ByElise Jost, writer at
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Elise Jost

If you listen to directors like Jim Jarmusch, who believes that "nothing is original" and artists should "steal from anywhere," it's not unusual to find similarities between stories. Particularly at , whose classics are based on traditional fairytales, you'll often get the sense of having heard a story before.

But it's not all respectful nods and inspired borrowing; , the studio's latest mega-hit about a bunny making her dreams come true, could be the product of actual stealing — at least that's what a new lawsuit filed by Esplanade Productions against Disney alleges.

Could 'Zootopia' Be Based On A Stolen Idea?

The main plaintiff for the lawsuit is screenwriter Gary L. Goldman, whose production company is Esplanade and who wrote Schwarzenegger's Total Recall. He claims he actually pitched a movie to Disney first in 2000, then in 2009 and got rejected both times, only to find that his idea had been turned into Zootopia without his involvement or approval.

According to the lawsuit, Goldman's project was even called Zootopia, and featured an optimistic squirrel and a cynical hyena going to the big city to achieve their dreams.

They copied Goldman's themes, settings, plot, characters, and dialogue – some virtually verbatim. They copied Goldman's title, 'Zootopia.' They even copied Goldman's character designs and artwork.

See also:

The lawsuit features examples such as this side-by-side of the characters:

Courtesy of Deadline
Courtesy of Deadline

The Lawsuit Claims Disney Encourages 'Unauthorized Copying'

While Goldman's lawsuit calls for Disney to compensate Esplanade for the damages incurred, as well as turn over the profit made by any Zootopia-related commercial activities, it goes even further, suggesting that this isn't the first time Disney has profited off material that wasn't theirs:

Although The Walt Disney Company rigorously enforces its copyrights, it has developed a culture that not only accepts the unauthorized copying of others' original material, but encourages it.

Meanwhile, Disney has already issued a statement denying any allegations made by Goldman:

Mr. Goldman's lawsuit is riddled with patently false allegations. It is an unprincipled attempt to lay claim to a successful film he didn't create, and we will vigorously defend against it in court.

If it turns out Disney did use Goldman's idea, it'd be a serious hit for the studio, considering Zootopia has been consistently praised for its originality.

Do you believe Gary Goldman's allegations?

'Zootopia' [Credit: Disney]
'Zootopia' [Credit: Disney]

(Sources: Variety, Deadline)


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