Crazy Lawsuits, Animation Edition: Five Outrageous Lawsuits
Who knew animation disputes could generate so many crazy lawsuits! What lessons can animation experts learn from these cases of animated projects gone wrong?
Kung Fu Panda
Artist Jayme Gordon sued DreamWorks Animation (DWA) claiming DWA committed copyright violation stealing his work to create Kung Fu Panda. In his lawsuit he stated that he had created the Kung Fu property in the 1990s and had registered his copyright in 2000. In 2013, Gordon suddenly dropped the case with no settlement money exchanging hands. Apparently DWA lawyers were about to submit some evidence that Gordon had traced some of his Kung Fu Panda characters from a 1996 Disney coloring book.
In 2013 an ad agency working on behalf of the North Dakota Department of Transportation sued the creators of Annoying Orange, the fruit-themed Cartoon Network animated series, for stealing the talking orange character from their PSA. But come on – is talking fruit exclusive? Probably not under the law. Ideas, such as talking fruit, can't be protected. It is the expression of the talking fruit that can be protected if the two talking oranges seem too similar.
Lady Goo Goo
In 2011 Moshi Monsters created a cartoon infant version of Lady Gaga, called Lady Goo Goo (LGG). LGG was animated to a tune called "The Moshi Dance" based on Gaga's hit "Bad Romance", which was released on YouTube. Lady Gaga sued in London's High Court claiming the character and the dance could cause confusion, as well as possible publicity rights violations. Moshi Monster's parent company Mind Candy cannot use the song and is blocked from using anything related to the LGG character.
Pixar's Animation Lamp
In 2009 Luxo ASA, a Norwegian lampmaker, sued Pixar Animation Studio (PAS) for trademark violation for Pixar's Luxo Jr. desk-lamp character. The case was later amicably settled.
Disney is known to zealously guard its intellectual property. In December 2013 Disney sued Phase 4 Films for trademark infringement and false advertising of Disney's movie "Frozen". Phase 4 Films apparently picked up a Canadian film, "The Legend of Sarila", and rebranded it as "Frozen Land" using the same font and style as Disney's "Frozen", allegedly to capitalize on Disney's film. If they had left it alone it would have been fine.