A veteran screenwriter filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday accusing Disney of stealing his idea for the hit animated film “Zootopia.”
Gary Goldman alleges that Disney took character designs, themes, lines of dialogue, and even the name “Zootopia” from a project that he first developed in 2000. He alleges that he twice pitched the project to Disney executives, in 2000 and 2009, and was rejected. The lawsuit accuses Disney of a long history of stealing ideas from others, and contends that “Zootopia” is only the most recent example of an embedded corporate practice.
“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 alleges. “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.”
A Disney spokesman flatly rejected the claim.
“Mr. Goldman’s lawsuit is riddled with patently false allegations,” the spokesman said. “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.”
Goldman alleges that he registered a treatment for a live-action film called “Looney” with the Writers Guild of America, West, in August 2000. According to the suit, “Looney” was to be the first installment in a “Zootopia” franchise that would also include an animated “Zootopia.” Goldman’s concept included a human animator who creates a cartoon animal world meant to reflect a complex human society. According to Goldman, the society included class and power structures based on the characteristics of different species.