Rashida Jones has denied that she quit writing Toy Story 4 following unwanted advances from Pixar boss John Lasseter.
Parks and Recreation star Jones and writing partner Will McCormack stepped away from the sequel in July, with a report in The Hollywood Reporter suggesting that Lasseter, who is being accused of sexual misconduct, made an unwanted pass at her.
But Jones has said that she and McCormack quit over ‘philosophical differences’, and also because she felt that women and people of colour don’t have ‘an equal creative voice’ at the animation studio.
In a statement to the New York Times, she said: “We feel like we have been put in a position where we need to speak for ourselves. The break neck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible and, in fact, counterproductive for the people who do want to tell their stories.
“In this instance, The Hollywood Reporter does not speak for us. We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue.
“That said, we are happy to see people speaking out about behavior that made them uncomfortable. As for us, we parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.”
“There is so much talent at Pixar and we remain enormous fans of their films,” the statement continued.
“But it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice, as is demonstrated by their director demographics: out of the 20 films in the company’s history, only one was co-directed by a woman and only one was directed by a person of color.
“We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring, and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.”
Lasseter, who is Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, and has presided over hits like Toy Story and Toy Story 2 as well as producing nearly every other Pixar movie, has said that he is taking a six month leave of absence from the studio.
The exposé in The Hollywood Reporter alleges that Lasseter was known for ‘grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes’, and that women in the company were aware of his behaviour, avoiding his kisses and prolonged hugs.
In a memo to Pixar staff, he acknowledged ‘missteps’.
“I have always wanted our animation studios to be places where creators can explore their vision with the support and collaboration of other gifted animators and storytellers,” Lasseter said.
“This kind of creative culture takes constant vigilance to maintain. It’s built on trust and respect, and it becomes fragile if any members of the team don’t feel valued. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen; and I now believe I have been falling short in this regard.”
Lasseter is also a producer on the forthcoming Coco, out in January in the UK, and The Incredibles 2.