Disney Beats lawsuit from Childhood Development Expert who Claimed “Inside Out” was Her Idea


In 2015, Pixar Animation Studios produced ‘Inside Out’, a 3D computer-animated comedy-drama that was released by Walt Disney Pictures. The movie was a huge hit as it grossed $857.6 million from a $175 million budget. However, they ran into trouble as a woman has come forward claiming that they have stolen her idea. They have now successfully beaten this lawsuit. Denise Daniels, a counselor, filed a lawsuit against both Pixar and Disney as she claimed the film is based on ‘The Moodsters’, a children’s program she created. Daniels has spent years counseling children who have faced tragedies, such as 9/111 and Hurricane Katrina, and also co-founded the National Childhood Grief Institute.

She developed a workbook that featured colors to represent different emotions so that children could easily convey how they were feeling using color-coded symbols. She did this with the support of a team of people who are high-profile and highly accomplished in their fields. From this idea, she then went on to create characters called ‘The Moodsters’. Daniels’ attorney, Michael Geibelson, explained that these five characters represent five emotions and live deep within every child. Each anthropomorphized character is representative of just one emotion and is a color that is symbolic of that particular emotion. For example, pink is love, green is fear, blue is sadness, red is anger, yellow is happiness.

Not only were these characters used in the workbooks, they were also developed into characters for a program for children. Daniels says that she repeatedly pitched her idea to Disney-Pixar from 2005 to 2009. The fact that ‘Inside Out’ is a very similar concept to her idea and uses similar characters has led Daniels to sue them for breach of implied-in-fact contract. This means that Daniels relied on the customs and practices of the entertainment industry and expected that id Disney-Pixar used her idea, she would be compensated. This is not the first time that a production company has been sued for these reasons. Writer Gar L. Oldman filed a lawsuit against Esplanade Pictures claiming they had stolen his idea. He claims that he wrote a story and pitched it Esplanade Pictures. This story became the animated movie ‘Zootopia’ and he was not credited or compensated.

Disney-Pixar refuted the claim that they have stolen someone else’s idea to create their hit movie, saying it was an original idea and they will defend this aggressively in court. Pete Docter is credited with developing the story, co-writing the screenplay and directing the film. According to various Internet sources, Docter developed this idea after noticing changes in his daughter’s personality as she got older. They then sought the advice of psychologist Dacher Keltner who helped them to understand neuropsychology and revise the story accordingly.

The courts have now granted the motion to dismiss the lawsuit as they did not have enough evidence that the characters in the film and those created by Denise Daniels were significantly similar. However, they did give leeway for Daniels to amend her lawsuit with regards to copyright infringement claims. ‘Inside Out’ featured the voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Lewis Black, and Bill Hader. It was the seventh highest grossing movie of 2015. The movie also received great critical acclaim and won several awards. These included an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, a Golden Globe Award, a Satelite Award, an Annie Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Critics’ Choice Award.

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