Having taken the Oscar for Best Animated Feature this year and brought in more than $1 billion globally at the box office, Zootopia is now in a very different type of arena – the courts. And Disney is already fighting back.
Total Recall screenwriter Gary L. Goldman’s company has hit The Walt Disney Co and a plethora of its subsidiaries with a sprawling lawsuit claiming copyright infringement and breach of implied-in-fact contract over the animated pic, which was the fourth highest-grossing movie worldwide in 2016.
“The Disney Zootopia is substantially similar to the Goldman Zootopia,” says the complaint filed by Gary L Goldman’s Esplanade Productions (read it here) seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages. “They copied Goldman’s themes, settings, plot, characters, and dialogue – some virtually verbatim,” the graphically dense 37-page filing today in federal court claims. Goldman says he pitched the idea to executives at and connected to Disney in 2000 and 2009. “They copied Goldman’s title, Zootopia. They even copied Goldman’s character designs and artwork,” reads the suit, which included this graphic:
In a response today, Disney says no way pal.
“Mr. Goldman’s lawsuit is riddled with patently false allegations,” a Disney spokesperson told Deadline. “It is an unprincipled attempt to lay claim to a successful film he didn’t create, and we will vigorously defend against it in court.”
Although the lawsuit filed on Goldman’s behalf by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP doesn’t name a particular figure, damages sought by the Minority Report executive producer would be huge considering the money Zootopia, written by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston, has brought in since its March 4, 2016 wide release at the box office. It has grossed $1.024 billion to date and has benefited from Disney’s well-oiled merchandising machine, to name but two revenue streams.
The complaint names the Walt Disney Company, Disney Enterprises, Inc, Walt Disney Pictures, ABC, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Disney Consumer Products, Disney Book Group, Disney Shopping, Disney Store USA, Buena Vista Books, and Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media as defendants.
The plaintiffs wants the court to make Disney show them “all profits derived from their use of the Goldman Zootopia and their production, reproduction, preparation of derivative works based on, distribution, performance, and display of the Disney Zootopia or the Zootopia Merchandise in all media, from all sources, worldwide.”
The suit continued, “Defendants be ordered to pay to Esplanade all damages, including future damages, that Esplanade has sustained, or will sustain, as a consequence of the acts complained of herein, and that Esplanade be awarded any profits derived by Defendants as a result of said acts, or as determined by said accounting.”
Someone better call Judy Hopps in on this one.