Why Disney Is Being Sued Over ‘Toy Story 4’

One of the wisest financial decisions Disney ever made was to purchase Pixar outright in 2006. From 1995 until its acquisition by Disney, Pixar Animation Studios consistently released critically acclaimed box office hits. Now one of the studio’s Pixar-produced movies, 2019’s Toy Story 4, could be about to cost Disney a ton of cash.

Woody and Buzz Lightyear at Hong Kong Harbour City
Woody and Buzz Lightyear at Hong Kong Harbour City | Daniel Fung/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

‘Toy Story 4’ was one of 2019’s biggest hits

Following the 2010 release of Toy Story 3, few fans of Pixar’s signature franchise saw much need for another sequel. After all, the story of Woody and Buzz Lightyear — voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, respectively — had come to a close, right? As it turns out, Pixar found just the right angle to continue the story, if only for one more installment.

By bringing Bo Peep (Annie Potts) back into the picture, Toy Story 4 finds an unresolved story to tell with regards to Woody. And the resulting adventure proved to be yet another runaway success for Disney and Pixar. Like its predecessor, Toy Story 4 earned rave reviews, a Best Animated Feature Academy Award, and $1 billion at the global box office.

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Disney is getting sued over the film for a surprising reason

For the fourth installment in a beloved franchise, Toy Story 4 still found room for surprising characters like Duke Caboom. Voiced by Keanu Reeves, the character is a toy based on an Evel Knievel-inspired stuntman and daredevil. But apparently, the similarity to Knievel hit a bit too close to home. And Disney is facing an unspecified amount in damages.

According to TMZ (and sources like Bloomberg Law), K&K Promotions — which claims it owns the rights to Knievel’s “likeness, persona, and brand” — filed a lawsuit against Disney, Pixar, and their subsidiaries. The suit claims Disney did not secure approval for Duke Caboom, who — to be fair — does call to mind Knievel and his own licensed toy from the 1970s.

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What’s next for Disney and Pixar?

It will likely be a while before the battle of Duke Caboom shakes out. Considering Disney’s deep pockets, perhaps the studio will opt to settle out of court. Of course, this is purely speculation, as these sensitive legal matters can be unpredictable.

In the meantime, fans of Pixar movies won’t have long to wait for the studio’s latest release. Soul — Pixar’s second release of the year — remains scheduled to hit theaters on Nov. 20, 2020. Onward previously hit on-demand services in March and Disney+ shortly thereafter.