Disney Sues Over Musical Featuring 'Spider-Man,' 'Mary Poppins' and 'The Lion King'

Lion King - Movie Still: Cartoon Cast - H - 1994
Walt Disney

Disney might have decided not to file a legal objection to Escape From Tomorrow, a microbudget horror film whose poster features a Mickey Mouse-like blood-soaked hand. But the entertainment giant isn't ready to simply roll over on the intellectual property front, either.

The company is now drawing the line at a musical that attempts to showcase the glories of the genre with tributes to famous characters and songs. On Tuesday, in Pennsylvania federal court, Disney and some of its partners filed a lawsuit against Entertainment Theatre Group, doing business as American Music Theatre.

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The defendants are staging Broadway: Now & Forever, which includes references to The Producers, Billy Elliot, Wicked, Jersey Boys and more. Disney is upset about the inclusion of Mary Poppins, The Lion King and Spider-Man.

The show is advertised as providing theatergoers with a "larger-than-life theatrical compilation of unforgettable music from the hottest new blockbusters to all-time favorite classics … Broadway: Now & Forever re-creates the greatest moments ever on stage."

Disney won't stand for Broadway piracy.  A movie that shows iconic Disney characters doing things like attempting to crush a child is one thing. More horrifying perhaps is a theatrical production that is described in the complaint as presenting six actor-dancers dressed in Spider-Man costumes performing a choreographed dance routine. This is said to be unfair competition. Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is the most expensive production in Broadway history. This new show apparently shows off the more famous one on a video screen.

The appearance of Mary Poppins is no less concerning for Disney. In the complaint, Disney provides photographic proof that a woman portraying Ms. Poppins dances with children and flies above the stage with her umbrella open.

Read the full complaint here.

Disney is suing for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair trade practices and more, seeking damages for willful infringement after saying the defendants have refused to stop the show even after being warned. Disney says this is an "exceptional case" under trademark law. The defendant hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner