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?