Company Owning 'Evel Knievel' Rights Sues Disney Over 'Toy Story 4' Amalgam Parody Character

from the caboom dept

Evel Knievel, it seems, is as litigious in death as he was in life. The famed motorcycle stuntman found his way into our pages previously, having mistaken common modern parlance for defamation and for once suing AOL of all companies because its search engine could be used to get to a Kanye West video. And, while Knievel passed away in 2007, the lawsuits keep coming.

A company called K&K Promotions has sued Disney over the depiction of a character in Toy Story 4.

If the “Toy Story 4” character Duke Caboom reminded you of Evel Knievel, you’re not alone — the folks in charge of his image and likeness thought so too … and now they’re suing.

A company called K&K Promotions just filed suit against Disney, Pixar and whole a bunch of their subsidiaries … claiming the stuntman driver toy that Keanu Reeves voiced in the latest ‘Toy Story’ flick is a clear and obvious rip-off of the legendary American motorcycle daredevil.

The suit itself (embedded below) goes into Evel’s life story, details the rights K&K has to his trademarks and likeness, reminds the court that an Evel Knievel motorcycle toy was created decades ago, and culminates in asserting that Disney’s character has infringed on those trademark and likeness rights. There is also the assertion that Disney asked the film’s cast members not to compare characters to the trademarks of others’ when doing media hits.

Below is some footage of Duke Caboom from the film.

Now, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Does Duke Caboom conjure to the mind the memory of Evel Knievel? Yes, it most certainly does! Have folks from Disney actually said that Knievel was part of the inspiration behind the character? As the lawsuit itself points out: uh huh! Producers Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera have indicated that the stuntmen from the 70s were absolutely the inspiring force behind Caboom, with the latter going so far as to state that the character was built as “a stuntman evocative of Evel Knievel’s era.”

So does that make this character infringing on K&K’s trademark and likeness rights?

Well, no, probably not. After all, there are marked differences between the characters, such as the country of their origin, the exact makeup of their outfits, what their personages look like in appearance, and so on. It’s also worth highlighting the “era” in the Rivera quote, because Evel Knievel was merely the most famous of a series of motorcycle stuntmen in the 70s and 80s. And those stuntmen often had similar routines, motorcycles, and outfits. Dale Buggins is an example of this.

In fact, this all brings to mind Lindsay Lohan’s attempt to sue over a Grand Theft Auto character, in that the character was actually an amalgam of tropes for famous Hollywood celebrities. She lost her case for that reason. Here, too, we have a character that is not specifically an Evel Knievel character, but rather an amalgam of motorcycle stuntmen tropes of which Knievel is the most famous. The assertion that Disney asked cast members to avoid getting the company in trouble by invoking the specific names of inspirational forces isn’t all that surprising either. Why would the company want to get sued over a cast member’s otherwise innocent comment, after all?

This could be a money grab, I suppose. But if it is, you really have to wonder if it’s the smartest play. Disney’s character, after all, probably caused a great many people to remember the era of motorcycle stuntmen for the first time in a long time, with Knievel coming along for the ride. Why not simply try to capitalize off of that?

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Companies: disney

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Comments on “Company Owning 'Evel Knievel' Rights Sues Disney Over 'Toy Story 4' Amalgam Parody Character”

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22 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Just feel that cultural growth...

Ah the wonders that are imaginary property laws, protecting the public from the heinous crime of referencing anything without paying out for the privilege, even when the reference is to someone dead, lest the people who own the rights have to get real gorram jobs that actually add something valuable to the world beyond billable hours for their lawyers.

dickeyrat says:

"Disney’s character, after all, probably caused a great many people to remember the era of motorcycle stuntmen for the first time in a long time, with Knievel coming along for the ride. Why not simply try to capitalize off of that?" Because Disney. under those circumstances, wouldn’t hesitate to sic its rabid, unprincipled stable of sheisters all over whomever dared to "capitalize", like a bevy of cheap suits (no pun intended). Who or what has Disney NOT ripped off? Very little. I’ve said it before: With the exception of the "Trump Organization", Disney is by far the very worst thing about Capitalism. (Unrelated news note: Disney has this week demanded that the State of California allow and sanction a full reopening of Disneyland, for which the cost to walk onto the grounds is around $200 per head. Hey, what’s a few more tens of thousands of Trump-Plague deaths among friends, losers and suckers?)

John85851 (profile) says:

A few points

First, did Disney try to get the likeness for Evel Knievel for Toy Story 4? Was it like getting the likeness for Barbie and the company said no, only for Disney to change the character to get around copyrights? (In that case, Barbie was removed from the original Toy Story and they used Bo Peep instead.)

And when was this lawsuit filed? If it was recently, why are they only suing now, when the movie was released last year? Did it really take this long for the case to bubble up and come to people’s attention?
Or did they wait until sales of DVD’s started to rack up and then they sued?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Jordan says:

Evel was a jerk and a failure

While Knievel was healing from injuries sustained from the Chicago jump, the book Evel Knievel on Tour was released. Written by Knievel’s promoter for the Snake River Canyon jump, Shelly Saltman, the book painted an unflattering picture of Knievel’s character, alleging that he abused his wife and kids and used drugs.

Knievel, with both arms still in casts, flew to California to confront Saltman, by then a VP at 20th Century Fox. Outside the studio commissary, one of Knievel’s friends grabbed Saltman and held him, while Knievel attacked him with an aluminum baseball bat, declaring, "I’m going to kill you!" According to a witness to the attack, Knievel struck repeated blows at Saltman’s head, with Saltman blocking the blows with his left arm. Saltman’s arm and wrist were shattered in several places before he fell to the ground unconscious. It took numerous surgeries and permanent metal plates in his arm for Saltman to regain the use of his arm.

Saltman’s book was withdrawn by the publisher after Knievel threatened to sue. Saltman later produced documents in both criminal and civil court that proved that, although Knievel claimed to have been insulted by statements in Saltman’s book, he and his lawyers had actually been given editorial access to the book and had approved and signed off on every word prior to its publication. On October 14, 1977, Knievel pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to three years’ probation and six months in county jail, during which he publicly flaunted his brief incarceration for the press.

After the assault of Saltman and time served in jail, Knievel lost his marketing endorsements and deals, including Harley-Davidson and Ideal Toys. He continued living as if he was one of the world’s wealthiest celebrities. With no income from jumping or sponsorship, Knievel eventually declared bankruptcy. In 1981, Saltman was awarded a $13 million judgment against Knievel in a civil trial, but he never received any money from either Knievel or Knievel’s estate.

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