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Disney faces flap over Frozen trailer

Animator claims that the movie’s trailer infringers on her intellectual property

While Disney may have decided to “Let it Go” and allow fans to remix, parody and pay homage to the most popular song on the soundtrack of its latest animated blockbuster, it seems that the Mouse House cannot avoid all manner of intellectual property hurdles.

Now, the studio behind the mega hit “Frozen” is facing a copyright infringement lawsuit. But this suit does not target the songs in the movie, nor the entirety of the film itself, which is based on Han Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Instead, animator Kelly Wilson is claiming that the trailer for the megahit movie is infringing on her intellectual property.

Wilson created an animated short called “The Snowman,” which depicts a 2D animated snowman who loses his carrot nose. A popular trailer for “Frozen” depicts the movie’s anthropomorphic snowman, Olaf, and Sven the reindeer chasing Olaf’s carrot nose.

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Disney wanted the suit tossed out before it could go to jury, but California federal judge Vince Chhabria found that there were too many similarities between the trailer and the cartoon to throw out the case. In his ruling, he writes, "The sequence of events in both works, from start to finish, is too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar." He cites the lost nose sliding onto a frozen lake and the snowman racing against an animal among the similarities. 

Wilson filed the suit back in March and, after judge Chhabria’s ruling, the case will go to a jury trial unless the two parties can settle out of court.

Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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