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The Lawsuit Against Disney’s Zootopia Is Heating Up Again


Disney's Zootopia received praise from nearly every corner when it was released in 2016. However, the film has been embroiled in legal issues for the last several months claiming Disney stole the concept. While the original complaint was dismissed at Disney's request, the suit has now been amended, so the parties are headed back to court.

The lawsuit was originally filed by Esplanade Productions who claimed that Zootopia was derived from work written by Gary L. Goldman, who previously wrote Big Trouble in Little China and the original Total Recall among other films. The suit claimed that Goldman had pitched the concept to Disney in both 2000 and 2009 and that it even had the same title. Last month a judge dismissed the suit claiming that Esplanade had failed to show enough similarity between Goldman's work and Disney's film, saying that the claims were simply too general for the judge to rule. However, the option for amending the complaint was left open and Esplanade has now done that. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this includes submitting Goldman's complete film treatment, a DVD and full script of Zootopia, and a complete list of similarities in character and plot.

In addition, the amended suit fires both barrels at Disney by opening with a statement listing every other time Disney has allegedly stolen ideas, including claiming that everything from The Lion King to Toy Story to Frozen came from the uncredited work of others. The similarities between The Lion King and Kimba the White Lion have been noted before and it is true that Pixar did settle out of court with the creator of Wise G'Eye in regards to a suit that was brought due to its similarity to Monsters Inc. Though, it should be pointed out that suit predates Disney's ownership of Pixar, as does the case the complaint makes reference to regarding Toy Story's similarity to Jim Henson's The Christmas Toy.

Clearly, Esplanade Productions thinks the company really does have something here if it wasn't dissuaded by the original dismissal. While Esplanade apparently admits that there isn't necessarily a huge similarity between Gary Goldman's original concept and the initial version of Zootopia, according to attorney Gary Gans, the basis of Zootopia is still Goldman's work, and thus he deserves credit.

Disney, of course, is putting no stock in the suit and is claiming that this is simply a case of somebody trying to claim credit for a work that achieved massive financial success when they had nothing to do with it. At this point, we'll have to wait and see what a judge has to say about it as it looks like this lawsuit isn't going away quietly.

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.