Disney Accused of Stealing 'Inside Out' Concept in New Lawsuit

A childhood development expert says the studio based the mega-hit 'Inside Out' on her idea, but didn't give her credit or compensation.
'Inside Out' (2015)

Inside Out's "Anger" is taking center stage, as a childhood development expert is suing Disney for allegedly stealing her pitch for a story about anthropomorphized emotions. 

Denise Daniels is suing Disney and Pixar, claiming the 2015 animated hit is based on her children's program called The Moodsters, which she created to help kids better manage their emotions. Daniels, who co-founded the National Childhood Grief Institute, says the idea was born after years of counseling children after tragedies including Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. It started with a workbook to help doctors work with pediatric patients using color-coded symbols for emotions, and with the help of a "high-profile and accomplished" team it eventually was developed into a pilot.

"The Moodsters live 'deep down inside every child,' and featured five main characters," writes attorney Michael Geibelson in the complaint, which is posted in full below. "Each character is an animated, anthropromorphized figure representing a single emotion with a corresponding color, and specifically happiness (yellow), anger (red), sadness (blue), fear (green) and love (pink)."

Daniels claims her team pitched the idea to Disney-Pixar every year from 2005 to 2009 — a similar plot to the lawsuit filed by Esplanade Pictures which claims writer Gary L. Goldman repeatedly pitched the story that eventually became Zootopia and wasn't compensated.

Daniels is suing for breach of implied-in-fact contract, claiming that she relied on entertainment industry customs and practices and expected that she would be compensated if Disney-Pixar used her idea.

A Disney spokesman sent a statement to The Hollywood Reporter Tuesday evening: “Inside Out was an original Pixar creation, and we look forward to vigorously defending against this lawsuit in court.”

June 20, 6:00 p.m. Updated with a statement from Disney.