Disney & Pixar have been handed a lawsuit accusing them of ripping off the idea for their 2015 animated movie, Inside Out.
In the suit, filed in federal court in California, child-development expert Denise Daniels says that the premise of the 2015 film — described in the suit as “the use of anthropomorphized emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust as individual characters within the head of an 11-year old girl” — was lifted from her own children’s program The Moodsters.
Daniels, who co-founded the National Childhood Grief Institute, says the idea was born after years of counseling children after tragedies including Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. It started with a workbook to help doctors work with pediatric patients using color-coded symbols for emotions, and with the help of a “high-profile and accomplished” team it eventually was developed into a pilot.
“Disney-Pixar was not the first to conceive of the idea of anthropomorphized, color-coded characters representing single emotions, as depicted in ‘Inside Out,’” the suit reads. “Daniels conceived of — and developed — a children’s program called The Moodsters. The Moodsters live ‘deep down inside every child,’ and featured five main characters. Each character is an animated, anthropomorphized figure representing a single emotion with a corresponding color, and specifically happiness (yellow), anger (red), sadness (blue), fear (green), and love (pink).”
“From 2005 through 2009, and every year in between, Daniels, along with her industry-leading team, approached and pitched Disney-Pixar to partner on a project relating to The Moodsters,” the suit adds.
According to the suit, Daniels conceived of the animated Moodsters project to “expand on her idea of using color-coded illustrations of emotions to help children with their social and emotional development.”
The project “aimed to help children identify, express, and manage their feelings in a healthy and developmentally appropriate way,” according to the complaint.
Daniels and her team shared information with “a number of different individuals” at Disney-Pixar, according to the suit, including then-Walt Disney Company CFO Thomas Staggs, who told Daniels that he had shared Moodsters material with then-Disney Channels Worldwide president Rich Ross.
“Daniels was aware and relied on customs and practices in the entertainment industry when she approached Disney-Pixar about a partnership,” the complaint reads. “Specifically, it is common and custom in the entertainment industry for creators to provide ideas and materials to producers and studios in exchange for compensation and credit if such ideas or materials are later used.”
However, the suit alleges, “Disney-Pixar has used Daniels’s idea as shown in The Moodsters … through the release and sale of ‘Inside Out,’ and the sale of ‘Inside Out’ merchandise” without compensating Daniels.
Alleging breach of implied-in-fact contract, the suit seeks unspecified damages.