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John Lasseter said he is taking a leave of absence from Pixar after several "painful" conversations and "missteps," according to a memo he wrote to his staff.
The executive, who is currently Pixar's and Walt Disney Animation Studios' chief creative officer, said on Tuesday after several talks, he realized he made several employees "feel disrespected or uncomfortable." Lasseter will take a six-month sabbatical, and said he hopes he can use it to "start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired, and ultimately return with the insight and perspective I need to be the leader you deserve."
"Collectively, you mean the world to me, and I deeply apologize if I have let you down," he wrote. "I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form. No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected."
The news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter. The publication also talked to a Pixar employee who said Lasseter was known for "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes." Others said staffers nicknamed a move "the Lasseter," which was used to prevent the executive from touching their legs.
Pixar's latest movie "Coco" is slated to be released on Thanksgiving. Lasseter, who was an early employee of Pixar, directed "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life," "Toy Story 2," "Cars," and "Cars 2." He also has served as a producer on all of Pixar's films.
The earliest iteration of Pixar started out as division of Lucasfilm, which was then sold to Steve Jobs in 1986. Disney purchased Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion.
"We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work," Disney said in a statement to CNBC. "We appreciate John's candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical."
Correction: The story was updated to reflect Lasseter's original position at Pixar.