Apple bets big on John Lasseter and Skydance Media

Five years ago, John Lasseter was ousted from Disney over allegations about his behavior in the workplace. After employees complained about unwanted hugging by Mr. Lasseter, Disney investigated and found that some subordinates occasionally felt him to be a tyrant. He was forced to resign as Disney-Pixar’s animation chief, apologizing for “missteps” that made staff members feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.”

But, now, Lasseter is now on the verge of professional redemption, thanks to an old friend: Apple.

John Lasseter
John Lasseter

Brooks Barnes for The New York Times:

Apple, perhaps the only company that safeguards its brand more zealously than Disney, has been using Mr. Lasseter as a prominent part of its marketing campaign for “Luck.” Ads for the film, which Peggy Holmes directed and Mr. Lasseter produced, describe it as coming “from the creative visionary behind TOY STORY and CARS.”

“Luck” is just the beginning of Apple’s bet on Mr. Lasseter and Skydance Media, an independent studio that — contentiously — hired him in 2019 as animation chief. (Skydance hired lawyers to scrutinize the allegations against Mr. Lasseter and privately concluded there was nothing egregious.) Skydance has a deal to supply Apple TV+ with multiple animated films and at least one animated series by 2024.

Pariah? Not at Apple.

“It feels like part of me has come home,” Mr. Lasseter said in a phone interview, noting that Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, helped build Pixar before selling it to Disney in 2006. “I really like what Apple TV+ is doing. It’s about quality, not quantity. And their marketing is just spectacular. It’s the best I’ve ever seen in all the movies I’ve made.”

More than 50 people have followed Mr. Lasseter to Skydance from Disney and Pixar, including Ms. Holmes (“Secret of the Wings”), whom he hired to direct “Luck.” The screenplay for “Luck” is credited to Kiel Murray, whose Pixar and Disney writing credits include “Cars” … John Ratzenberger, known as Pixar’s “good luck charm” because he has voiced so many characters over the decades, pops up in “Luck” as Rootie, the Land of Bad Luck’s unofficial mayor.

The upshot: With its glistening animation, attention to detail, story twists and emotional ending, “Luck” has all the hallmarks of a Pixar release. (Reviews will arrive on Wednesday.) Some people who have seen the film have commented on similarities between “Luck” and the 2001 Pixar classic, “Monsters, Inc.” Both films involve elaborate secret worlds that are accidentally disrupted by humans.

MacDailyNews Take: Disney-Pixar’s overreaction to Lasseter’s “unwanted hugging” is Apple’s and Skydance’s gain. (“Skydance hired lawyers to scrutinize the allegations against Mr. Lasseter and privately concluded there was nothing egregious.”)

Apple TV+ animated offerings will benefit greatly from Lasseter’s Skydance contributions.MacDailyNews, April 14, 2021

From Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation, Luck is a story about Sam Greenfield: the unluckiest person in the world. Suddenly finding herself in the never-before-seen Land of Luck, she must unite with the magical creatures there to turn her luck around. Luck premieres August 5th, exclusively on Apple TV+.

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