A Los Angeles jury has given DreamWorks Animation the benefit of the doubt in a major lawsuit by a man who claimed the studio stole his idea for the successful Kung Fu Pandafranchise.
Self-professed “writer-producer-teacher-philospher” Terence Dunn, who was chief executive officer of Zen-Bear Inc., sued in June 2010 for breach of an implied contract. He charged that in November 2001, he submitted the concept of a “spiritual kung-fu fighting panda bear” to a DreamWorks executive, expecting that any resulting film project would include him.
Dunn claimed at one point that he deserved a percentage of the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from the films. Starring the voice of Jack Black, the first KFP film grossed over $630 million worldwide in 2008. The successful sequel Kung Fu Panda 2 was released May 26 this year.
According to Dunn’s suit, he spoke with the studio several times before it turned down his pitch. Instead, DWA started working with screenwriters Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris on its “substantially similar” Kung Fu Panda movie in 2002.
Dunn claimed that that his kung-fu fighting bear was “adopted by five animal friends in the forest (a tiger, a leopard, a dragon, a snake and a crane), whose destiny is foretold by an old and wise sage, Turquoise Tortoise, and who comes of age and fulfills his destiny as a martial arts hero and spiritual avatar.”
At DreamWorks’ request, the discussion of damages was restricted from public view.
Eventually, the case was subject to a two-week jury trial, featuring testimony from DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.
In a verdict that took about three days to reach, jurors ruled that DWA didn’t use Dunn’s ideas, so there was no question of damages.
“We intend to appeal this decision. We feel quite confident in the appeal,” said Theresa Macellaro, one of the attorneys for Dunn
“We are pleased with the decision of the jury, which supports our position that this was a baseless lawsuit,” DWA commented in a statement.
Kung Fu Panda is the subject of another lawsuit against DWA. In February, artist Jayme Gordon alleged that the studio and distributor Paramount copied the artwork for the film from “Kung Fu Panda Power,” the collective title for Gordon’s copyrighted works.