Actress and screenwriter Rashida Jones has spoken out to provide clarity surrounding her departure from Pixar, and the latest Toy Story movie.
It had been widely reported that Jones, along with writing partner, Will McCormack, exited the franchise and writing duties on Toy Story 4 due to Jones receiving “unwanted advances” from Pixar head, John Lasseter. Whilst Lasseter has recently stepped aside from his directing duties on the upcoming film and taken a leave of absence, admitting to “missteps” following reports of harassing behaviour from female employees; this wasn’t the specific reason Jones felt she had to walk away.
In a statement first released to the New York Times and later obtained by Variety, Jones and McCormack stated crucial “philosophical differences,” speaking quite plainly that the animation studio was a place where “women and people of colour do not have an equal creative voice.” The statement expressed more fully, “We did not leave Pixar because of unwanted advances. That is untrue. That said, we are happy to see people speaking out about behaviour that made them uncomfortable. As for us, we parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences.”
The statement continued, “There is so much talent at Pixar and we remain enormous fans of their films. But it is also a culture where women and people of colour do not have an equal creative voice, as is demonstrated by their director demographics: out of the 20 films in the company’s history, only one was co-directed by a woman and only one was directed by a person of colour. We encourage Pixar to be leaders in bolstering, hiring, and promoting more diverse and female storytellers and leaders. We hope we can encourage all those who have felt like their voices could not be heard in the past to feel empowered.” Pretty strong words, backed up by even stronger action.
Lasseter, who directed all three previous Toy Story movies, recently issued an apology, admitting that he had crossed lines with some female employees.
As the unfolding Hollywood sexual abuse scandal has shown us, the film industry has a pretty dark underbelly. And no doubt its lack of diversity and representation across gender and colour lines, is symptomatic of its power structures. If we can change the stories we tell onscreen, and include a full range of voices equally, maybe, just maybe, it will help change how we see each other. So while we’re sad to see talents like Jones walk away from such a beloved franchise; we totally understand why.