SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge rejected Disney’s bid to toss a copyright lawsuit over similarities between an animator’s short film and the trailer for the hit film “Frozen.”
The lawsuit, filed by animator Kelly Wilson in March 2014, says Disney’s teaser trailer was substantially similar to her 2-D animated short “The Snowman.”
Disney failed to get the motion dismissed last August.
Last month, Disney asked U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria to rule in its favor on summary judgment.
Wilson “has not a shred of evidence that anyone involved with the ‘Frozen’ teaser trailer knew of ‘The Snowman’ – much less than anyone had the opportunity to see it – before completing the teaser trailer,” the company said.
But in his latest order, Chhabria noted that “the connection between ‘The Snowman’ and people involved in creating the ‘Frozen’ trailer is fairly close.”
“The Snowman” was screened at the 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival several times with another film which was created by employees of Disney subsidiary Pixar, Chhabria wrote. What’s more, a producer for the Pixar film works with John Lasseter, who was instrumental in creating the “Frozen” trailer.
The film festival connection is “sufficient on its own to create a genuine issue of material fact on the issue of access,” the judge ruled.
He saw another connection too: Wilson and her co-creator applied for jobs at Disney and Pixar using images or references to “The Snowman,” Chhabria wrote.
But the judge also denied Wilson’s motion for summary judgment. Wilson had argued that emails between Disney employees described “The Snowman” and the “Frozen” trailer as “strikingly similar.”
The judge said that the Disney employee seems to have been using the term “strikingly similar” as a layperson, and not in the way the term would be used under copyright law.
“A reasonable jury could go either way on whether the ‘Frozen’ trailer and ‘The Snowman’ are ‘strikingly similar,’ which by definition prevents a finding that they are ‘strikingly similar’ as a matter of law,” Chhabria ruled.
Wilson’s attorney J.A. Ted Baer declined to comment on the ruling. Disney attorney Kelly Klaus, of Munger Tolles & Olson in San Francisco could not be reached by deadline.
A jury trial is tentatively set for the end of October.
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