The Trouble With Pixar

A word about Pixar. For years it has been helmed by John Lasseter. He left the company this week – a “temporary leave of absence”, they called it, but with whiffs of sexual misconduct about, I’m thinking it’s likely a permanent and somewhat shocking move. John Lasseter IS Pixar, and I think we’re only beginning to understand why that is in fact a bad thing. First: we know that Pixar studios is a boy’s club. It doesn’t nourish and nurture female talent the way it has their male counterparts. Between its 19 films to date, there were 34 director credits and only one of them was female.

Brenda Chapman trained on The Little Mermaid, was an artist on Beauty and the Beast and became the first female head of story for The Lion King. She was the MV5BMzgwODk3ODA1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjU3NjQ0Nw@@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_first woman to direct an animated feature from a major studio with a personal favourite of mine, The Prince of Egypt. She came aboard Pixar in 2003. There were NO women at all in the story department and they needed her to fix the one-dimentionality of the female characters in Cars (they were too far along in production for her to have much impact). Next, she conceived Brave and directed the project until they replaced her because of “creative differences.” Since they still had to give her co-director credit, she became the first woman to win an Oscar for (co) directing an animated film. She left Pixar and went on to LucasFilm and back to Dreamworks. Of her exit, she has said “I made the right decision to leave and firmly closed that door. I have no desire to go back there. The atmosphere and the leadership doesn’t fit well with me.” And I can’t help but read that “me” as “women” generally. “This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels.”

Of Pixar’s 19 films, only 3 have females as their lead protagonists (Brave, Inside Out, Finding Dory). That’s a really dismal number. Even worse: Miguel, from Coco, is its first non-white protagonist (although Up has an Asian boyscout sidekick – possibly). And Pixar has been head and shoulders above its competitors, leading the way in top-notch animation and story-telling, which means millions are exposed to movies that refuse to give an equal voice to girls, women, minorities, and other cultures. Rashida Jones (along with collaborator Will McCormack) had been brought on board by Pixar to pen the script for Toy Story 4. She has since left the project: “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. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.” Out of 109 writing credits on its films, only 11 were women or people of colour. That’s eleven women OR people of colour, and 98 freaking white men.

So now we know why there is such a lack of female talent at Pixar: John Lasseter, proud president of the boy’s club, is a perv. Female employees had to develop a move they named “The Lasseter” just to keep him from running his hands up their legs. And though he paid lip service in 2015 to the lack of diversity in his studios, there are no female directors or writers attached to their upcoming films either.

John Lasseter won a Special Achievement Oscar for his ground-breaking work on Toy Story, but he has done so by overstepping women, and at the expense of diversity of thought and talent. He has spent his career groping women and refusing to promote them, creating a void of basic respect and decency – and he was the CCO (and when Disney bought Pixar in 2006, he took over leadership there as well). I don’t deny that Pixar has created some great films, but after shutting out diverse voices for over 20 years, it’s time to dump this loser and let someone else do some ground breaking for a change.

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25 thoughts on “The Trouble With Pixar

  1. Isey

    I am hopeful for the future, at least. So much information coming out and people are (generally) stepping aside as the truth is revealed. I am actually semi-hopeful enough is learned from this that real change happens.

    Next step in my opinion is making the perps pay for their crimes, but I am worried they have enough money and influence that that won’t happen, either.

    Thanks for sharing Jay, this is important writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      I’m hopeful too. I think the reactions have at last been appropriate. I think about the poor women who were lambasted over their Cosby accusations. I’m sad it’s taken a landslide in order for people to really care, but it’s here and I think there’s no going back.

      Liked by 2 people

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  2. J.

    I read about this yesterday and thought it was very odd. He’s obviously expecting some stuff to come out and he, or he and the other biggies at Disney, think he can take a break and wait till it blows over.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, and that hasn’t really been the case with other accused so far. Weinstein was booted out of his own company…but Lasseter is probably even bigger than Weinstein, so who knows.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. J.

        They’d certainly be mad to think they could hope for it to blow over… and you’d like to think they wouldn’t think that was an acceptable response to things.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Coco | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

  4. Birgit

    Thank you for enlightening us because i was not aware of this but I am also not surprised. back in the early days of Hollywood-the 1910’s to even the 1920’s, when movies were young and considered a step above a bordello, there were many women writers who were quite involved in the process. You even had women directors, albeit not many and then you have Mary Pickford. When the movies became huge, women were slowly edged out from behind the scenes. Now, all the big heads of the studios would be fired for the casting couches. This is a problem that happens everywhere but I think it was most pronounced in the entertainment industry and, I think, taken for granted. I am glad it is finally blowing up.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

    Interesting article because at first you note the lack of diversity in Pixar, yet as a successful filmmaking company they can pick and choose their employees and stories within the scope of the capitalist system. Thus, while we should all strive toward equality and diversity and Pixar fell short in their output their stories, especially the early works, are fantastic.

    Yet, is the lack of female representation in their work down totally to John Lasseter’s behaviour? Is it the “old boy’s network” at work? Am I not meant to like their films now? It’s a very confusing time? Do we retain our own opinions or give way to boycotting a whole studios work because they don’t fulfil lawfulawful and correct definitions of behaviour? I’m on the side of the righteous and believe the oppressed must been protected and oppressors vilified but I just wish these creatives would stop abusing people and their power.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Widdershins

      It’s not really all that confusing. Men need to learn to keep their hands in their pockets and their d**ks in their pants. It’s a question of respect. And the men who do do these things need to call out the men who don’t.

      This tsunami of men being exposed for their atrocious behavior will colour how you view their work, (it can’t be unseen, unheard, or unread, that genie is well and truly out of the bottle now) and the decision you make about how much you choose to participate in their work is up to you. But bear in mind that your choices not only reflect on you, they reflect on the women and girls around you. Make no mistake, silence and inaction, are a form, a very insidious nd hurtful form, of collusion with the abusers.

      How we, and the media, use language also contributes to the issue. You used the phrase, ‘These creatives’. Think about that for a minute. It distances you from ‘them’, doesn’t it? They are men. (and yes, we all know that there a few women who do it too, but they are not part of the social narrative, they are outliers, which a) doesn’t excuse their behavoiur, and b) in no way alters the fact of the rape and abuse culture we live in)

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

        Well, as I say the oppressors must be vilified so that’s not what I’m confused about. The confusion derives from the age old question of do we boycott a whole studio or artist based on one person’s actions? I would like to think about it clearly, consider evidence which none of us are party to, and take on all sides before making a decision. Of course, if someone is guilty then they should be punished and treatment sought if they have a psychological issue. I just feel it’s important to find out all the facts before damning Pixar as a whole. But, you’re right if they are are all rapists then we should boycott their work.

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      2. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

        Btw, while I’m a man, I’m not a rapist or have committed any crime of any sort thus using “these creatives” is not a distanciation device but merely a semantic choice. I could have chosen filmmakers, writers or “artists”; conversely I’m not promoting inaction at all. I’m commenting on the excellent article in a hopefully interesting way and in no way defending the actions of any director, filmmaker or creative.

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    2. Jay Post author

      Well the first problem is that it isn’t just creatives abusing people and power. It’s happening across all industries, it’s just that only famous people get reported on – and to some extent, the only reason there’s been such a shake up lately is because names have been named, publicly.

      And if Pixar is able to get away with this due to our capitalist society, then there’s your answer: yes, you should boycott. Because the only way to vote in a capitalist society is with your dollars. So that means showing any studio who won’t hire female film makers or tell stories with female protagonists that it’s not okay. Pixar’s been called out now, there’s no going back.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

        I understand that and agree with all your comments but do we boycott everyone immediately or do we wait until they are legally convicted of a crime? Out of interest are you now not watching Weinstein, Pixar and Spacey productions? Should a whole production be self-censored because of their humanity and gender politics? Intriguing to hear your rules in this matter moving further forward.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, it’s a huge black mark on their legacy. I think there’s no way that Darla was next in line but now for image”s sake they may have to appoint her, skipping Lee Unkrich and Brad Bird who were more naatural successors. I’m not even sure we’d see Darla as much as we do if not for the optics. They were called out several years ago over not having many females in the upper echelons and their answer was to trot her out as if she had equal billing.

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      Reply
  6. Liz A.

    Oh, so that’s what those headlines were about. (I’ve been ducking the news lately.) Just imagine what they could have done had they included women and people of color. But no. At least now things can change.

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