LOS ANGELES (CN) – A California appeals court largely upheld a jury’s limited damage award of about $400,000 to Gary K. Wolf, author of the novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?,” but remanded
because the jury had incorrectly interpreted the term “purchaser” in Wolf’s contract with Disney.
Wolf’s book, published in 1981, created the fictional “Toontown,” where the characters Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit, Baby Herman and Eddie Valiant lived. Disney liked the idea and bought the rights to the novel in 1983, turning it into the popular 1988 film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
A royalty dispute ensured, with Wolf accusing Disney of underreporting profits from Roger Rabbit merchandise and sponsorship deals, and Disney counterclaiming that it had fully adhered to the contract and had actually overpaid Wolf.
A jury determined that Disney had underreported its gross receipts by more than $1.9 million, and awarded Wolf 5 percent of those profits, or about $98,000. It added another $80,000 in royalties from Roger Rabbit-based records, tapes and CDs, and $216,000 in royalties that Disney acknowledged having withheld.
Both parties appealed, and the appellate court rejected most of the arguments raised by Cry Wolf and Disney. It reversed the judgment only where it was impacted by the jury’s incorrect interpretation of the term “purchaser” in the 1983 contract. The jury had concluded that “purchaser” referred to Disney and its subsidiaries, rejecting Disney’s claim that the 1983 agreement bound only Walt Disney Productions.