The 2016 Disney animated film Zootopia has been hailed as one of the best family movies to come out this decade, thanks to its perfect blend of stunning visuals, great story and contemporary social commentary. But it hasn’t been all praise for the film; it’s had its share of controversy.
On March 2017, Gary L. Goldman filed suit against Disney for his company Esplanade Productions, accusing the Mouse’s animation studios of plagiarism. He cited similarities between Zootopia and Looney, an animation film he pitched to Disney in 2000 and 2009 but was rejected. The suit was dismissed at Federal Court.
But Goldman isn’t one to give up anytime soon. His new legal battlefield is the Los Angeles Superior Court. Similar to his original accusation, Goldman and Esplanade Productions insist that Disney blatantly copied “artwork, dialogue, characters’ traits and designs, themes, settings, and plot structure”.
This time, Goldman isn’t going to pursue a copyright claim but will instead attack Disney from the angle of having breached “implied fact contract”, adding how the studio even took the name Zootopia from his Looney pitch (an in-universe TV cartoon). Amazingly, the points of argument in his new suit are almost unchanged from the original.
It should be recalled that in the Federal Court’s dismissal of the first complaint from Esplanade, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled that the similarities Goldman pointed out are all of generalized themes and not plot points or events, the former not being protected by copyright law at all.
For the moment, Disney itself has not made any official comment on the rematch that’s being forced on them by Gary L. Goldman and Esplanade Productions. Goldman is known to film buffs as the co-screenwriter of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 sci-fi thriller Total Recall, a box-office number one and also among the first super-expensive mega-blockbusters.