Disney Hit With Copyright Lawsuit Over ‘Zootopia’

Complaint says that the company was pitched on the concept by “Total Recall” writer twice before copying it

Last Updated: March 21, 2017 @ 12:35 PM

“Zootopia” is a ripoff. At least that’s the claim of a new lawsuit accusing The Walt Disney Company of copyright infringement over the animated offering.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in California, writer Gary Goldman’s Esplanade Productions, Inc. says that Goldman pitched his idea for a “Zootopia” franchise twice, only to be rejected.

The suit takes pains to accuse Disney of developing a culture of idea-copying.

“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 reads. It goes on to claim that “Zootopia” writer Byron Howard has told artists, “Don’t worry if you feel like you’re copying something, because if it comes through out, it’s going to filter through you and you’re going to bring your own unique perspective on it.”

According to the suit, Goldman pitched Disney his “Zootopia” concept in 2000 and 2009.

“He provided a treatment, a synopsis, character descriptions, character illustrations, and other materials. He even provided a title for the franchise: ‘Zootopia.’ Instead of lawfully acquiring Goldman’s work, Defendants said they were not interested in producing it and sent him on his way. Thereafter, consistent with their culture of unauthorized copying, Defendants copied Goldman’s work,” the suit reads.

According to the suit, Goldman’s credits include the screenplays for “Total Recall,” “Big Trouble in Little China” and others.

The complaint continues, “They copied Goldman’s themes, settings, characters and dialogue — some virtually verbatim. They copied Goldman’s title, ‘Zootopia.’ They even copied Goldman’s character designs and artwork.”

An example of the allegedly pilfered dialogue: In Goldman’s “Zootopia,” a character states, “If you want to be an elephant, you can be an elephant,” while in Disney’s version, a character states, “You want to be an elephant when you grow up, you be an elephant.”

A Disney spokesman told TheWrap in a statement that Goldman’s suit 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.”

Alleging copyright infringement, breach of implied-in-fact contract and other counts, the suit seeks unspecified damages.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.