'Kong, the Origin' Film at Center of Fraud Suit

The film at issue is a sci-fi adaptation of Chinese literary classic 'Journey to the West,' which tells the story of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.

The animation studio that was working on Kong, the Origin is being sued for allegedly padding invoices, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in California federal court. 

Aquamen Entertainment is suing Pigmental Studios and its principal Marina Martins for copyright infringement, fraud and violation of California's unfair competition law. 

Aquamen was founded in 2014 by Korean filmmaker Jeong-jung Kim and Chinese producer Gary Zhang to produce Kong, the Origin, a $40 million 3D animated feature. The film is a sci-fi adaptation of Chinese literary classic Journey to the West, which tells the story of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. 

According to the complaint, Pigmental, a full-service animation studio, was brought on to create a development package and in 2014 agreed to invest $900,000 in the film in exchange for a 25 percent share in exhibition profits. 

Aquamen claims that Pigmental didn't meet its promised financial contribution and padded invoices to cover it up. "[T]hey include amounts purportedly but not actually paid to third parties by Pigmental as well as amounts for overhead, alleged services and purported expenses not properly attributable to the Picture and/or which were not actually provided and/or incurred by Pigmental," writes attorney Brandon Tesser. 

Kim and Zhang subsequently terminated Aquamen's deal with Pigmental in April but say the animator continues to falsely claim on its website and to the public that it is still involved with the film. 

Further, Kim and Zhang claim Aquamen owns the copyrights to any Kong-related works created by Pigmental, and the studio continues to exploit the works without permission. They're seeking at least $75,000 in damages plus an injunction to keep Pigmental from promoting its Kong-related work and a declaration that Aquamen owns the exclusive rights to the film and related works.

Martins sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement late Thursday: "Neither Pigmental Studios or Ms. Martins have been served with any lawsuit initiated by Aquamen. To the best of my knowledge Pigmental performed per the scope of the contracts and Aquamen has to date only expressed appreciation of Pigmental work ethic. Our attorney can be expected to contact any individuals or companies that defame Ms. Martins character or damage the reputation of Pigmental Studios."

Jan. 6, 3:00 p.m. Updated with a statement from Marina Martins on behalf of Pigmental Studios.

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