Artist's Heirs Claim Viacom Owes Millions for 'Little Bill' Cartoons
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Viacom, MTV and Nickelodeon used Hollywood accounting to defraud African-American artist Varnette Honeywood's estate of millions of dollars of residuals for her work on the "Little Bill" cartoon series, based on books by (nonparty) Bill Cosby, Honeywood's heirs claim in court.
The Varnette Patricia Honeywood Revocable Living Trust sued Viacom, its subsidiaries MTV Networks, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Games Productions Inc. and New Games Productions, in Superior Court.
Honeywood, who died in 2010, created the original art for the "Little Bill" series, which the defendants exploited, "but failed and continue to pay substantial 'residual' compensation due" to the trust, the complaint states.
"Substantial" indeed: According to the lawsuit, under the original, 1998 agreement, the defendants owe the estate $520,000 a year just for the Los Angeles-area broadcasts of "Little Bill."
The defendants broadcast at least four "Little Bill" shows a day on the Nick Jr. Network, for which they owe $500 per episode: "at least $2,000 per day, five days a week, or $10,000 per week, or $520,000 per year, just for these known daily broadcasts," the complaint states.
They also broadcast the show twice a day on weekends in Los Angeles - another $104,000 a year - and show it "through a vast, worldwide group of distribution channels," according to the complaint.
Money owed comes to "millions of dollars," the estate claims.
It demands an accounting, money owed plus interest, and damages for fraud and breach of contract. The estate is represented by Robert Torres with The Cochran Firm.
Plaintiffs include Honeywood heirs Joyce Faye Allen, individually and as trustee of the Trust, Jennell Allen and Carolyn Roper.