of Imagineering in Walt Disney theme parks, and it serves as a sort of spiritual follow-up to her 2007 film The Pixar Story, which chronicled the genesis of that company and its eventual rise to creative dominance. But this series has a special resonance for Iwerks.

Leslie is the granddaughter of Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney’s original business partner and the co-creator of Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Her father was Don Iwerks, a former Disney executive and Oscar winner for his technical contributions to the film industry. Because of her family connections, Leslie was taken behind the scenes of Disney parks as a child and got to see behind the curtain as these engineers were creating new additions to “The Happiest Place on Earth.” I sat down with Iwerks a couple of weeks ago to talk to her about her new documentary, how she’s trying to share some of the wonder she felt as a kid, the definitive Disney theme park attraction, and more.  Read More »

Walt Disney Animation Almost Shut Down

Walt Disney Animation is still enjoying a resurgence in popularity that began after Ed Catmull and John Lasseter were respectively named president and chief creative officer of the company. After starting off in a promising new direction with the movie Tangled, Disney Animation has churned out hits like Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and Moana. And it’s all thanks to one of Disney’s riskiest endeavors of the 2000s.

The hiring of John Lassester and Ed Catmull came as part of Disney’s deal to acquire Pixar Animation in 2006, which made Steve Jobs the largest shareholder in the company and a member of Disney’s board. However, if Jobs had gotten his way, the resurgence of Walt Disney Animation might have never happened, because he proposed the idea of shutting it down entirely. Read More »

emma thompson john lasseter

Emma Thompson has penned a letter speaking out against the hiring of John Lasseter at Skydance Animation. The animation division of Skydance is preparing to launch with the film Luck, in which Thompson was originally set to star. However, Skydance has been in hot water since its controversial decision to hire Lasseter following the animation magnate’s exit from Disney and Pixar in the wake of unspecified sexual harassment allegations.

Thompson quietly left the project in late January, but has now penned a letter addressed to Skydance explaining why she refuses to work with Lasseter and criticizing the studio’s decision to stand by the Toy Story director.

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Emma Thompson Luck

Skydance Animation’s Luck is still years away from release, but the movie has just lost one of its stars.

According to a new report, Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson has walked away from the film “because of concerns about working with” John Lasseter, the former Disney/Pixar animation guru who was hired to run Skydance Animation earlier this year. Read More »

John Lasseter Comeback

Outcry exploded following John Lasseter‘s hiring at Skydance Animation a year after the animation magnate stepped down from his roles at Disney and Pixar in the wake of unspecified sexual harassment allegations. Lasseter stepped into the role of chief at Skydance Animation merely nine days after his contract expired with Disney, which many in the industry saw as too little time for Lasseter to be held accountable for his actions.

Lasseter and Skydance CEO David Ellison turned to a town hall to address the concerns of the employees at Skydance Animation, many of whom were just as unhappy with the decision to hire the animation guru in a high-profile role at their company. However, it may not be enough for the Paramount staff working with Skydance for one of its first feature films.

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John Lasseter Skydance

Update: Time’s Up, the organization that seeks to provide safe working environments for women in Hollywood and beyond, has condemned Skydance for hiring Lasseter. You can read their full statement at the bottom of this article. Our original piece follows.

After a year away from the animation industry due to a public fallout with Disney and Pixar over misconduct allegations, John Lasseter has a new high-profile job at a different company in Hollywood. Only nine days after Lasseter’s contract expired with Disney, the animation pioneer has been hired to run Skydance Animation, the animation branch of the company best known for producing tentpole action films like the recent Mission: Impossible and Star Trek movies. Read More »

John Lasseter Comeback

It’s been nearly a year since John Lasseter announced that he would be taking a leave of absence from Pixar Animation as a way of getting ahead of any complaints about possible sexual misconduct. In reports that followed, Lasseter was accused by several Pixar employees of “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about physical attributes.” Since then, it was announced that Lasseter would not be returning to work at Disney, and his last day would be at the end of the year.

Now that John Lasseter’s work at Disney is officially ending, word on the street is that he’s out looking for a new job elsewhere in Hollywood. This raises questions about how (or rather if) the industry should support or allow these kind of comebacks from disgraced individuals who have been accused of sexual misconduct, especially if it’s happened on more than one occasion. Read More »

John Lasseter's Replacements

It’s official: Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter are replacing John Lasseter at Disney and Pixar, respectively. Lasseter, a long-standing creative force at Disney, is stepping down in light of possible misconduct allegations. Lee and Docter were previously announced as interim replacements for Lasseter, but now it appears their new roles will be permanent.

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Pixar After John Lasseter

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: how Pixar can move forward following the departure of John Lasster by championing its younger filmmakers.) 

This week marks the release of Pixar Animation Studios’ twentieth computer-animated feature film, Incredibles 2. Over the past 23 years, Pixar has risen from rebellious upstart in the industry to the dominant force that other animation studios can only hope to follow. In 1995, making a computer-animated feature film was a folly on the same level as Walt Disney deciding to make a hand-drawn animated feature back in the 1930s. As with the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the success of Toy Story represented the beginning of a sea change in animation.

Last Friday saw a different change, one that is arguably overdue: John Lasseter’s announcement that he’s stepping down from his posts at Disney and Pixar at the end of 2018.

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John Lasseter leaving Disney

John Lasseter‘s days at Disney are coming to an end. Last year, sexual misconduct allegations against the Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios lead to Lasseter taking a leave of absence. Recently, rumors surfaced that Disney might bring Lasseter back in a limited role. Now, word comes that Lasseter will leave Disney by December 31, 2018.

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