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Disney balks at copyright infringement claims concerning Zootopia animation

03.21.2017

I understand that it takes time and quite a bit of legal finesse to organize a lawsuit, though my brow slightly furrows when I hear of a bg project getting slammed with legal mumbo jumbo only after it's taken home a major award ( in this case I'm referring to ZOOTOPIA winning the 2017 Oscar for Best Animated Feature). One part of me would like to see justice served if something nefarious has indeed occurred, while the other part wonders if this is just another filmmaker looking to dine on a slice of that sweet, lucrative Disney pie. Let's get the heart of this matter and I'll let you decide.

TOTAL RECALL screenwriter Gary L. Goldman and his Esplanade Productions company filed a lawsuit against The House of Mouse (along with any affiliated parties) claiming that the world-famous animation studio has committed copyright infringement and breach of implied-in-fact contract over ZOOTOPIA - the fourth highest-grossing film of 2016.

The details of the suit are as follows: "The Disney Zootopia is substantially similar to the Goldman Zootopia," says the complaint filed by Gary L. Goldman's Esplanade Productions. As such Goldman's company is seeking a trial by jury for unspecified damages. The document forged by Goldman's representatives also claims that, "[Disney] copied Goldman’s themes, settings, plot, characters, and dialogue – some virtually verbatim. They copied Goldman’s title, Zootopia. They even copied Goldman’s character designs and artwork.” Included in the 37-page-long filing was this image which compares the characters of Golman's ZOOTOPIA when compared to the art from Disney's official blockbuster release:

In response to the accusations, Disney was all like, "Nope!" The timeless animation studio also stated that, "Mr. Goldman’s lawsuit is riddled with patently false allegations. 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." The plaintiffs now want to force Disney to support their denial of the claims by presenting "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.” 

Additionally, and here's where things get even uglier, "Defendants would 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.” Woof! It sounds as if Disney's lawyers might need to take a few trips to Yaxes Zen Garden while enduring the headaches this lawsuit will assuredly educe. 

As always, I'm sure that Disney and their army of lawyers will have this curious bit of business wrapped up in time to begin production on ZOOTOPIA 2 (that's not actually a thing that's happening, at least not yet). That artwork is pretty convincing if you ask me, but I've no experience in legal matters of this magnitude, so I figure it would be best if I just let the professionals suss this one out. It'd be a real shame to see this film dragged through the mud, but it'd be even worse if we found out that its content was lifted directly from Goldman's proposal. The jury is out on this one, for now, but I'm sure we'll be hearing more as the battle for ZOOTOPIA rages on. 

Disney's ZOOTOPIA stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Batmen, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Shakira and many more! You can catch the film on digital, DVD, Blu-Ray today.

Extra Tidbit: In Disney's ZOOTOPIA, the character of Lionheart was inspired by The Lion King's Mufasa.
Source: deadline

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