Rashida Jones is denying a report by The Hollywood Reporter that she left “Toy Story 4,” along with writing partner Will McCormack, because of an unwanted advance by Disney animation chief and Pixar co-founder John Lasseter.
“The breakneck speed at which journalists have been naming the next perpetrator renders some reporting irresponsible,” the two said in a statement to the New York Times. “We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.”
“There is so much talent at Pixar,” Jones and McCormack added. “We remain enormous fans of their films, but it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.”
Pixar has been criticized for a lack of female and minority representation – both in its ranks and on screen – before. The studio has released 19 feature films in the past two decades and all but three (“Brave,” “Inside Out” and “Finding Dory”) feature male protagonists.
While women have produced six of the last nine Pixar films, none have been directed by women. Brenda Chapman, who wrote and was set to direct 2012’s “Brave,” was replaced by Mark Andrews mid-production.
In an apology memo to Disney employees obtained by CNN, Lasseter announced Tuesday that he is taking a six-month leave of absence, following what he called “missteps.”
A Disney spokesperson told CNN that the company is “committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work.”
“We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical,” the spokesperson said.
Lasseter’s statement came on the same day that The Hollywood Reporter published a story with the headline “John Lasseter’s pattern of alleged misconduct detailed by Disney/Pixar insiders.”
The report quotes an unnamed Pixar employee as saying Lasseter had a reputation among employees “for grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.”
The same article said Jones and McCormack left as writers for the upcoming “Toy Story 4” because Lasseter had been untoward toward Jones, which they disputed in their statement to the New York Times.
Disney did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on Jones and McCormack’s departure.