A Canadian producer has sued Disney and Pixar claiming they stole the concept for the animated feature “Inside Out” from a student film he made nearly two decades ago.
Damon Pourshian, the Toronto-based co-founder and creative director of production company Deviate, has sued Pixar, The Walt Disney Co. and a host of its subsidiaries, claiming their 2015 hit “Inside Out” infringed his copyrighted 2000 student film of the same name.
“The obvious and striking similarities between Mr. Pourshian’s and Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out extend from overarching themes to specific details, and they are far too numerous to be attributable to chance,” wrote Pourshian’s lawyers at Bunsow De Mory in Redwood City, California.
Representatives of Disney and Pixar didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
According to the complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Pourshian wrote the screenplay for his “Inside Out” in a screenwriting class at Sheridan College in the fall of 1999, then produced the film as part of a television production class’ capstone project the next semester.
Pourshian claims the film was “shown widely” at Sheridan and that the school is regarded as “the Harvard of Animation” and a feeder school for Disney and Pixar. “Disney/Pixar’s access to Mr. Pourshian’s work, combined with the obvious similarities Mr. Pourshian observed, led him to the conclusion that Disney/Pixar infringed his copyright in Inside Out,” Pourshian’s lawyers wrote.
Both Pourshian’s film and Pixar’s portray the interplay of the inner life of a child and the goings-on in the outside world. Both films depict internal conflict using five anthropomorphic internal characters working behind a control panel within the lead character. In Pourhian’s film the five characters are organs—Heart, Brain, Stomach, Colon and Bladder—and in Pixar’s they are emotions— Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness.
Pourshian claims the lead characters both face similar situations: quickly eating their cereal at breakfast, being put on the spot in class by their teacher asking questions, eating alone in the school lunchroom and being comforted by their mothers after a hard day.
The complaint also claims some of the characters in each film bear striking resemblance to one another. For instance, the complaint says Pourshian’s Brain and Disney/Pixar’s Fear are both “tightly-wound, ‘nerdy’ male characters that are both prone to panic and to consult lists, papers, and books as they confront questions and problems while working in the command center.”
Pourshian said he got unsolicited calls from classmates after the Pixar film debuted and that former students who were studying at Sheridan when his film was shown are credited on the Disney/Pixar film as animators or in other roles. He’s asking for a finding that his film has been infringed, profits attributable to the infringement and for a credit in the Disney/Pixar film.
Disney recently fended off a separate copyright challenge to its “Inside Out.” Child development expert Denise Daniels sued Disney last year, claiming the film bore a striking resemblance to a television project she developed called “The Moodsters.” But just last month, U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez of the Central District of California found that Daniels’ characters and ensemble lacked the “sufficiently delineated” characters and “consistent, widely identifiable traits” that warrant copyright protection.
Disney and Pixar were represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson in the prior case. Munger’s Glen Pomerantz didn’t respond to an email Tuesday.
Read the complaint: