A Minnesota woman has filed suit against The Walt Disney Company and Pixar for breach of implied-in-fact-contract, claiming the companies took her idea of emotion and color-based characters and used it in their blockbuster hit “Inside Out.”
Denise Daniels is a nationally recognized for her work to “help children better manage and deal with their emotions,” according to the lawsuit.
In doing so, Daniels and a team of four, developed “The Moodsters,” which is a cast of five characters who live “deep down inside every child.”
The lawsuit states that every year between 2005 to 2009, Daniels and her team pitched their characters and curriculum to people to Disney-Pixar.
One of those points of contact was Pete Docter, the Minnesota-native who directed “Inside Out.”
The ideas were disclosed, “with the understanding, as is custom in the entertainment and motion picture industry, that Daniels would be compensated if Disney-Pixar used the idea. Disney-Pixar accepted these disclosures under these circumstances.”
Her characters were “anthropromorphus figures with human characteristics, including body, language, voice, and facial expressions,” representing the following emotions: happiness (yellow), sadness (blue), anger (red), love (pink) and fear (green).
The plot and color coordination of the characters in “The Moodsters” is closely followed with the film “Inside Out,” but Daniels did not receive credit for her idea or compensation, the lawsuit alleges.
The characters in “Inside Out” are named: Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).
“Inside Out” was released in June 2015 and goes inside the brain of an 11-year-old who moves from Minnesota to California.
The production budget for the film was $170 million, and Disney-Pixar generated a gross revenue of $1.2 billion for the film, the lawsuit states. The film has also raked in more than $100 million in DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming and downloads.
The lawsuit states: “One reason Inside Out is considered so novel, creative, and inventive is because Disney-Pixar had never before released a movie that anthropromophized emotions,” and it notes one reviewer called the film “inventive.”
Yet, Daniels maintains that she is the “exclusive owner” of the original ideas, and Disney-Pixar continues to profit from those ideas through merchandising and other means.