An established Hollywood screenwriter has filed a lawsuit against Disney, claiming the company stole ideas, writing, and artwork for Zootopia.
Gary Goldman is a trusted name in Hollywood, having written sci-fi classics Total Recall and Big Trouble in Little China, as well as working on Next and Minority Report. Multiple outlets report that on Tuesday 3/21, his company Esplanade Productions, Inc. claimed that Disney has a long history of stealing from screenwriters as part of a “culture of unauthorized copying”.
Goldman alleges that he met with Disney executives in 2000 and 2009 to pitch Zootopia. According to the suit, his pitch included character descriptions, a plot synopsis, and artwork. The artwork is particularly damning, as it includes “original drafts” of nearly every character in the film.
If true, it looks like Disney changed many of the species of the characters, but kept their basic personalities. And put clothes on them. I’m glad Disney added clothes.
The “carnivore vs. herbivore” divide that provides the central theme of the film is obvious in the artwork provided by Goldman. Nick Wilde might have been a hyena originally, but that’s not so different from a fox. Neither is Judy Hopps appearing as a squirrel instead of a rabbit such a big change.
Pulling This Trick for Years
The suit goes on to allege that Disney has been pulling this trick for years, going back as far as The Lion King and as recent as Pixar’s Inside Out.
Zootopia won several Academy Awards and grossed over $1 billion in theaters, meaning there’s quite a bit on the line here. Disney has already issued a response, stating “Mr. Goldman’s lawsuit 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.”
The way these things usually go, it’s unlikely that Goldman and Disney will ever actually step foot in a courtroom. Most lawsuits settle early in the process, before legal fees rack up too high for both sides.