John Lasseter is the chief creative consultant for both Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Feature Animation. He has held this position since 2006, and has been directly involved in the creation of such hit films as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and the Cars franchise.
According to Variety, however, Lasseter will not hold the position for much longer. In the wake of sexual harassment allegations and “unwanted hugging” from his female employees, Lasseter has announced that he will be stepping down as Disney’s chief creative consultant after 2018. “The last six months have provided an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities”, he said in a statement, “While I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent at Pixar and Disney, I have decided the end of this year is the right time to begin focusing on new creative challenges.”
Here’s what you need to know about John Lasseter’s net worth and how it will be affected by his leaving Disney:
1. He Has an Estimated Net Worth of $100 Million
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Lasseter has an estimated net worth of $100 million. He has amassed this number through a combination of merchandising, designing, and producing films for both Disney and Pixar. Lasseter was originally hired by Disney in the 1980s, where he worked as an animator on films like 101 Dalmations, Tron, and The Great Mouse Detective.
Lasseter and his colleagues began experimenting with computer-generated imagery during this time, but Lasseter’s enthusiasm unwittingly ruffled the feathers of some of Disney’s senior animators.
As Lasseter recalled in the book To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios, administrator Ed Hansen told him, “Well, John, your project is now complete, so your employment with the Disney Studios is now terminated.” A financially-strapped Lasseter was forced to turn towards Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group, a studio that spent most of the ’80s experimenting with CGI.
The company was eventually sold to Steve Jobs and renamed Pixar Studios, and their first animated feature was 1995’s Toy Story. Lasseter co-animated and directed the film, which would go on to become a groundbreaking release, as well as a critical and commercial success.
For his work, Lasseter was given a Special Achievement Academy Award, which recognizes achievements that make an exceptional contribution to the motion picture for which it was created.
2. Disney Paid an Estimated $6 Billion for Lasseter’s Talents in 2006
Disney confused some moviegoers when they agreed to pay $7.7 billion in stock for Pixar Animation Studios. After all they already owned the bulk of Pixar’s film catalogue, and the right to use their characters at Disney theme parks. Why then, would they pay such a significant amount to obtain the rest? The answer, according to a Slate article entitled “The $6 billion man”, was John Lasseter.
Slate reports that Disney expected to recoup an estimated $1.7 billion from Pixar’s merchandising and future home video sales. This means that spent an estimated $6 billion on acquiring Lasseter after firing him decades earlier. The Pixar guru was so important to the deal, in fact, that Disney specificed they would be able to pull out of the acquisition if Lasseter did not agree to provide his services.
Shortly after the deal went through, Lasseter was named the principle creative advisor at Walt Disney Imagineering, which meant he would design for the company’s various theme parks. Lasseter’s contract prior to the merger included a $5 million signing bonus, a $2.5 million annual salary and one million stock options in Pixar Studios.
The Wall Street Journal reports that after the merger, however, he sold about 880,000 of the options at various prices before converting the remaining shares to Disney shares. This enabled him to bolster his profits as, subsequent Pixar/Disney releases would go on to even greater success than Toy Story or A Bug’s Life.
3. He’s Donated Millions of Dollars to Charity Foundations
Lasseter’s son Sam was diagnosed with diabetes at a young age. “It’s something that no parent ever wants to hear,” he told Diabetes Health. “To hear that your son or daughter has a life-threatening, lifelong disease—news like that just shakes your world.” After learning of his son’s condition, Lasseter dedicated her free time to learning more about the disease.
“I wanted to know the whole history of diabetes,” he recalled. “I wanted some perspective on how far we have to go to find a cure. Looking at Sam, who was so scared—as a parent, it just rips your heart out. That feeling, that moment, I still haven’t been able to shake it. One of the things you go through is to think, ‘Man! If there’s a way I can do anything so this doesn’t happen to other families in the future, then I’m there! Just show me what I can do!’
Lasseter and his wife Nancy has since gone to raise thousands of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In May 2003, they organized a $500-a-seat dinner and auction at Pixar Studios that included a sneak peek at the Lasseter-produced film Finding Nemo. The dinner would go on raise almost one million dollars.
Lasseter also participated in 2011’s Stand Up to Cancer dinner, where he and fellow celebrities George Lucas, Aziz Ansari, Emma Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson helped raise money for cancer research.
When asked about the importance of helping those less fortunate, Lasseter told City Congregation: “I believe in the nobility of entertaining people and I take great, great pride that people are willing to give me two or three hours of their busy lives… It’s a wonderful community, the people who are working for a cure for diabetes.”
4. His Films Have Grossed Over $11 Billion Worldwide
Lasseter’s biggest source of income has always been his films. He’s single-handedly kept Disney Animation relevant over the last decade, and been the face of Pixar Studios over the last two. The five films he’s directed– Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2— have grossed over $2.2 billion, and are continuing to spawn sequels in the modern day. In addition to his films, he’s been an executive producer on every other Pixar release, which have tallied up an estimated $8 billion worldwide.
Lasseter has also been credited with reviving the popularity of Disney Animation, as he’s been involved in massive hits like Tangled, Inside Out, Moana, and Frozen, which is the highest-grossing animated film of all time and the ninth highest-grossing film overall. When asked about the secret to his success, Lasseter told The Yorkshire Post that it was all about telling quality stories. “At Pixar, we do sequels only when we come up with a great idea”, he said, “And we always strive to be different from the original. Sometimes it seems that the entertainment industry looks at the box office and often just the opening weekend as the only measure of success.”
Despite his recent announcement, Lasseter will still be credited as an executive producer on the upcoming Incredibles 2, Wreck-It-Ralph 2, and Frozen 2. Lasseter’s input is so important to Pixar, in fact, that his absence already has people nervous about the studio’s future.”Those founder-type creative individuals are very hard to replace,” says analyst Robin Diedrich. “I would say his contribution has been pretty instrumental in creating a creative environment, which is what you need at a studio or content company.”
5. He Runs a Winery in Sonoma Valley, California
While he will no longer be collecting paychecks from Disney or Pixar come 2019, Lasseter does have business ventures on the side that will support him and his family. The most notable is the Lasseter Family Winery, which he runs with his wife Nancy in Sonoma Valley, California. The Lasseter Family Winery has been around since 2002, and has built a reputation for being an eco-friendly and affordable for customers.
Phil Coturri, a famed organic viticulturalist, praised the Lasseters in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying “I love that a family with values like the Lasseters bought back a corporate winery. They are interested in quality and tradition, not just the bottom line. Oenologist Julia Iantosca supports Coturri’s claim, telling THR that “the Lasseters want to make blends. This is brave because the conventional wisdom is to make single varietals.”
Lasseter has spoken fondly of the wine-making lifestyle, saying that it brings him peace. “What I mostly love about this life is the balance it brings,” he says. “I love being this close to agriculture — it’s very grounding. The people are too. I love the Sonoma wine community. It’s like Pixar — nothing competitive, only supportive. They’re always rooting for you.”