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Netflix Provides 'Knock-offs' After Contract With Disney Ends

from the filling-the-void dept

We recently talked about the steady progression of cable cord-cutting occuring in this country. As that trend progresses, we're also seeing constant friction from the major movie studios about how they think they're offering enough in the way of online access to entertainment, so won't we all just shut up about it? And the truth is consumers will shut up about it, but not because they appreciate the studios' almost-effort at providing the product customers want how they want it (also known as being good at business), but because one way or another they will be satisfied. Often times these stories devolve into tales of piracy and woe, but that's far from the only option people have.

Forbes has a story of how those folks with both youngens and a Netflix account at home are dealing with Disney and Pixar electing to not renew the streaming portion of their contract.

Since the contract between Disney and Netflix came to an end, you won’t find any Pixar films on the Netflix streaming website. For a while you could watch Toy Story 3 and some other good Pixar titles but alas, those days have come to an end.

On the other hand, you can watch a host of Disney and Pixar knock-offs, as well as some really blatant rip-offs of DreamWorks movies.

Keep the terms “knock-offs,” “rip-offs, ” and “blatant” in your head, because we'll be coming back to them later. But, to demonstrate the point, here are some examples of what the movie industry likes to call “drafting films”, a nod to a race car technique in which one sits behind a car to alleviate headwind and save fuel:

I'll have to plead ignorance here, or perhaps plead lack-of-children, because I haven't heard of this one. But there are more obvious examples, like:
Now, perhaps, like me, you're wondering what the legal status of these types of “drafting” movies is.  A couple of things should be noted here. First, as you can see, in the summary descriptions of these movies, they tend to flatout tell you that they aren't affiliated with the movie by which they're “inspired.” Some, like the linked Forbes article, call this an admission rather than a warning, but this is another nugget to keep in the back of your head for further down the post. Secondly, the plot and characters in these “drafting” films have zero correlation to the movies they're “drafting”. There's no copying of plot or characters. As the Forbes piece states:

To be fair, the movie looks (both graphically and plot-wise) nothing at all like Pixar’s fantasy. Indeed, one suspects it was produced as soon as the first trailers came out.

On top of that, the most recent litigation cited by the article ended up finding against Disney and for the film studio accused of “drafting”.

Disney lost a lawsuit claiming that Good Times Entertainment had been packaging its videos – this time specifically its version of “Aladdin” – to resemble Disney’s own films, and that this caused confusion among consumers. Good Times Entertainment had released its own versions of “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” among other popular Disney films.

Judge Miriam Goldman Cederbaum ruled against Disney, arguing that a resemblance simply wasn’t enough unless all of Disney’s own packaging was distinctly uniform. In other words, unless each Disney film was packaged in a very specific way and that style was copied by Good Times Entertainment, Disney didn’t have enough proof to build its case.

So, in case you weren't playing along at home, we have “drafting” films filling the void for consumers in the Netflix streaming service, these films do not reproduce any semblance of core plot or character devices, and the court has previously ruled that without copying the packaging the “drafters” are in the clear. On top of that, the summary descriptions of these knock-off movies tell you flat out that if you're looking for the feature film from a studio like Disney you're in the wrong place. 

Remember all those tidbits I asked you to keep in mind? How these movies were “blatant knock-offs”? How including a non-association disclaimer in the summary was “an admission” that the film's marketing had been inspired by the feature film? Because, with that in mind, here's the conclusion the Forbes piece reaches:

And while the law may be on its side, there’s something unsettling about all these drafted films. Is it ethical to market your product in a way purposefully designed to confuse consumers?

Forgive me, but that's just completely wrong. You can't call something a “blatant knock-off” in one breath and worry about customer confusion in the other. Particularly when the first line in most of these films' summaries inform people to avoid such confusion. Indeed, many of the films in question are built off of Public Domain material, which often times might eliminate any need for such a disclaimer. As Joe Cayre, former President of Good Times Entertainment, an alleged “drafting” film studio, says:

“If [Disney] spent so much money to create a big to-do, what better time to put [Good Times' Aladdin] out? And it being a public-domain vehicle, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

I'd suggest the major studios dive back into streaming and compete with these “drafting” films rather than attempt any further litigation. Because customers are going to get some flavor of what they want. And, if the movie trailers are any indication, and if given a level choice, they'll pick the major studio's product most of the time for reasons of quality and brand. If they have a choice.

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Companies: good times entertainment, netflix

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Comments on “Netflix Provides 'Knock-offs' After Contract With Disney Ends”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I love that you guys think the solution is to devalue one’s own quality product? be afraid of cheap imitations? seriously? Does anyone think Kick Chop Panda will really compete with the actual “Kung Fu Panda”…

and BTW the law is Pro-Consumer when it comes to knock-offs so that consumers are not subject to fraudulent products.

anon says:


I can see Netflix refusing to provide the big studios content, where the studios demand to have there content available on Netflix and management tell them they will put there content up if they can get a 50% cut of all profits. LOl I would love to see the studios faces when this happened.

The studios have had the power to hold there content back to force businesses to pay more, but now the tide is changing, where studios will eventually be begging to get there content on Netflix, we might not be at that stage just now ,but I see the time coming in the not too distant future.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:


This should actually be scaring Disney. A 6 year old doesn’t care who made his/her cartoon, he/she just wants to watch it over and over. While I may be grown up and have some affinity toward the classic Disney characters, it’s because I was exposed to them in my youth.

If Disney opts out of streaming and the kids never get to see those films, because they don’t know to look for them on their own, then Disney may be pissing away an entire generation of fans. Good luck with that.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Most of these movies are crap

My kids watched that Kiara the Brave movie and said it was pretty crap. The movie isn’t even about the girl apparently. She is just a side character in the whole thing. The production company just named the movie after here to capitalize on Disney’s Brave. Not that it really matters though.

I laughed the first time I saw the cover art.

Jim L (profile) says:

Probably not gonna wise up until it's too late

I’ve been without cable for 3-1/2 years now.

Netflix and YouTube are not just showing knockoffs. There’s some really good top quality programming, from them and others, as well.

I have a hard time believing the studios will get streaming right on their own. Probably later, rather than sooner, the “big” content producers, both movie and TV, will be begging to get back in, at almost any price.

Anonymous Coward says:


The difference is that Walmart makes more money in a year than then the entire GNP of all but about a dozen countries, employs a lot more people, and drives a lot more money into the economy than the entertainment industry does.

While the entertainment industry does have a small amount of leverage in that entertainment products account for a much higher profit margin than most other products Walmart sells, the ball is still in mostly Walmart’s court if they wanted to do battle.

aeortiz (profile) says:

In Mexico, major studio films never got here to begin with

The studios have such a low regard for the Latin American audience, that they never offered good movies in Netflix to begin with.

I buy Blue Ray discs of movies I like, except when they’re ridiculously overpriced. So I generally wait a year or so after their release. Before that, I watch them in the movie theater and download them from torrent sites. I don’t feel guilty. I’m paying at least twice for them, and waiting over a year for them.

If they were offered at a normal price, 2 weeks after release, I’m sure their sales would go through the roof in Mexico.

I refuse to buy bad movies, pay for cable, or Netflix. I don’t want to encourage Hollywood to shoot itself in the foot any further.

Corwin (profile) says:

They're knockoffs.

Yes. Yes they are. Also, they’re evil. They capitalize on human idiocy, and result in children’s tears very literally.

The whole business model of those productions is to slap together any sort of video that’s long enough and package it in a way that resembles the packaging of better works enough to confuse idiot elders into buying them, believing they are the Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks movies.

What it says to anyone knowing enough is that NetFlix is now the bargain bin, and a possible target a lawsuit under whatever that dishonest practice is called in legalese.

Of course it’s completely moronic of the big producers not to distribute their content through Netflix. They’re trying to shut it down for the reasons we all know. So they’re cutting out their content supply, the clients of Netflix would be driven back to buying physical supports.

Of course, that’s not going to happen. So they’ll blame piracy, and push for Internet-killing laws. Again.

I want to see a billion-dollars group made of people who succeeded at creating movies by crowdfunding. It would be the Internet Film Academy, and deliver prizes to the best actors and movies and such, in a yearly webcast ceremony. Then it would spin-off the Internet Movie Pictures Association, lobbying in the whole world for the abolition of copyright by simply buying the laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

if the movie studios weren’t so damn greedy and cared more about customers, without whom, believe it or not, the business will fail, they would cater for those customers. as it is, everyone will lose. customers wont be able to watch the movies because Netflix cant show them because the movie industries want to charge outrageous amounts of money that no one is prepared to pay. this is, however, nothing new. in fact it is a continuation of the stupid attitude they have had for years and still have now. ‘if we cant make an extortionate amount of money, we will make nothing. at least like that we remain in control, but no one else makes anything either. the fact that we lose out is irrelevant! we can keep complaining to being skint so governments make new laws for us.’ how pathetic can you get?

Jeremy says:

There's a potentially large business opportunity here.

Disney pulled out of streaming. That’s not too different from how insane it would have been if Microsoft abandoned internet support at Windows 95.

Disney is making a horrible mistake here and creating a business opportunity for anyone willing to hire artists and render films on some cobbled-together render farm. All they have to do is produce something and offer it to Netflix. Why is this a good idea?

Because parents babysit their kids with movies. Netflix is something the kids can babysit themselves with, they don’t even have to understand how to put in a DVD now they can just push buttons. The market for kids films in streaming is going to be HUGE and Disney is abandoning it at it’s infancy.

Huge business opportunity, and a way to harm the evil that is Disney in a huge way. Who wants to start this up? It might be a ticket to a nice retirement from a bad economy.

Nick (profile) says:


I often find that non English speakers tend to spell things right, but the grammar structure is screwed up beyond recognition. Common misspellings like loose/lose and there/their/they’re are just lazy Americans most of the time. And they are always too proud to correct themselves when pointed out.

I am willing to concede if this is in fact a rare case of English-second-languageism, but I doubt it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


This is exactly the reason I don’t have a netflix subscription. Your favorite shows or movies may be yanked at any time.

But it’s hard to beat the combo of Netflix + Redbox.

You might take a peek at Netflix anyway. It’s cheap, and they do have a substantial library of shows & movies. That they aren’t always the latest or the most popular can be viewed as a good thing: there are tons of excellent older shows & movies just waiting to be discovered.

You just have to view this with the proper mindset. Netflix gives you more choice and persistence of content than cable does. Don’t think of Netflix as a replacement for your own video library, but as a better cable.

Anonymous Coward says:

There are a couple of issues here. First off, these movies do in fact play off of the original to try to make sales from people who are either not observant enough to know the difference, or are not selective enough (confused parent buys wrong video for kids, or grandparent buys useless video for kids).

Worse yet, this appears to be a truly bad more for Netflix. Talk about lowering the value of your brand. It’s bad enough that they cannot figure out a business model that includes the major studio released in these areas, but worse yet to whore yourselves out to these knock off artists, filling your shelves with low quality product.

Netflix appears to be positioning themselves as the leader in crap. That doesn’t seem like a good strategy at all.

Simple Mind (profile) says:


Well said, Mr Non-capitilizer.

NFLX should run their business as a profit-sharing scheme.

1. I = total income – NFLX operating costs
2. NFLX takes 25% of I as profit. P = 0.25 * I
3. the rest (I – P) is divided among among the content providers based on percentages of what NFLX users are watching.

This system is fair and everyone is rewarded for doing the “right” things. Content providers make more profit by providing more watched content. For NFLX it is easy to keep track of what everyone is actually watching. So take advantage of the technology.

The system they have now, where everything is fixed costs will never work. Every content provider thinks their content is the most-ut. So if they see NFLX making a bigger profit they demand a big fixed cost for their content. But NFLX can’t afford to pay all the content providers what they imagine they are worth. Open the books, NFLX. Share the profits fairly. Can’t argue with the actual numbers.

The one thing missing in this scheme is, how does NFLX set their costs to the customer. If some content provider’s profits are less than what they think they can make by cutting off NFLX to increase sales of DVDs this system fails. NFLX somehow has to balance the costs to the customers with the amount of profit going to the providers such that everybody is happy. Not sure how that gets done. But they have that same problem now in the wacky fixed-price non-workable system they are using.

Ninja (profile) says:

Disney's "admission"

Reminds me of my little 4-yr-old cousin when we put the DVD and there was that big ominous FBI warning that lasts forever for hyperactive kids (all of them):

“Cousin, is the movie broken? What is it saying?”

To which I replied:

“Yes sweetie, its DRMed and nothing important is written. But it’ll start in a few moments.”

She tilted her head and laughed when I poked her. I figure I’ll throughly educate her on the evils of DRM and copyright as it is today =D

Psyga Sanichigo (profile) says:

Disney should just make the Ultimate Collectors Boxset with every single Disney Movie currently made and be done with it. They’ll get their money from the obsessed, and people will be happy knowing that they just got every single Disney Movie.

But nope. We have to deal with bullshit like this that propagates piracy. My advice, Disney? Don’t come crying when you realize that this decision led to a boost in Bittorrent downloads or views of full length Disney movies on Youtube. You brought that shit on yourself.

LDoBe (profile) says:


It pisses me off when people screw up things like loose/lose and wear/where/were/ware. If you have something you think is important to say, then take an extra second or two to make sure you say it intelligibly.

It’s lazy and selfish not to use language correctly. It’s lazy because it’s easy, just read it out loud to yourself, and pay attention to your intention. It’s selfish because what would take a minute or so for the writer to do once makes everyone who tries to read their writing stumble trying to read it. Your saving a minute costs the collective hours when added up.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:


Oh my, wouldn’t that be delicious. In 2022 when Disney’s previous extension is finally running out, a Disney lobbyist will be trying to goad Congress into further protection of this treasured cultural icon. A skeptical freshman Representative will come to the floor and ask “What the frak is ‘Mickey Mouse’ and why are we wasting our time talking about it?”

Anonymous Coward says:

Crappy Movies

When Battle:Los Angeles was released on DVD awhile back I stopped in my local video store and rented a copy, went home and pushed Play.
About five minutes in I pushed stop!

I couldn’t believe that someone took the time to produce a piece of crap like this.
Then I looked again at the title and noticed it was Battle FOR Los Angeles not Battle:Los Angeles

Looking into it online I noticed it was produced by Asylum Studios and not Sony.

Asylum is owned by SyFy who is owned by NBC/Universal and the Battle for Los Angeles is a blatant knock off of Sony’s movie. I guess it’s OK for the studios to not only rip us off but apparently each other as well.(but don’t you dare try watching anything you didn’t pay for!)

To say the least, I was Pissed and I doubt they will give me back my 3 dollars.
However, in retaliation and as a public service, I ripped the movie and gave a copy to each of my family members and friends so they would know what not to purchase.
I like good quality movies and am willing to pay for them, and ,if you’re like me, you would do well to avoid Asylum.

But live and learn…it’s always buyer beware.
I try my best to avoid NBC/Universal and especially SyFy
But I doubt that my personal boycott of NBC/Universal will have any effect on their bottom line mainly because they don’t really give a rat’s ass.

All the Studios are much the same and their only interest is money.
But this is nothing new and it comes as no surprise that Disney did this,or that Netflix replaced Disney with inferior products…their listings are full of crap movies of all genres.

Disney is just postulating.They want more money for their products.Everybody does.Netflix is following suit, and they just want to pay less.Everybody Does.
They will settle this soon and all will be back to normal.
In the meantime the cheap and low quality knock offs will continue.
My biggest problems is with Netflix thinking it’s OK to stream crappy content and charge for it.I can find lots of crappy stuff to watch on youtube for free. Maybe your 3yr old likes it but mine doesn’t and neither do I.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


Netflix appears to be positioning themselves as the leader in crap.

Not having some of my money going to Disney is a selling point, not a drawback, for me. I don’t have to watch the crap in the Netflix catalog, just like I don’t have to watch the crap in the catalog of any given movie studio — and the 80/20 rule guarantees that most of any given catalog is crap.

Rekrul says:

Crappy Movies

Looking into it online I noticed it was produced by Asylum Studios and not Sony.

Ahh yes, Asylum Studios, makers of such fine films as;

The Day the Earth Stopped
American Battleship
Grimm’s Snow White
Almighty Thor
Titanic II
Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies
2012: Supernova
The Land That Time Forgot
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Universal Soldiers
The Hitchhiker
Snakes on a Train
The Da Vinci Treasure

And many other “mockbusters”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That reminds me...

How the heck do I keep ending up with movies like
“This Ain’t Avatar”
“This Ain’t Star Trek”
“This Ain’t Glee”
“This Ain’t Lady Gaga”
and the like? Then I have these other movies with titles that end in the Roman numeral for 30, like
“Star Wars XXX”
“Supergirl XXX”
“Batman XXX”
“Spider-Man XXX”
and so forth.

And I’m pretty sure the version of “Alice In Wonderland” I have isn’t Disney’s.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:


It’s lazy and selfish not to use language correctly. It’s lazy because it’s easy, just read it out loud to yourself, and pay attention to your intention. It’s selfish because what would take a minute or so for the writer to do once makes everyone who tries to read their writing stumble trying to read it. Your saving a minute costs the collective hours when added up.

Certainly when there isn’t an edit function for comments…I admit my only laziness when writing comments here is not using the preview button and carefully reading my response, but I always make at least one mistake even when I do sit down and preview my comment carefully. It is just part of human nature, and the reason why copy editors never review their own work and always turn it over to a colleague.

Even though I spent several years as a copy editor for a newspaper, I tend to ignore errors because it is usually so easy to understand what someone meant, especially when they use “their” instead of “they’re” or vice-versa. It almost seems like more work for me and my laziness to get upset and respond. I can’t understand someone who drops all communication simply because of an error.

Anonymous Coward says:

But what about the children!

Yeah, the subject is trollish but these studios need to stop and “think about the children”; the children of today will become the consumers of tomorrow… my kids are happy to watch one of these movies; to them, these movies aren’t related to Big Studio movies they’re apparently “drafting” these movies from (pardon if that’s improper usage, but I hope you get my meaning). Sure, they may play on the names of other movies or use the same name (minus a big studio name crammed on there)… From a child’s perspective, how’s that different that knowing two people who look similar and have the same names (… at least my kids “know” they are 2 different people).

Anyways… back to the point; my kids aren’t watching any of these movies because they thought they were Big Studio movies… my kids are watching it because it’s available for streaming. When my kids have to wait for entertainment (ie. wait for me to come back from Walmart), they’ll change their minds…
At some point, my kids will be making their own choices for how to consume entertainment… … since they’ve grown up with services like Netflix and Hulu, I expect they’ll have little interest in Big Studios that only offer ‘old school’ distribution for consumption.
My kids already influence our entertainment purchases… so there are already fewer purchases of goods and more spending on services.

Thanks for reading my long rambling post…

ShellMG (profile) says:

Disnet Vault

Sometimes they don’t come back out. I’m 46 years old and I’ve never seen “Song of the South.” We all know why.

As to those “Good Times” movie knockoffs…my elderly mother-in-law bought a few at the dollar store for my daughter when she was five. I think I watch more animated features and shows than my kids did, and I was absolutely mortified by the lack of quality. A plain Golden Book would’ve moved better. These things are cheap *for a reason*.

They went out with the next garage sale. My daughter didn’t miss them.

Hamranhansenhansen says:

Totally unethical ? will hurt the little guy, not Disney

There is no excuse for this at all.

This doesn’t hurt Disney, it hurts consumers and indie publishers who only have their creativity and that is all. Not the movies themselves ? make a movie about penguins if you want, but don’t impersonate another movie.

The judge was wrong. The fact that it is one movie or 1000 doesn’t matter. The artwork with ?BRAVE? was made to confuse the person who views it into thinking it is the movie they saw in the BRAVE trailer. The BRAVE logotype has hundreds of characteristics that make it MORE identifiable than a fingerprint or human face. The copy is an impersonation. That is its only purpose. TO DECEIVE. Not ethical.

It’s phishing, right? How is that not obvious?

And if I cannot see or am not shown the blurb, I will not see the tiny ?warning? buried within. Even many who see the blurb will miss that tiny message that does not belong there and does not have its own place in the metadata. In most contexts in Netflix, the viewer will not see that blurb. The menus show artwork with play buttons on them.

You don’t consult a judge about that, you consult an ethicist. And no, legal does not equal ethical, especially not legal-on-a-technicality.

This will not hurt Disney. They are essentially so rich and successful, they cannot be hurt. This will hurt the little guy, small studios and individuals who have a single creative product they all spent 10 years of their lives on, and they get for example booted out of Netflix and replaced with a cheaper clone, or booted out of Netflix and replaced with a same-price clone from a big studio, or a better-connected studio. And it hurts the consumer who is being deliberately deceived.

Also, this leads to a situation where all foreign movies showing in the US could be US-made movies with copied box art, shutting out foreign movies and making something like The Artist into just a trend in box packaging. It is insanity.

Carry this into music ? should an innocent listener using any kind of jukebox system (iTunes, Spotify, whatever) really be looking at a menu populated with some real album artwork and some fake artwork that is pretending to be another, more famous album? Do you want to see 45 copies of Led Zeppelin 4 in that menu, each subtly different? Do you want to be listening to a system like that at a party and Led Zeppelin 4 comes on but it is a badly-recorded Zeppelin tribute band from Brazil? How would you feel if you lost half your traffic to techdirt.co, which just ?happens? to look the same? How do you compete with that if the viewer THINKS THERE IS ONLY ONE SITE? You cannot do it, and I cannot ? Disney probably could. If Disney buys techdirt.co you are toast. They will just outspend you until you shutter the site because half the comments are people asking you why you stole your site from Disney.

Netflix has already shown a lack of ethics on many occasions. They still do pop-up ads, via system that defeats pop-up blockers. This is going to make it really hard for Netflix to talk to producers.

And BTW, I love how if somebody innocently copies their CSS file, tech nerds go on an all-Internet witch hunt, with CSI-type forensics, but the logotype of a movie is copied in order to deliberately deceive everyone who views it, to phish every viewer of it, and that is not only OK, that is progress to some people.

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