Bill Nye Could Actually Win the Lawsuit He Filed Against Disney

With science under assault too often nowadays, it’s great to see science superstars like Bill Nye still gain the respect of the public. He and Neil deGrasse Tyson are still educating people on how important science is to our lives, especially at a time when coronavirus is our biggest challenge.

While Nye has focused on things like global warming of late, let’s not forget he was a major pop culture presence for kids over 26 years ago. His Bill Nye the Science Guy debuted on The Disney Channel in 1993 and ran until 1998.

Since those days, the show generated millions in rerun and merchandise revenue. Nye once said Disney wasn’t paying him and the creative team the 50% royalties they were owed.

Now with a lawsuit about to go to trial, what are the chances he’ll win?

Bill Nye’s Disney lawsuit is 11 years in the making

Bill Nye on the red carpet
Bill Nye | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Leave it up to Nye’s sharp eye that led him to scope out he was being shorted residuals by Disney. Back in 2008, he reportedly found out he was responsible for paying back money to Disney due to an accounting error. When requesting an audit of the company, the Mouse House reportedly denied one.

Not until 2017 did Nye and the others involved in creating Bill Nye the Science Guy file a lawsuit against Disney. Due to the long waiting lists on litigation like this, it only took until now for an L.A. judge to decide it’ll go to trial.

A judge in California says a trial can go forward in May. Claims, however, will be limited out of the $28 million lawsuit. Out of that total, Nye says he’s owed $9 million in profits.

Taking on Disney legally is certainly not for the squeamish. Nye’s astuteness was able to prove even companies everyone thought were ethical can slip up and slight those involved in past projects.

Could Bill Nye win his lawsuit?

The dollar figures he has available and other evidence is fairly compelling, giving everyone a taste of how to be prepared for a lawsuit if taking on a major corporation. Thanks to his legal ammunition, he very well could win the lawsuit, which would probably be a first since Disney hasn’t lost many.

Past litigation against Disney has been primarily due to accidents that occurred in the theme parks. Many of those have been settled out of court for the cases involving undeniable, serious injuries.

In cases related to unpaid residuals, it’s not always so common. However, Disney has been honing in on limiting profit participation in their TV shows, likely to ward off lawsuits Nye filed. As with most Disney lawsuits, it’s likely Nye and Disney will settle out of court once the trial actually begins.

What happens with Disney and Nye if the latter wins is anyone’s guess. The original Bill Nye the Science Guy series still airs in syndication from time to time while his new show (Bill Nye Saves the World) airs on Netflix. Nye winning in court could set a precedent for others who’ve worked for Disney TV/movies and haven’t checked their residual checks lately.

Is it possible Disney has similar residual payment issues with other actors?

If something like this could happen Bill Nye, it could certainly happen to others at Disney or other studios. No doubt many who’ve done acting work for Disney as either voice actors or live-action actors will be checking in with their accountants to make sure their residuals have been up to par based on past contracts.

Residual payments have been a point of contention going back decades–and in the streaming era–when it comes to movie/TV studios. Unfortunately, far too many actors have probably ignored that they’re being cheated, only because they don’t want bad publicity suing a major studio (or the legal costs).

Now Nye can be a hero in this category as much as he is in continually reminding people we need to be paying attention to the scientists in troubling times.