Disney has been hit with a federal lawsuit from screenwriter Gary Goldman, claiming that the company stole his idea for its Oscar-winning animated film, Zootopia.
As reported by Variety, Goldman, whose writing credits include Total Recall and Big Trouble in Little China, claims that he pitched his version of Zootopia (also called Zootopia) to Disney execs twice, once in 2000 and a second time in 2009. He was rejected both times. According to Goldman, Disney’s film ripped off its name, character designs, themes, and lines of dialogue from his pitches.
Goldman claims in the suit that he originally pitched a film called ‘Looney’ to Disney, which was to be the first of many proposed films in a ‘Zootopia’ film universe. He says his idea featured a human animator who created an animal world representing human class structures. Goldman also claims that his original animal creations were very similar to the characters found in Disney’s Zootopia, such as a squirrel named Mimi described as a go-getter who is discriminated against, and a hyena named Roscoe who is “a cynical outcast from society.”
Here is a comparison between Goldman’s characters and the ones found in Disney’s film:
Goldman claims that plagiarism is a systemic problem within Disney and that the company actively encourages it.
“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,” Goldman’s lawsuit claims. “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.”
Disney has responded to Goldman’s claims, labeling them as “patently false.”
“Mr. Goldman’s lawsuit is riddled with patently false allegations,” said a Disney spokesman. “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.”
Zootopia director Byron Howard has claimed in interviews that the idea for the film first arose in 2010, when he and Nathan Greno — his co-director on Tangled — pitched Disney Animation boss John Lasseter on several ideas involving talking animals.
“I will fully support any movie that shows animals running around in tiny clothes,” Howard quoted Lasseter as saying.
Howard also told Slashfilm that Zootopia began as a spy movie featuring a James Bond-like rabbit character before it evolved into a detective story starring a rabbit and a fox.