Disney exec quits amid scandal over 'unwanted hugs'

John Lasseter

LOS ANGELES - Disney animation chief John Lasseter said Saturday he is quitting, six months after acknowledging in an internal memo that he had made staff feel "disrespected or uncomfortable" with unwanted hugs.

The 61-year-old executive, best known for transforming Pixar from a small graphics department at Lucasfilm into the world's most successful animation studio, was the pioneering director of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2".

Lasseter apologized last November to "anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line" and promptly went on sabbatical.

"The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities," the executive said in a statement released by Disney.

"While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney, I have decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges."

The Oscar-winning filmmaker and senior executive conceded when the scandal broke that he had been "falling short" in ensuring a culture of "trust and respect" at his animation studios.

The admission followed a flood of complaints of sexual abuse and harassment by numerous powerful entertainment industry figures, most notably Harvey Weinstein, who posted bail of $1 million last month after being charged in New York with multiple sex crimes. - AFP