John Lasseter has begun to put his stamp on Skydance Animation amid signs he may face resistance as he attempts to turn David Ellison’s animation unit into a major player. On Thursday, Holly Edwards, who had been serving as head of production, was promoted to president, effectively becoming Lasseter’s right hand as former president Bill Damaschke exits.
Not everyone’s ready to work at Skydance, though. Emma Thompson, who had not yet begun recording one of the voice roles in its upcoming animated feature Luck, has quietly left the project because of concerns about working with Lasseter, several sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
The departure of the actress is the first evidence that Skydance may have difficulty attracting talent given its new notoriety. Skydance and Thompson’s reps had no comment.
Lasseter, 62, tended to surround himself with an all-male “brain trust” as chief creative officer at Pixar, and he was forced to walk away from Pixar and Disney Animation in 2018 following reports of unwanted touching and hugging on his part, admitting to “missteps” that had left some employees feeling “disrespected or uncomfortable.”
So elevating Edwards — who had worked at DreamWorks Animation, where she earned credits on films like Trolls and Penguins of Madagascar — could make for good optics. “She did a good job at DreamWorks Animation,” says an animation-industry source. “The bump up at Skydance is no doubt a reaction to the backlash on hiring Lasseter last month.”
While the cast of Luck, which Alessandro Carloni is directing, hadn’t been announced, Thompson had begun attending recording sessions. The movie concerns a battle between two organizations, one representing good luck and the other, bad luck; Thompson was the head of the good luck organization.
Since the pic’s release is set for 2021, Lasseter has plenty of time to recast and is said to be reviewing the two projects that Skydance began before he arrived. In addition to Luck, the studio has embarked on Split, a feature about a magical teenager, written by Linda Woolverton, which Vicky Jenson, who directed Shrek and Shark Tale, is set to helm. But whether those projects remain on track now that Lasseter is at the helm is an open question.
Feb. 19, 3:45 p.m. Updated to reflect Thompson had not yet begun recording her role.