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Rachael Sternlicht, Sun Graphics Design

March 19, 2018

GOULDTHORPE | Big Name Leaves Pixar

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about Coco’s win at the Oscars, and reflected on the film and what it meant. A couple days after though, a story broke in the Hollywood Reporter. Darla Anderson, the producer behind Coco and a long time Pixar veteran, announced on March 8 that she would be departing the studio. She released a statement saying, “I’ve had a magical and privileged experience working at Pixar for over two decades. The creativity, imagination, and innovation at Pixar is second to none. I’m truly grateful to have been a part of this historic journey, and hold excitement for my next chapter.”

Anderson walks out of the studio as a cinematic giant. Her credits include not only Coco, but also Toy Story 3, Cars, Monsters Inc., and A Bug’s Life. She’s one of the most successful producers in Hollywood these days. In fact, in 2008 Guinness listed her as having the highest average gross income for her produced movies: $221 million. She’s mentored many female producers within the studio, and has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights and women’s empowerment. She certainly has a strong career ahead of her.

One of the biggest questions is, though,  why did she leave? No statements offer any clues: Disney’s CEO Bob Iger, Pixar chief Jim Morris, and Ed Catmull (president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation) all released statements thanking Anderson for her work with the company and wishing her well. It may simply be that she wishes to move on to something new. It might be an issue that we, the public, are simply not yet aware of.

How­ever, her departure is not the only one from Disney Pixar recently. John Lasseter has continued to be officially on “temporary” leave. It’s still unlikely he’ll actually return. After all, with Disney’s brand, there’s little room for a man accused of sexual harassment. However, with every day without an announcement otherwise, his return seems more of a possibility. The studio has kept the situation close to chest, which means we can only speculate over the situation inside.

At the Golden Globes, Anderson deflected a backstage question about Lasseter and Pixar’s efforts to improve the workplace. The studio has kept the situation close to the chest, which means we can only speculate.

We can also speculate over her timing. Her departure right after accepting the Oscar for Coco makes one wonder, did she make this decision a while ago and simply put off the announcement until after the Academy Awards? If so, when did she decide? That crucial “when” is an important part to figuring out the reason, but it’s missing for now.

And finally, the other big question: what does this mean for Pixar? Anderson had joined all the way back 1993, and helped guide the studio through its rapid ascent to fame. Her absence will be felt in the coming years. It also sparks concern in my head: the studio’s founder has departed in disgrace, and now, a key producer has also left. I can’t help but wonder for the future of the studio. To be sure, there are still plenty of wonderfully talented artists at Pixar. I just question if they will remain there.

I truly hope that Darla Anderson continues producing more movies. She’s overseen some fantastic work, and if she continues, I have no doubt we’ll see even more amazing films with her name on them. In the week since her departure, no more has been heard from Pixar. I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again here, I want nothing but success for this studio and the people working there. So I’m keeping a close eye on this story’s progression. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for Darla Anderson though, and I look forward to her future successes.

 

David Gouldthorpe is a senior in the College of Labor and Industrial Relations. He can be reached at dgouldthorpe@cornellsun.com. Animation Analysis runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.