'Muppet Babies' Reboot Spurs Lawsuit from TV Writer

MUPPET BABIES Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Disney Junior

Jeffrey Scott, a TV screenwriter who wrote for many '80s children's shows including Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, has filed a lawsuit targeting Disney's reboot of Muppet Babies. Scott alleges the new Kermit and Piggy starrer has misappropriated elements of the original Muppet Babies production bible he created and says he owns.

The suit against Disney seems primed to address multiple areas of intrigue from a TV writer's retention of intellectual property to the scope of protection afforded production bibles.

According to the complaint filed in California federal court, Scott extended his services in 1983 for the Muppet TV show, then being produced by Marvel Productions and the Jim Henson Company. Scott says he was an employee for neither company, and that according to his deal — perhaps importantly, "partially oral and partially reflected in portions of the unsigned agreements" — he got $12,000 per script, plus a $3,500 royalty for each new episode produced, plus a  “Developed for Television by” credit, which Marvel gave him but he's been denied on Disney's reboot.

"Scott is the registered owner of the copyright in the Muppet Babies production bible," states the complaint. "The Muppet Babies Production Bible created the show’s nursery setting, the child versions of the characters, the mix of entertainment and education, and the blueprint for its stories. Scott created, developed and refined character traits, running gags associated with each character, and the characters’ relationships with each other."

Scott also says he created one entirely new character (Nanny) and defined the nursery environment for the show.

The TV veteran also says that in 2014 proposed to Lisa Henson that Disney produce new Muppet Babies shows and that he was in touch with Disney executives. In 2016, he says he sent over a "pitch" document.

Scott claims copyright infringement, breach of contract (stemming from his '80s deal), breach of implied contract (arising from the alleged agreement for compensation for his recent idea submissions), and fraud. He's represented by attorneys Howard King and Stephen Rothschild.

Here's the entire complaint.