Sunday, July 18, 2021

Copyright lawsuit proceeds against Disney and Pixar

 From The National Post.

If you were a student of animation at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., twenty years ago, you probably saw a 14-minute live-action low-budget student production about the internal life of a boy called Lewis and how his behaviour is controlled by five organs, each personified as a character: Brain, Stomach, Colon, Bladder and Heart.

It was called Inside Out.


Likewise, if you were young at heart in 2015, you almost certainly saw a blockbuster movie about the internal life of a girl called Riley and her personified emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, in a story about memory and moving to a new city, involving the loss of Riley’s imaginary friend, Bing Bong, in one of the most devastating animated deaths since Bambi’s mother.


 Its worldwide gross for Disney was more than $850 million, plus an Oscar, and it was also called Inside Out.

Whether that coincidence is truly coincidental is at the heart of a long-running intellectual property dispute, in which the student, Damon Pourshian, has just scored a major win against Disney and its animation studio, Pixar. 

In short, an Ontario court has green lit his case against half a dozen Disney subsidiaries, in which a payout of millions of dollars is at stake.

Sheridan has a reputation as a major source of high-level animation talent. 

So it is conceivable that a student project at Sheridan was on the radar of some serious American movie makers, as Pourshian alleges.

He claims Disney had access to various campus screenings of his film, which won the People’s Choice Award at an annual showcase, and that some of his classmates at the time were recruited by Disney and Pixar. 

His statement of claim even names four former students who worked for Pixar on Inside Out, but they are not defendants in the lawsuit.

His claim describes similarities in the plot, even down to minor details like eating cereal from a yellow carton, a teacher asking a question that puts the protagonist on the spot, eating lunch alone, and getting a kiss from mother at night.

Both movies even include a mock commercial that highlights advertising’s power over this five-person control room.

These similarities “extend from the title, to overarching themes, to minute and specific details — none of which can be the result of coincidence,” reads Pourshian’s statement of claim.

His legal documents include a chart making the case that Pixar’s Joy character is based on Pourshian’s Heart, as both are upbeat and sentimental; Brain and Fear are both tightly wound nerdy male characters prone to panic; Stomach and Anger are irritable, impulsive and self-centred; Colon and Disgust protect the protagonist’s health, and Bladder and Sadness both feel ignored and of diminished importance, and “large eyewear that obscures their faces.” 

For Sadness it is glasses, for Bladder a scuba mask.

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