Paramount Animation Chief Says Her Team Won't Be Working With John Lasseter at Skydance

Mirielle Soria told her staff that the creative notes she had provided Skydance on the animated feature 'Luck' have come to an end.
Charley Gallay/Getty Images

The chief of Paramount Animation reassured her team Monday that they will not be working with Skydance Animation, which announced last week that it is hiring John Lasseter, the creative force behind Disney and Pixar animation who stepped away from those two companies after admitting unspecified "missteps." Her reassurances were not presented as a corporate edict, but rather represented Paramount Animation president Mirielle Soria's own feelings about Lasseter's hiring as she provided a forum for employees to express any questions and concerns of their own.

At the town hall meeting, Soria spoke personally and candidly of her own feelings about Lasseter's hiring, admitting that she had been shocked and "furious," The Hollywood Reporter has learned. 
 
Soria vowed to maintain a safe working environment at Paramount Animation where no one feels uncomfortable, emphasizing that — should Lasseter request input from any of her staff in the future — no one should feel obligated to work with him, according to sources.
 
David Ellison's Skydance, which has a first-look marketing and distribution agreement with Paramount, formed a new animation unit, Skydance Animation, in 2017. On one of its first two projects, Luck, an animated comedy set for a 2021 release, the Skydance team did not have a formal creative partnership with Paramount Animation, but had turned to Soria and her colleagues for advice, and Soria had been providing them with creative notes in developing the project. At Monday's meeting, Soria said she would not be providing further notes moving forward — although with Lasseter taking over Skydance and providing direction of his own, that might have become a moot point.
 
Helmed by Alessandro Carloni (who co-directed DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 3 with Jennifer Yuh Nelson) from a screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (writers of the Kung Fu Panda films), Luck is described as a comedy that "pulls back the curtain on the millennia-old battle between organizations of good luck and bad luck that secretly affects our daily lives.” 

In November 2017, Lasseter took a leave of absence from Disney after acknowledging "missteps" amid harassment allegations. Last June, the studio announced that Lasseter — who co-founded Pixar and directed its debut CG animated feature Toy Story — would leave the company at the end of the year.

Lasseter's hiring at Skydance shocked the industry, with Time's Up and Women and Hollywood immediately criticizing the decision. Time's Up stated that the hiring "endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence." Some women have already come forward to say that they would not work for him. On Monday, Women in Animation president Marge Dean sent a letter to members arguing that the hiring “seems to have weakened” progress surrounding workplace harassment.

Soria, a former DreamWorks Animation exec, was named head of Paramount Animation in July 2017, and she leads a managerial team headed by a number of women executives, including Sandra Rabins, executive vp; Emily Nordwind, vp production and development; Katherine MacDonald, vp production and marketing; and Maya Kambe, creative executive.