In a complaint filed on Monday in Los Angeles federal court, Denise Daniels said the animated film, featuring color-coded characters representing individual human emotions, mirrors a children’s program called “The Moodsters” that she conceived and pitched to Disney every year from 2005 to 2009.
Daniels, who lives in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area and has appeared on TV shows including “Today” and “Oprah,” said she had an “implied-in-fact” contract with Disney requiring that she be paid from box office, DVD, Blu-Ray, iTunes and merchandise revenue from “Inside Out.”
The film has grossed more than $850 million worldwide since its June 2015 release. Daniels said this “extreme success” was not possible without her work, and that Disney should pay her because it is “custom and common in the entertainment industry.”
Disney did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment. Ronald Schutz, a lawyer for Daniels declined to comment. Daniels, in her early 60s, was unavailable to comment.
The lawsuit is at least the second in three months accusing Disney of stealing a concept for a blockbuster film.
In March, the Hollywood screenwriter Gary Goldman, whose credits include the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Total Recall,” sued Disney for allegedly copying its Oscar-winning animated film “Zootopia” from his work.
“Inside Out” follows 11-year-old Riley, voiced by Kaitlyn Dias, as she tries to cope with her family’s move to San Francisco from Minnesota.
It also shows her dealing with personifications of five emotions: Joy (yellow), Sadness (blue), Fear (purple), Anger (red) and Disgust (green), voiced by Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling.
Daniels said this resembled “The Moodsters,” in which characters also had assigned colors: Happiness (yellow), Sadness (blue), Fear (green), Anger (red) and Love (pink).
According to her complaint, “Inside Out” director Pete Docter, former Disney Chief Financial Officer Thomas Staggs and several other Disney executives “had access” to her pitch.
No individuals were named as defendants.
In the “Zootopia” case, Disney has denied wrongdoing and asked a federal judge to dismiss Goldman’s complaint.
The Daniels case is Daniels v. Walt Disney Co et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 17-04527. The Goldman case is Esplanade Productions Inc v. Walt Disney Co et al in the same court, No. 17-02185.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)