Disney, Pixar Hit With Copyright Lawsuit Over Unicorn-Covered Van in ‘Onward’

Artist says her beloved “Vanicorn” was “pilfered” for the film

Last Updated: January 30, 2020 @ 1:30 PM

A San Francisco-based artist has filed a copyright lawsuit against Disney and Pixar saying the animation giant copied her signature unicorn-covered van — which she calls “Vanicorn” — for a character in the upcoming movie “Onward.”

In a suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, Sweet Cecily Daniher said she was first contacted by a representative from Pixar on September 4, 2018, who wanted to feature her van at an event at the Pixar facility. Daniher said she agreed (for a confidential sum) and the van — described as a “tremendously cool, dark blue and/or purple 1972 Chevrolet G10 van, with red shag carpeting, red velour walls and seating, and a white shag carpet roof” with a unicorn mural on the side — was provided for the event 10 days later.

It wasn’t until May 31, 2019 that Daniher said she found out about the Pixar film “Onward,” which features a character named Guinevere, that Daniher said is “a tremendously cool, dark blue and/or purple 1972 Chevrolet G10 van with a red interior, and a big mural of a unicorn on its side.” In the lawsuit, Daniher calls Guinevere a “pilfered and unlawful duplication” of her Vanicorn.

That day, Daniher said she took to Instagram to voice her displeasure over what transpired. She posted a photo of the two vans side by side and wrote, “Sooo, do y’all think Pixar Disney stole the Vanicorn for their movie #onward ????”

According to Daniher, she was contacted by the film’s producer, Kori Rae, just a few days later. Daniher says Rae “apologized” to her and admitted that Pixar did not tell her they planned to use Vanicorn as Guinevere because, at the time, Pixar believed it needed a title for the film (which had not yet been decided) before having her sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Daniher recounted that phone call on Instagram that day, writing, “Well, S—! The producer of ‘Onward’ just called me. She wanted to know HOW I’M FEELING…(?!) and to apologize…. she also wanted to tell me that they rented my van without disclosing their full intentions, or plans, and she’s sorry for that too. #disney #pixar just tried to smooth things over with a phone call, instead of putting their art dept to work, or asking. #Onward”

Daniher is suing for copyright infringement, among other claims, and is seeking damages of $25,000 for each violation. She is also seeking an injunction barring the defendants from distributing, marketing or selling infringing advertisements, merchandise and the film itself. Daniher is also seeking a declaration that defendants’ related copyrights are invalid.

Disney has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.