“Dance Fever” host Deney Terrio has filed suit in a Florida court against Hasbro, Inc., claiming that Vinnie Terrio, an animated gecko and toy figurine, violates his publicity rights, according to legal papers obtained by TheWrap.
The suit contends that Vinnie, a character on the Canadian-American animated TV series “Littlest Pet Shop,” represents a “willful and deliberate use” of Deney’s name, image and likeness without his consent. Among the alleged violations stated in the suit is Deney’s signature dance move, the classic hand-to-hip and finger point made famous by John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Fever,” on which Terrio served as choreographer.
An image used in court documents to illustrate Vinnie performing the dance move appears to be fan art. The papers state that Deney “used this signature move on ‘Dance Fever’ and in almost every appearance he has done since then.”
According to a Wikia description, “Vincent Alfonso ‘Vinnie’ Terrio is a gecko with a talent for dancing.” Lawyers for the plaintiff claim that the rhyming of the first names and identical last names constitute the appearance of an endorsement by the real Terrio. According to court documents, the two even have the same hairstyle.
The documents further claim that “Littlest Pet Shop” story editor Julie McNally Cahill “admitted that Vinnie Terrio is a pun on ‘Deney Terrio’ in a tweet” last April. Products and figures carrying the character’s likeness are available at numerous retailers, as well as in McDonald’s Happy Meals.
Deney Terrio is something of a disco icon, having hosted the television dance competition “Dance Fever” from 1979 to 1985, just in time for the end of the disco era. Terrio now tours with his live show “The Deney Terrio Dance Party.” He is suing for damages and a share of profits in excess of $75,000 to be determined at trial.
Pamela Chelin also contributed to this report.