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Grinchlike Disney Stole Movie Plot, Writers Say

ST. LOUIS (CN) - Three men claim Disney stole their idea for a heart-warming Christmas movie, "The Legend of Santa Paws."

Ray Hartner, Richard Kearney and Ed Corno say in their federal complaint that they came up with the idea for a "Santa Paws" movie in 1991.

The movie is about a gift dog for Santa Claus who saves Christmas from an evil villainess for all of the good children. The men say they copyrighted their work and started shopping the idea to moviemakers. They claim Disney expressed interest in the project in 2006, but it never got off the ground.

Disney released "Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws" in 2009 and "The Search for Santa Paws" in 2010. The plaintiffs say the movies copy much of their copyrighted work, down to the name of the dog and the villain.

"We understand Disney is investigating the matter," the plaintiffs' attorney Albert Watkins said in a statement.

"My clients feel strongly the investigation into the genesis of Santa Paws is something which should have been investigated by Disney and its posse of film making and distributing elves before they sucked in tens of millions of dollars in revenue."

The attorney added: "Santa knows who has been naughty and nice. It is my clients' position that Dickens could not have come up with a more Scrooge-like scenario.

"Why not just kick the crutch out from under Tiny Tim and sell it on eBay? It is my clients' genuine hope the true spirit of Christmas will prevail and the defendants will do the right thing for all who believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas."

The plaintiffs seek actual and punitive damages for copyright infringement, breach of fiduciary responsibility and conspiracy. Named as defendants are Disney, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Key Pix Productions and several individuals.

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