Disney Fails on Attempt to Dismiss “Frozen” Teaser-Trailer Lawsuit

Federal Judge Vince Chhabria for the Northern District of California denied Disney’s attempt to dismiss a copyright lawsuit brought against it alleging ideas used in a teaser trailer for the hit film “Frozen” was stolen.

The lawsuit, brought by animator Kelly Wilson in March of 2014, claims the trailer was ripped off from her 2-D short film “The Snowman.”  Arguing the trailer has many similarities to the short film, Wilson must also prove that Disney was aware of it and had seen it.  Disney brought a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit claiming no one involved with the “Frozen” trailer knew of “The Snowman.”

Judge Chhabria denied the motion, however, finding that a jury will be needed to determine whether the similarities violate copyright.  Judge Chhabria relied on Wilson’s argument that “The Snowman” was screened multiple times at the 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival at which another film by many Pixar employees was screened.  Also, the Judge noted that Wilson sought employment at Disney and Pixar with her short film.

Wilson’s attempt for summary judgment was also denied.  She brought evidence of an email from a Disney employee calling the two videos strikingly similar.  The term “strikingly similar” was used in the layperson context, Judge Chhabria said, and is not dispositive of a copyright infringement.  The trial is expected to begin late October.

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