Esplanade Productions Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Disney's 2016 animated film Zootopia. The suit claimed that the company copied the ideas of screenwriter and producer Gary Goldman without authorization for the use of his intellectual property.
Gary Goldman, who wrote the screenplays for films like Big Trouble in Little China, Next and Total Recall, claimed that Disney, not only stole his concept but also the animated film’s title, treatment, character designs and dialogues from a franchise project he had originally pitched to Disney. While the suit enumerates a few big names like The Lion king, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Inside Out and many more of Disney’s biggest hits to be a knock off from someone else’s work.
The suit states “They did it with Zootopia, too, when they copied Gary L. Goldman’s Zootopia. Twice – in 2000 and 2009– Goldman, on behalf of Esplanade, pitched Defendants his Zootopia franchise, which included a live-action component called Looney and an animated component called Zootopia. He provided a treatment, a synopsis, character descriptions, character illustrations, and other materials. He even provided a title for the franchise: “Zootopia.” Instead of lawfully acquiring Goldman’s work, the 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.”
The lawsuit further emphasizes the violation of the confidentiality clause which new writer and producers are subjected to which states "understood that writers and producers pitch ideas and materials to studios in confidence in order to sell those ideas and materials for financial compensation ... and that Defendants would not use or disclose any of the ideas or materials without compensating Esplanade."
Nevertheless, one cannot but notice the uncanny similarities that Disney’s Zootopia has to the original characters by Goldman, and wonder why Disney faces so many allegations of copyright infringements every year. The lawsuit note also quotes specific lines of dialogue from Goldman's pitch, "If you want to be an elephant, you can be an elephant" while Disney’s film rephrased it into "You want to be an elephant when you grow up, you be an elephant."
In response to Esplanade’s lawsuit, Disney has denied the allegations and stated, “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.”