2016 was a big year for Disney, and Zootopia played a big role in the studio's success. The 55th entry in Walt Disney Animation's lineup of movies was a critical and commercial powerhouse, earning almost-universally positive reviews and collecting over $1 billion worldwide. it's safe to say that audiences really took to the animal-led tale, but now over 12 months after its release, Zootopia has been hit with a lawsuit that claims it rips off work that Gary Goldman, who wrote the original Total Recall, created.
According to THR, the complaint, which was filed on Tuesday in California federal court, comes from Esplanade Productions, Inc. It alleges that Disney copied Gary Goldman's (whose other work includes writing Big Trouble in Little China and Navy Seals) same-named Zootopia. Supposedly Goldman had pitched his version of a Zootopia franchise in 2000 and 2009, which included a "live action component" called "Looney" and the animated Zootopia. The material he reportedly included was a treatment, synopsis, character descriptions and character illustrations. The THR article even includes some of Goldman's character designs alongside the designs of characters from Disney's Zootopia movie to highlight similarities, though it is worth noting that some of the animals were changed in the actual movie.
The lawsuit then states that despite Disney turning down both pitches, the studio in 2009 (which was around the same time Goldman was writing a screenplay titled Blaze, based off a Stan Lee comic) allegedly began working on their own version of Zootopia. Esplanade is now seeking an injunction plus monetary damages "including of the punitive kind."
Not long after this Zootopia lawsuit became public knowledge, Disney sent a public statement, saying:
It will be interesting to see how Gary Goldman's lawsuit against Disney over Zootopia proceeds over the coming months or even years, although assuming any of these allegations are true, I'm curious about why this lawsuit is only just now being filed. Disney officially announced Zootopia at its D23 convention in 2013, and even if Goldman wanted to wait until footage came out for the movie, he could have started something in June 2015, when the first teaser came out. Regardless, this is by no means the first time writers have issued lawsuit against a studio claiming that their idea was stolen from them. We'll be sure to keep you updated on how this Zootopia legal messiness is progressing as more relevant details come in.
Taking place in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, Disney's Zootopia followed new cop Juddy Hopps as she uncovered a conspiracy within the eponymous city with the help of con artist Nick Wilde. The voice cast included Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, Nate Torrence, Alan Tudyk and Tommy Chong. The movie's numerous accolades included winning a Golden Globe and Oscar, both for Best Animated Feature Film.