March 21, 2011 6:43am PT by Eriq Gardner
Screenwriter Sues Disney/Pixar Claiming 'Cars' Was Stolen (Exclusive)
A U.K. screenwriter is suing Disney and Pixar, alleging the animated hit Cars and its forthcoming sequel are based in part on work he submitted in the early 1990s. The man is seeking an injunction to stop the release of Cars 2, which is scheduled to be released theatrically on June 24.
Jake Mandeville-Anthony filed the claim this week in U.S. District Court. According to the complaint, he created a three-part screenplay titled "Cookie & Co.," about the true-life adventure race-car driver Michael Owen Perkins, who won a 1988 race, and a second work titled "Cars," which included a treatment, sample screenplay, 46 animated car character descriptions, 10 cars character sketches, and a marketing and merchandising plan.
Mandeville says he sent copies of the works to various production companies, including Disney. The plaintiff also says he met in person with a Lucasfilm executive named Jim Morris in 1993 and delivered copies of his work. Pixar and Lucasfilm have had relations with each other since the 1980s, when Pixar acquired certain divisions of the George Lucas company. In 2005, according to the complaint, Morris joined Pixar and is currently general manager at the company.
The lawsuit isn't the first action that the plaintiff has filed against Disney/Pixar. The two sides have been engaged in a semi-private dispute in the U.K. A recent judgment in the case is currently under seal.
In Manderville's latest complaint, he points to a long list of similarities among the characters in each of the works. Both have characters named "Stanley" modeled after a Model T Ford. Both have lead characters modeled after a "James Aston-Martin" sports car. Both feature broken down truck characters, doctors as authority figures, glitzy showgirl movie star females, Italians, rich business cars past their prime, and so on.
The plaintiff is alleging copyright infringement and breach of implied contract.
The first animated Cars film grossed over $450 million at the box office and has become a merchandising powerhouse for Disney. Besides an injunction, the plaintiff requests actual or statutory damages.
Pixar hasn't responded to requests for comment.