Walt Disney didn’t start the day off well on Tuesday. The company was hit with a lawsuit claiming that the animated powerhouse ripped off its idea for “Zootopia,” an Oscar winner and billion-dollar grossing animated film, from a Hollywood veteran.
In the federal suit, screenwriter and producer Gary Goldman claims that he pitched the idea for the movie, which he also called “Zootopia” twice to Disney over the years. He also had pitched it to another film company that had a production contract with Disney.
The suit says that after both pitches, Disney and the other defendants “said they were not interested in producing it, and sent him on his way.”
Goldman is no Hollywood newcomer, his screenplay credits include “Total Recall” and he produced “Minority Report.”
Goldman’s Esplanade Productions claims in the suit that the most recent pitch had been in 2009 and he is alleging copyright infringement, breach of implied-in-fact contract, breach of confidence and unfair competition.
“Zootopia” has earned more than a billion dollars worldwide, making it one of the highest grossing pictures ever. The animated animal flick even won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
Goldman claims Disney and the other defendants in the suit copied the themes of his version of “Zootopia,” as well as its settings, plot, characters, and dialogue — some virtually verbatim.
The suit argues that Disney was following a tried-and-true formula in swiping “Zootopia” from Goldman without credit for its own enrichment.
“Although the Walt Disney Company rigorously enforces its copyrights, it has developed a culture that not only accepts the unauthorized copying of others’ original material, but encourages it,” the suit says.
“Defendants’ unauthorized appropriation of others’ intellectual property is a corporate practice that has generated tremendous profits,” the suit claims.
The suit even says that Disney hits that it says copied from others’ work, including “The Lion King,” “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc.,” and “Inside Out.”
A Disney spokesman has said, “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 Disney spokesman said.
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