There’s a changing of the guard over at the Mouse House. With former Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter exiting his position at both Walt Disney Animation and Pixar, some high-profile names are stepping in to fill the void in the executive roles, splitting Lasseter’s former duties. Now, Jennifer Lee will take on the position of Chief Creative Officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios while Pete Docter will be Chief Creative Officer of Pixar Animation Studios.
This doesn’t come as a surprise considering that Lee and Docter were reported to be taking on extra duties at their respective studios as Lasseter transitioned from his executive position to that of a consultant before his exit at the end of this year, but Variety now confirms the new roles. Both Lee and Docter will report to studio chairman Alan Horn.
Two-time Oscar-winner Docter (Monsters, Inc.; Up; Inside Out) was one of the founding animators/storytellers at Pixar alongside the likes of Lee Unkrich (Coco) and Andrew Stanton (WALL-E); he’s currently writing Toy Story 4 and is expected to write and direct an untitled Pixar project destined for the screens in 2021. Here’s Docter’s comments on the recent announcement:
“I started here 28 years ago. I am fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented people on the planet, and together we will keep pushing animation in new directions, using the latest technology to tell stories we hope will surprise and delight audiences around the world.”
Oscar-winner Lee, who earned her first writing credit on Wreck-It Ralph, co-wrote Zootopia, adapted Frozen for Broadway, and scripted Disney’s live-action take on A Wrinkle in Time. Currently, Lee is writing and directing Frozen 2, but much like Docter, increasing duties at their respective animation houses may complicate plans in the near future. Here’s what she had to say:
“Animation is the most collaborative art form in the world, and it is with the partnership of my fellow filmmakers, artists, and innovators that we look ahead to the future. My hope is to support the incredible talent we have, find new voices, and work together to tell original stories.”
Lasseter, the former animator, was one of the founding employees of Pixar who directed the computer-animation pioneer’s first three films: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2. Pixar’s acquisition by Disney soon led to Lasseter being named the Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, overseeing the latter studio’s contemporary hits like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen. But recent months have been revelatory, bringing allegations of misconduct to light; Lasseter himself described said allegations as “missteps” while announcing a leave of absence. That six-month leave is up and, at year’s end, so is Lasseter’s time at both studios.
But it’s certainly not the end of either Walt Disney Animation nor Pixar, but just the beginning of a new chapter that will hopefully lead to more transparency, creativity, and continued variety of fantastic storytelling from both studios.