Content Warning: Discussion of sexual harassment
What is it really like to work at Pixar? A short time ago, Disney’s prestige animation studio had a nearly impeccable reputation, with many hailing positions at the company as their “dream job,” especially for animators and story artists.
But in recent months, Pixar has been mired in unexpected controversies rooted in the #MeToo movement, first with the stepping down of John Lasseter as Chief Creative Officer for improper behavior with female employees, drunken touching, and, as Lasseter himself describes, “missteps” that are yet to be fully specified.
Now, a former employee at Pixar is speaking out publicly about improper attitudes and behaviors permeating throughout the entire company. Cassandra Smolcic penned a guest column inVariety this week about her experiences at the studio, titled “How Pixar’s Open Sexism Ruined My Dream Job.”
“I was a graphic designer at Pixar during the second half of my 20s. I know people are saying that the climate there wasn’t ‘that bad.’ I’m here to tell you that it was, and more than likely still is.
At Pixar, my female-ness was an undeniable impediment to my value, professional mobility, and sense of security within the company. The stress of working amidst such a blatantly sexist atmosphere took its toll, and was a major factor in forcing me out of the industry.”
Smolcic’s account of her time at Pixar is scathing for the studio and many who work there. She notes how employees warned her of Lasseter’s inappropriate “touchy feely” behavior as soon as she was hired, but also how this attitude was present and perhaps encouraged in other male employees with leadership positions.
“I had my first uncomfortable encounter with this department head in a company kitchen, just two weeks into my internship. He cornered me with sexual comments while openly leering at my body. Over the next five years, I white-knuckled my way through many unwelcome, objectifying interactions with him, with Lasseter, and with other men; was physically groped by another male coworker; and was sidelined from projects by the unofficial boys’ club casting system.”
And there’s a lot more Smolcic has to say about what appears to be an open culture of demeaning women at Pixar, which is notably a workplace that has for years been seen from the outside as progressive and optimistic. Smolcic tells several harrowing stories in this column that illuminate some of the questionable decisions made recently to keep Lasseter on at Pixar in a consulting role, rather than fire him immediately (he will leave Pixar permanently at the end of 2018).
Pete Docter and Jennifer Lee have recently taken on official leadership roles at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, but this may only the beginning. It’s safe to assume that more employees (both former and currently working) may begin to speak up and speak clearly about what appears to be a firmly established problem in desperate need of a solution, not just for the sake of Pixar itself, but for the women who work there.
You can read Smolcic’s entire column (which also highlights issues dealing with underrepresented minorities at Pixar) here.