Zootopia copyright battle continues; writer that is suing Disney details plot similarities

FP Staff

Jun,07 2017 18:53 29 IST

Animation giant Disney recently came under fire, with Esplanade Pictures filing a lawsuit against them for copyright infringement over the work of Total Recall and Big Trouble in Little China writer Gary L. Goldman.

The lawsuit was filed in March and Goldman has recently issued a statement detailing the plot similarities between Disney's billion dollar blockbuster Zootopia, and his own version of Zootopia.

A still from Disney's Zootopia

A still from Disney's Zootopia.

Goldman claims that he had pitched the idea for his movie to Disney for the first time in 2000 to former Disney executive and Mandeville Films CEO David Hoberman, and then once again in 2009 when he was working closely with Brigham Taylor who, Esplanade is informed and believes, was Walt Disney Pictures' Executive Vice President of Production and Development at the time.

Both the times it is believed that Goldman's idea was heard out but ultimately rejected, with Disney sending him on his way. Disney is then alleged to have started working on its own version of Zootopia — the one that we saw in the theaters on 4 March, 2016 — and reproduced a substantially similar story, in alleged violation of Goldman's copyrights.

The lawsuit filed by Esplanade Pictures on behalf of Goldman claims a breach of implied contract, breach of confidence and unfair competition. Disney and its affiliates embrace "a culture that not only accepts the unauthorized copying of others' original material, but encourages it," the lawsuit said. "They did it with Zootopia, too, when they copied Gary L. Goldman's Zootopia."

With Disney's Zootopia grossing more than $1 billion worldwide in theaters, this also puts substantial damages on the line. Esplanade is said to be looking for an injunction as well as monetary damages — with punitive damages to be included as well.

In May 2017 animation powerhouse Disney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, telling the court that there wasn't enough evidence that proved substantial similarity between the works of Disney and Goldman for the complaint to proceed in court, as reported by Reuters. Disney argued that this is just the latest addition in "a long history of plaintiffs coming out of the woodwork after a motion picture has achieved critical and financial success to claim credit — and proceeds — where none is due."

In Goldman's version of Zootopia, there was a live-action human animator element who creates a "cartoon world of animated anthropomorphic animals called Zootopia". Disney's movie does not include any of the aforementioned live-action elements, however Esplanade claims that it copied dialogue, plot points, characters, themes and even artwork from the animated segment of Goldman's work.

zootopia 825

Screenshot of Hollywood Reporter's website showing Gary Goldman's artwork that was allegedly copied.

Esplanade's attorney Gary Gans in his opposition statement, goes on to describe in detail the similarities between Disney's Zootopia to that of Goldman's story.

"Both Zootopias involve the story of a small, cute, furry, female, prey animal, who is an outsider to Zootopia. She is dismissed by more dominant animals because of her species, and strives to overcome societal prejudice. She becomes friends with an abrasive predator who lives in Zootopia. The two contrasting protagonists get together and contend with prejudice and preconceived notions of the elite, including a power structure headed by species dominant in a state of nature," Gans added in his opposition statement, to Hollywood Reporter. 

A hearing has currently been set for June 26 as we await the verdict on the fate of the second highest grossing ($1 billion) Hollywood movie.