Disney animation chief John Lasseter has said he is taking a six-month leave of absence after acknowledging in an internal memo making staff feel "disrespected or uncomfortable" with unwanted hugs.

He apologised to "anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form".

Mr Lasseter, best known for transforming Pixar from a small graphics department at Lucas Film into the most successful animation studio in the world, was the pioneering director of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2".

The Oscar-winning filmmaker and senior executive admitted he had been "falling short" in ensuring a culture of "trust and respect" at his animation studios.

"I've recently had a number of difficult conversations that have been very painful for me. It's never easy to face your missteps, but it's the only way to learn from them," he said.

"As a result, I've been giving a lot of thought to the leader I am today compared to the mentor, advocate and champion I want to be.

"It's been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable."

He acknowledged that his staff had the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected, "no matter how benign my intent".

He said he had agreed with Disney executives to a six-month sabbatical away to "reflect on how to move forward" and "start taking better care of myself".