Fantastic in depth article from Wired about sticking with your passion. I am honoured that I have soooo many wonderful people in my life that have forgone the pressure of social norms and inspired me to be better. Jon has a gift that has shaped the industry and instead of being bitter of being let go from Disney he came back and made it better with movies like Frozen. Second acts are rare in life (in any form) – once the dream you built all your life is over. For most people its over. It takes a rare gift and humility to even continue to endure it back to the top. And it’s been amazing to watch him handle this with grace and a mutual respect for sharing his gift. This is a great story about persistence even in the industrial/media that’s hell bent on tweets fire and brimestone.
In 1979, the year he graduated, Lasseter got a job at Disney. He had been looking forward to working there for half his life, but soon after starting, the young animator’s elation began to fade. “The people who were creatively in charge were second-tier animators, in charge through attrition, not talent,” he says. Indeed, they were openly hostile to it. “You want to get ahead in this company?” someone said to him. “You sit and you do in-betweens”—grunt work, filling in the gaps of other animators’ creations—“for 20 years, and then you can get ahead.” Lasseter immediately lost interest in the project he was working on and the studio he’d aspired to work for since he was a kid.
But it wasn’t all bad: While at Disney, Lasseter saw an early computer-animation test for Tron and it blew him away. “It was very simplistic, but a door opened up in my head and there was this incredible world beyond it,” he says. “I kept thinking, ‘This was what Walt was waiting for.’” Lasseter started an animation test—hand-drawn characters in computer-generated backgrounds—and began developing an idea for a computer-animated feature about forgotten appliances at a summer cabin waiting for their owner to return. Lasseter pitched the idea to the top brass. It was rejected. “The only reason we’d do computer animation,” Lasseter was told, “is if it was cheaper or faster.” Immediately after the meeting, he was summoned to the office of the manager of the animation department and told he was out of a job.
Lasseter was mortified. “My entire self-identity, even as a little kid, was based on this dream of working at Disney,” he says. “It just was so crushing to be fired from the place of your dreams.” He didn’t tell anyone that he’d been let go—not even his wife, Nancy. Instead, he said that he’d quit to pursue computer animation. (It wasn’t until Disney bought Pixar, more than 20 years later, that Lasseter finally admitted the truth.)