Cartoonist Says ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Producers Stole His Ideas

Jayme Gordon is seeking damages and a share of the hit film’s profits

DreamWorks Animation may be kung fu fighting its way through the legal system.

A Boston-based cartoonist is suing the studio, claiming that it stole his idea for the 2008 hit film “Kung Fu Panda.”

In a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Jayme Gordon charges the studio with copyright infringement. He claims that he had pitched the idea for a film with similar animal characters to those featured in the 2008 film to DreamWorks Animation.

Gordon is seeking unspecified damages, a percentage of the film’s profits, and asks the studio to acknowledge his authorship.

DreamWorks Animation and “Kung Fu Panda”s’ distributor Paramount Pictures are named as defendants. 

In the suit, Gordon claims he sent art representing kung fu fighting snakes, red pandas, mantises and snow leopards to DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s previous company, Walt Disney Studios. 

All of those animals appear in the film and are featured in its upcoming sequel “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

“Upon information and belief, access to Gordon’s illustrated literary works and, in particular, Gordon’s Kung Fu Panda Power work, enabled the Defendants to create and exploit their own Kung Fu Panda franchise,” the suit reads. 

Moreover, Gordon said that the name of the kung fu group in the DreamWorks film, “the Furious Five” closely resembles the moniker he uses for his own group of animal martial artists, “The Five Fists of Fury.”

He also contends that the peaceful village in which they the film is set, “The Valley of Peace,” is also the name of the animal kingdom featured in a story he wrote called “Kung Fu Panda Power Work.”

Gordon claims that he registered his animal characters with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2000. The 28-page suit contains artistic renderings of Gordon’s illustrations matched up against their “Kung Fu Panda” counterparts, as well as photographic evidence that the artist met former Disney chief Michael Eisner.

A spokesperson for DreamWorks Animation declined to comment on pending litigation.

This marks the second time that DreamWorks has been sued for allegedly pilfering the concept of a cartoon centered on a rotund, martial arts wielding panda bear.

In a complaint filed last summer, screewriter Terence Dunn says he pitched a story idea about animal characters similar to those that appear in the film to DreamWorks in 2001, but never received credit.

“Kung Fu Panda," which featured the voices of Jack Black and Angelina Jolie, grossed $631.7 million worldwide.

Gordon has retained attorneys for the intellectual property firms Fish & Richardson and Duane Morris to represent him. 

News of the lawsuit first appeared on the Hollywood Reporter.