Jorgen Klubien, an animator and writer who worked at Disney and Pixar with its troubled chief creative officer John Lasseter, has accused him of taking the credit for the Cars franchise.
Lasseter is currently on an extended sabbatical from the company, following accusations of sexual impropriety, abusive behaviour and heavy drinking.
According to an extensive report in The Hollywood Reporter, which looks at whether Lasseter can ever return to Disney, the idea for the original movie – which then turned into three – was one that Klubien came to Lasseter with.
The two animators met in the late 70s while studying at the now famous CalArts animation program, and Klubien was later hired by Pixar to work on movies like A Bug’s Life.
It was there that Klubien pitched the idea for Cars to Lasseter, who was initially interested, but then reportedly appeared to have gone cold on the idea.
Klubien later heard that the company was planning to make the movie, but on speaking the Lasseter, he was told that it would not be using his story.
Still, Klubien was hired to work on it, but not as co-director as he says Lasseter promised, and he claims that Lasseter would later pass off Klubien’s ideas as his own in meetings, something he says he’d spotted while working on A Bug’s Life.
Lasseter later named himself sole director, with Klubien given only a co-writing credit, though he was later paid $50,000 for the Cars idea.
“I didn’t even get invited to the premiere or to Cars Land when it opened,” he told THR, referring to the theme park attraction that later opened at Disney’s California Adventure Park.
“I went with my family to see Cars Land and they had a whole museum of how the film and the Cars Land ride was made. And not a sketch, not a mention of my name in it.”
Klubien, who is said to be something of a divisive figure, was fired from Pixar in 2003 after working there for 10 years, but says that he also thinks that a project he devised there called The Spirit of New Orleans later became The Princess and the Frog.
“I was the creative spark behind this franchise. It’s John’s genius that he got it going, that he was the master of Pixar. And if he had allowed me to be part of it all, I would’ve been his biggest champion. But I find it to be an abusive thing that he got rid of me to claim sole inventorship,” he added.
“The thing for me is, why can’t you say what it really was? You’re great enough in that role. What’s wrong with that? I just don’t get it.”
The article paints a critical picture of Lasseter, quoting sources saying that he is now referred to as ‘he who must not be named’, while also referring to The Good Dinosaur, which was a rare flop for the studio in 2016.
It’s claimed that Lasseter did not spot that the film was going off course during its production, and that ‘no one had the nerve to tell him’.
“He couldn’t give notes or fix it,” added a source.
“All of his behavior was condoned,” said another longtime Pixar animator. “It wasn’t just the drinking. It was his never having grown up. Some of senior management believed that was part of the secret ingredient when really the secret ingredient was a group of people.”