DWA wins suit over idea for “Kung Fu Panda” movies

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"Kung Fu Panda"

Kung Fu Panda”

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.

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About Mr. Clevland

MrClevland has been a cartoon fan since, well, infancy. He has been writing nearly that long. Opinionated, yes, but backed with a wealth of personal knowledge on the subject. You can give r. C a piece of your mind here.

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