The Walt Disney Company is being sued for copyright infringement over a teaser trailer it did for the movie Frozen. Although Disney filed a dismissal, a judge is allowing the case to proceed.
The suit was filed in March, when Kelly Wilson, the plaintiff, alleged that her 2D computer-animated short film “The Snowman” noted the similarities to a teaser trailer for Frozen.
California federal judge Vince Chhabria threw out Disney’s request for dismissal, stating that the sequence in both works was “too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar.”
Although the feature-length film itself didn’t have any resemblance to “The Snowman,” the teaser features the same battle between a snowman and an animal for the snowman’s carrot nose. In the Frozen trailer, the animal is a moose; in “The Snowman,” it’s a rabbit.
Judge Chhabria listed the characteristics of each sequence in his ruling:
- “(i) a snowman loses his carrot nose; (ii) the nose slides out to the middle of a frozen pond; (iii) the snowman is on one side of the pond and an animal who covets the nose is on the other; (iv) the characters engage in a contest to get to the nose first; (v) the screen pans back and forth from the snowman to the animal, set to music, as they endeavor to get to the nose; (vi) the contest continues when the snowman and the animal arrive at the nose at the same time; (vii) the animal ends up with the nose, leaving the snowman (and the viewer) to wonder if the snowman’s nose will become food for the animal; and (viii) in the end, the animal returns the nose to the snowman.”
Because the sequence in each work is the same, a jury could find it to rise above a generic idea and into the area of artistic expression.
However, Judge Chhabria did note the differences between each work: Frozen’s is funny and slapstick while “The Snowman” is more serious.
Yet because the similarities are too numerous, the case could go to trial if Disney and Wilson don’t settle out of court.
Some of Disney’s liability could be contained if they argue that Frozen, which grossed over $1.27 billion worldwide, was not the source of the infringement.
Wilson is represented by J. Paul Gignac and Mischa Barteau. Her video can still be viewed on YouTube, as can Disney’s Frozen teaser.
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