Zootopia was one of the biggest commercially and critically successful films of 2016, with a worldwide gross of over $1 billion and a multitude of prestigious awards, including the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice Movie Award and Annie Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
And whose name isn’t tacked onto Zootopia’s success? If you guessed Total Recall’s Gary Goldman, you guessed right.
The veteran screenwriter filed a federal lawsuit against Disney earlier today, for stealing his character designs, themes, lines of dialogue and even the film’s name – all from a project he first developed in 2000 and since pitched twice to Disney executives.
“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,” he accuses.
“Instead of lawfully acquiring Goldman’s work, the defendants said they were not interested in producing it and sent him on his way,” states Goldman’s legal representation. “Thereafter, consistent with their culture of unauthorized copying, the defendants copied Goldman’s work”.
Goldman’s version featured a squirrel and a hyena that Goldman alleges Disney replaced with the beloved bunny cop, Judy Hopps, and the cynical, but secretly soft-hearted fox, Nick Wilde. Goldman alleges that nearly all of his main character designs were used in Zootopia, in addition to a nearly replicated plot of heroes in a big city, working to achieve the dreams their parents discouraged and to overcome their own prejudices.
Goldman claims he first pitched the idea to David Hoberman in 2000, who at the time had been Disney’s president of motion pictures and the CEO of Mandeville Films. Hoberman had responded favorably to the meeting, but Mandeville had ultimately passed on the project.
Then in 2009, he pitched the idea to Brigham Taylor, who he worked with on Marvel’s Blaze project. Taylor had been Disney’s executive vice president of production and development and agreed to show the materials to Disney’s animation department, but passed on acquiring the project’s rights.
Disney has since rejected the claims: “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”.