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Pixar head John Lasseter to leave Disney at the end of the year

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Feb 26, 2019, 1:07 PM EST (Updated)

After previous allegations of inappropriate conduct, the question of John Lasseter's future at Disney has now been answered.

The company has issued a statement (via The Wrap) saying that the chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation will officially depart the company on December 31, 2018. Until that time he will not return to his post, but take a "consulting role" instead.

Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger had this to say:

“John had a remarkable tenure at Pixar and Disney Animation, reinventing the animation business, taking breathtaking risks, and telling original, high quality stories that will last forever. We are profoundly grateful for his contributions, which included a masterful and remarkable turnaround of The Walt Disney Animation Studios. One of John’s greatest achievements is assembling a team of great storytellers and innovators with the vision and talent to set the standard in animation for generations to come."

Lasseter himself added:

“The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities. 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. I am extremely proud of what two of the most important and prolific animation studios have achieved under my leadership and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities to follow my creative passion at Disney."

Lasseter has been on sabbatical for the last six months, ever since allegations surfaced of inappropriate conduct, including unwanted physical contact with women employed by Disney and Pixar. He acknowledged making "missteps" in a letter to the staff at the time, adding that "everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected."

With his leave of absence officially ending late last month, there was speculation about whether Lasseter would be allowed to return to his old job, come back in a different role, or exit altogether -- and now we know which way that decision went.

It's unclear what Lasseter will do in the future, but his personal foibles aside, his contribution to Pixar, Disney and animation in general has been immense. He directed the movie, Toy Story, that relaunched Pixar as an animation powerhouse in 1995, and supervised or produced every single Pixar release since then -- including milestones like WALL-E, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Inside Out, and many others.

When Pixar was brought into the Disney fold in 2006, he was also given the reins of Disney Animation -- and turned a moribund shop into a formidable creative behemoth in its own right, with titles like Frozen, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, and Moana all produced under his watch.

One thing seems clear, if left between the lines of Disney's statement: Whatever Lasseter allegedly did was seemingly enough to warrant that he was not welcome to return to active duty at Pixar and Disney Animation.

The full story has yet to emerge -- if ever. In the meantime, Pixar and Disney Animation will carry on, without their leader but also without the shadow that had grown over him.