December 23, 2011 9:45am PT by Eriq Gardner
Lawsuit Claims Disney Ripped Off Films About Santa Claus' Dog
Three men are accusing Disney of stealing their heartwarming story about a dog who helps Santa Claus save Christmas. The plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit in Missouri federal court that alleges that two of Disney's direct to home video movies, Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws and The Search for Santa Paws, are unauthorized copies of their copyrighted script entitled, Santa Paws: The Story of Santa's Dog.
The plaintiffs in this case are Ray Harter, Richard Kearney and Ed Corno, who say they conceived of their Santa Paws in 1991. In their script, Santa Claus gets a gift dog, who embarks on an ultimately successful search and rescue mission to save dwindling Christmas spirit in boys and girls everywhere from the evil hands of the ice witch and her magic icicle. In the 2009 Disney film, Santa Paws reportedly joins up with the Air Bud dogs to stop the thawing of a magical icicle that threatens Christmas.
After creating the story, the three men say they embarked on their own mission to Hollywood, where they say they engaged the services of talent agents John Ferriter and Barry Jeffery and the William Morris Agency. Jeffrey allegedly sent a letter back to the plaintiffs that a number of studios were interested, including Disney, but nothing came of it.
The men are suing for copyright infringement against Disney and pushing claims of breach of fudiciary duty and negligence against the agents and successor agency WME.
The most entertaining part of the lawsuit is the statement that the plaintiffs' attorney Albert Watkins gave to Courthouse News:
"We understand Disney is investigating the matter. My clients feel strongly the investigation into the genesis of Santa Paws is something which should have been investigated by Disney and its posse of film making and distributing elves before they sucked in tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Santa knows who has been naughty and nice. It is my clients' position that Dickens could not have come up with a more Scrooge-like scenario. Why not just kick the crutch out from under Tiny Tim and sell it on eBay? It is my clients' genuine hope the true spirit of Christmas will prevail and the defendants will do the right thing for all who believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas."
We've contacted Disney for comment and if we hear anything, we'll update.