Denise Daniels claims she repeated pitch a TV show about five emotions to the animation giant
While it isn’t clear exactly which emotion the executives at Disney and Pixar are currently feeling, a lawsuit against the studios’ film Inside Out can’t but have ruffled some feathers.
The Oscar-winning animated film, released in 2015 and widely credited with getting Pixar back on the credible track it has deviated from in recent years, stars Amy Poehler as an anthropomorphised version of happiness. Along with other emotions, the group help regulate the life of a pre-teen girl named Riley.
But a lawsuit filed by an expert in child development argues that the concept of the film was pilfered from a pitch for a TV series presented to Disney and Pixar.
Denise Daniels, who created her The Moodsters characters to help children cope with grief in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, claims that she met with executives from the companies in 2005. In her pitch, she asserts she intended to make a TV show that would teach children to manage their emotions by presenting their feelings as five different characters: happiness, sadness, anger, love, and fear.
In Inside Out, which made more than $855m at the global box office, the character of Riley is exposed to the capricious desires of five emotions living in her head: joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust.
Daniels argues that she discussed The Moodsters with Disney and Pixar executives on several occasions between 2005 and 2009. Her legal brief claims she also had a detailed phone conversation with Pete Docter, the two-time Oscar winner who directed Inside Out.
During press tours for the 2015 film, Docter said he was inspired to write the film when he observed his pre-teen daughter Elie exhibiting shyness in late 2009. Working with child psychologists and screenwriters, the group created a story around six emotions, later combining fear and surprise into just one.
Daniels’ lawsuit alleges that Disney and Pixar breached an implied contract by not compensating her for her idea. Seeking unspecified damaged, the tie-in merchandising has turned Inside Out into a billion-dollar franchise.
This is the second lawsuit a Disney animated film has faced this year, after a screenwriter named Gary L Goldman launched legal action against Zootopia.
In his pitched film, a squirrel character is dismissed by more dominant animals and strives to overcome societal prejudice, making friends with an abrasive predator, while a third character, a small prey animal, schemes to upend the power structure.
Reacting to Daniels’ lawsuit, a spokesperson for Disney issued the following statement: “Inside Out was an original Pixar creation, and we look forward to vigorously defending against this lawsuit in court.”