By ANTHONY McCARTNEY , AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A screenwriter and producer sued Walt Disney Pictures on Tuesday claiming the studio copied his ideas to create the Oscar-winning animated film "Zootopia."
Gary L. Goldman, whose credits include work on film adaptations of "Total Recall," ''Minority Report" and "Big Trouble in Little China," filed the copyright infringement lawsuit Tuesday in a federal court in Los Angeles. His lawsuit states he pitched his "Zootopia" concept to Disney in 2000 and 2009 and there are substantial similarities between his project and last year's animated blockbuster.
Disney rejected the lawsuit's claims in a statement. "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."
The lawsuit states Goldman pitched Disney his "Zootopia" concept as a way to explore life in America through a civilized society of animals. Disney's "Zootopia" explores prejudice through a bunny's quest to become a respected police officer in a city where predator and prey co-exist side-by-side. The film won the best animated feature at last month's Academy Awards.
"About five years ago, almost six now, oh my god, we got this crazy idea to talk about humanity with talking animals in the hopes that when the film came out, it would make the world just a slightly better place," said Byron Howard, one of the film's directors during his acceptance speech at last month's Oscars.
The lawsuit includes drawings Goldman commissioned for his pitches to Disney. He contends the ideas of his project and the animated film, as well as the style of some of its characters, are substantially similar.
"Both works explore whether the societies can live up to utopian ideals and judge and credit others fairly as individuals not as stereotypes, based on conceptions of merit not natural order, and the protagonists are challenged to strike a balance between the utopian and counter-utopian positions, optimism and pessimism, nature and individuality, and self-acceptance and self-improvement," the lawsuit states.
In Disney's film, Ginnifer Goodwin plays the bunny character, Judy Hopps, who strikes up an alliance with a sly fox played by Jason Bateman to thwart a conspiracy that threatens peace in their metropolis. Goldman's lawsuit states the two main protagonists of his pitch were a doe-eyed squirrel named Mimi and a hyena named Roscoe.
The lawsuit does not state how much damages Goldman and his company, Esplanade Productions, are seeking. He is asking a federal judge to block Disney from future "Zootopia" projects until the case is resolved.
"Zootopia" earned more than $341 million in theaters domestically according to box office analyst comScore.