Thursday, December 26, 2013


Lawsuit time.

... Disney is going to court against an alleged imitator. According to a trademark infringement lawsuit filed in California federal court, Phase 4 Films changed the name of one of its films to Frozen Land, so as to trade off the success of the acclaimed animated feature.

"On November 1, 2013, less than three weeks before the Hollywood premiere of FROZEN on November 19, Phase 4 theatrically released an animated picture entitled The Legend of Sarila, which generated minimal box office revenues and received no significant attention," says the complaint.

The lawsuit adds that Phase 4 knew of Frozen, and so to enhance the commercial success of Sarila, the defendant "redesigned the artwork, packaging, logo, and other promotional materials for its newly (and intentionally misleadingly) retitled film to mimic those used by [Disney] for FROZEN and related merchandise." ...

Can it possibly be?

This business of cheapie knockoffs has been going on since Disney animation's last Golden Age twenty odd years ago. Then, if you walked through a Toys R Us or discount store, there were bins full of VHS tapes and DVDs that were cut-rate versions of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and Lion King.

Then, of course, Disney commenced doing its own knockoffs, grinding out The Return of Jafar, Jungle Book II, Lion King 1 1/2 and other choice entertainments for the kiddies, all to cash in on the surging market its theatrical releases had created.

If the flattery of low-budget imitation is kept in the family, you see, that's one thing. But if some scuzzy outsider tries to horn in on the act, it's WAR!


David said...

Way back in 1986 Walt Disney Productions brought a suit against Filmation Associates regarding Filmation's "Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night" feature film. (Walt Disney Productions v. Filmation Associates, 628 F.Supp. 871, 876, 878, 879-80 (C.D. Cal. 1986) Disney claimed that Filmation was infringing on their intellectual property by making a sequel to "Pinocchio" , even though Carlo Collodi's original Pinocchio story and characters were public domain. (ditto Snow White , which was Filmation's next feature film, although Filmation did seem to placate Disney by changing the title from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfelles" to "Happily Ever After" , eliminating the mention of the name Snow White in the title.)

I remember in news reports at the time that one of things Disney was claiming was that making SEQUELS would damage the value of the original films by making them seem less "special" . The slightly snooty attitude towards Filmation also seemed to be saying "We are Disney , we DON'T do cheap knock-off sequels and we don't approve of those who do. " (at least not to the animated classics ; I guess stuff like Herbie the Love Bug didn't count ... )

And then not many years later came "The Return of Jafar" and after that everything changed (at least in terms of the Disney Co.'s policy towards the churning out of sequels to their animated films ). Of course, many would say Disney's previous contention (c. 1986) that making sequels would damage the value of the original films by causing them to be perceived as less special turned out to be true.

Steve Hulett said...

Well put, David.

The Mouse has always been quick with legal action, protecting its copyrights. I'm confident that our fine, entertainment conglomerates will beat congress about shoulders and head for longer term copyright protection one of these days.

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