The BLOGFlume—All Aboard!

Lots of Disney news, and an interesting development in Ohio.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: February 16, 2005 at 7:36 PM

Disney Under Fire
Boston Herald 2/15/05 2/16/05

Two big allegations are being fired at Disney regarding two of their most popular movies of the past 5 years. Firstly, the soon-to-be-filmed sequel to the Disney/Bruckheimer blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean is under fire for its portrayal of Carib people in the script. The Caribs in the script are shown as a savage and cannibalistic people, which is not the way the chief of a modern Carib tribe believes his ancestors lived in the time period depicted in the movie. History shows the Caribs as the most dominant people of the region prior to the arrival of the Europeans, and others often referred to them as an aggressive and war-like race. However, there doesn’t appear to be any written history to support the portrayal in the script. A tribal chief has requested that the script be re-worked to paint the ancestral Carib people in a more positive light, but the film is set to begin filming in the Dominican Republic in April of this year. While writers should have the right to artistic license, if an entire group of people comes forward with a gripe about their portrayal in a movie, the writers should try to accommodate them if it is possible without ruining the plot. I have not read the script to see how these people are being portrayed in the sequel, but I can tell you if something like this happened with Native Americans, the production would have been shut down the minute this detail was made public.

In another case of people being angry with Disney, Dennis G. Sternberg of Allenhurst, NJ believes that the 2nd highest grossing animated film of all time, Finding Nemo, was all his idea. In 1991, Mr. Sternberg wrote a children’s story called “Peanut Butter the Jelly Fish” which closely parallels the story of Finding Nemo. However, Sternberg submitted an illustrated manuscript and spoke with Disney and Pixar representatives about his story. In 1996, a Disney vice president told Sternberg that while his story had “great potential,” it was not in line to be made into a movie. Fast forward to 7 years later and Mr. Sternberg saw a trailer for a movie from Disney/Pixar that looked an awful lot like his story. Seems like pretty good grounds for a lawsuit to me, except for the fact that Sternberg signed a waiver. The waiver, which he signed prior to submitting his manuscript to Disney, entitles him to $500 if he were to ever claim that his material were ever used without his permission. Sternberg seems to think that the court should ignore this waiver and consider forcing Disney/Pixar to part with some of the $340 million that Finding Nemo made at the box office. What is incredibly ironic about this story is that in Finding Nemo, Nemo and his father live in a dentist’s office, and I bet you can guess the profession of Mr. Sternberg…Yes, he’s a dentist who is fond of scuba diving, pretty fishy.

No More Rent-A-Cops
News 2/11/05

Here’s something I’m surprised hasn’t happened already. The Ohio legislature is considering a bill that would allow large theme parks to form their own police departments. The bill was initiated at the request of Geauga Lake and Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora, Ohio, but would also apply to other large parks in the state like Paramount’s Kings Island. The idea of in-park police seems sound, as there would be an imposing presence in the park at all times that could arrest and/or detain people immediately for unlawful behavior. However, the ACLU and other civil liberties activists would likely throw a fit over a place where line cutting would be treated as seriously as shoplifting. With more and more people pushing the limits of the law in theme parks by continuously ignoring posted rules and signs, an increased security presence is truly needed. If this law is passed though, the parks who choose to form their own police departments need to tread lightly and not turn policing their own parks into martial law.

Book Now
Orlando Sentinel 2/16/05

For those of us who have nothing else to do on September 12, 2005, you can now officially reserve a room in one of the two Hong Kong Disneyland hotels for its grand opening day. For a Disney hotel room, the rates are rather reasonable, starting at $205 per night at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, which looks more like the Grand Floridian than anything you would ever find in China, and $128 at the Hollywood Hotel. The only catch is that it might bankrupt you to pay for airfare to get to Hong Kong to have an experience that looks to be about the same that you can get in Florida or California. While I think it’s good for Disney to branch out and expand its theme park operations around the world, they have to take into consideration the local experience, and not rely on tourists to fill a theme park. They should have learned that when they built EuroDisney, but from what I’ve seen of HKDL, the park does not appear to have anything that would make it uniquely Chinese. Disney is expecting an annual attendance of 5.6 million in its first year, but I think the charm may wear off quickly if the park is unable to find its own identity.

Readers' Opinions

From Derek Potter on February 16, 2005 at 7:43 PM
Cedar Point has it's own police force, and it seems to work out well for them. Having a dedicated force for Geauga Lake would do well to help them out the park is pretty much split between two municipalities. That being said, it could also be difficult to pass because of that. It would work provided parks have the proper management to operate the force, but giving a privately owned business police powers is a touchy thing no matter who the business is. Disney's force sure has had it's share of scrutiny over the years.

What's with Disney ripping off other peoples stories? These allegations have not been proven, but something seems fishy (no pun intended). I know that Hollywood consists of people "borrowing", but Disney has more than it's fair share of accusations against them. It would be pretty sad to think that Disney ripped off two of their biggest movies ever.

From melissa faulkner on February 16, 2005 at 7:50 PM
No, Nemo and his father don't live in a dentist office. They live on a reef. Nemo is caught by the dentist and taken to his office.
From Anthony Murphy on February 16, 2005 at 11:12 PM
This may sound mean, but I think they are trying to get money off of Disney. The Finding Nemo was created by somebody from Pixar. I am pretty sure that there are many "little fish gets lost" stories.
From Robert OGrosky on February 17, 2005 at 12:03 PM
I think the lawsuit for compensation is more BS, someone looking for money.
As for the tribe being upset, more stupidity. As i read somewhere else, this isnt a movie based on history, but a fanatsy film with pirates and cannibals that didnt exist and arent claimed to exist!!!!
This tribe needs to get a life and complain about something usefull rath than useless.
From Fernando Duque on February 17, 2005 at 1:54 PM
The whole copyrights issue has gotten way out of hand. All works of fiction are derivative. Anyone trying to claim their work is original is either naive or a scam artist.
From Matt E on February 17, 2005 at 2:46 PM
I thought Pixar wrote Nemo (?). If not, wouldn't they be a little more concerned that their great track record will become history once they part with Disney (in other words, Disney isn't helping THAT much with their story creations, right?)? I know Disney is their partner and as such must take on the blame, but can one techinically "blame" Disney creative types for stealing the idea here? Anyway, I think its just another guy trying to make some cash and it'll probably been thrown out. Either way, wasn't there some guy in Europe who tried this already, claiming Disney/Pixar stole the idea from Nemo from him (which has already been dismissed)? Hard to believe so many people out there have such a similar story, lol.
From Justin Smith on February 17, 2005 at 2:59 PM
There was another lawsuit by a French author about a clownfish story so there are probably alot of fish get lost stories. As for the Pirates movie I hope they can take it out so they don't have ridiculous lawsuits.
From Michael Patalano on February 17, 2005 at 4:13 PM
I'm glad Disney is seperating from Pixar. These things are so unfair for Disney. If anything bad happens Disney gets the blame. However, when something good happens...Pixar did it. Is that fair? Either they both get equal blame/credit, or Pixar should get sued for these type of things.


From J. Dana on February 17, 2005 at 10:44 PM
For the record, Steve Jobs has now publicly stated that he's waiting to see who Eisner's replacement is before he decides who to partner Pixar with. In other words, Pixar ain't yet seperated from Disney...and I doubt they will be.
From Joe Lane on February 18, 2005 at 6:00 PM
For as many things "wrong" that Disney has done in the past decade, I'm actually starting to feel frustrated that these people have decided they have the legal grounds to tie up our judicial system with outstanding lawsuits. One person does it and everybody suddenly feels like they've got some case.

Regarding PotC, there's such an extreme focus on 'political correctness' that it's beginning to smother creativity (I'm surprised an organization for people who had pirates as ancestors hasn't formed to get some sort of monetary compensation from Disney). Of course, we've seen this type of PC attack on the original attraction, when a women's rights group took action against depictions of pirates chasing women.

This is all REALLY getting out of hand--people need some real hobbies.

From Ben Mills on February 18, 2005 at 6:28 PM
Hobbies like enthusing over theme parks. We've been the nerdy majority for way too long now... it's time people gave up their obsessions with cars and sports and joined the roller coaster dork community!

Or not.

From SpaceMt Fan on February 21, 2005 at 8:07 AM
I am afraid that we will continue to see more and more ownership and "copyright" infringement lawsuits in the future. We (collectively as a society) are reaching a point where original ideas are getting harder to come by due to better records keeping and the ever lengthening copyright terms.

Music has a mathematical limit, and as such, eventually someone will come across a sequence of notes that will mirror a previous piece of work. I recall back in 1997 when the Rolling Stones paid an unsolicited royalty to K. D. Lang for the use of a melody sequence that was common in both "Constant Craving" and "Anyone Seen My Baby". The Stones didn't "steal" the melody, but admitted that the coincidence was close enough to warrant compensation.

While fiction stories are not mathematically bound, writers of stories are influenced by their daily experiences. The accuracy of retained records, and the prevalence of the Internet means that more people are subject to viewing and being influenced by the same event. Eventually, multiple authors around the world will scribe a common storyline and claim it original. The fact is, the idea is original in all eyes but the legal system, and the person who makes it to the copyright office first is the one who is going to win the race to rights.

From Kevin Baxter on February 26, 2005 at 6:00 PM
If someone has the same basic story, yeah, that's just something that's going to happen in a world with millions of creative people. It's the details where you find out whether theft happened or not (which happens quite a bit when Hollywood is involved). Sternberg is a scuba-diving dentist, people! That fact was featured in his story. He had a fish named Nimo!!! He had turtles traveling via Gulf Stream currents!! AND he has that waiver, as well as many phone calls from Disney higher-ups, including a vice-president.

I don't think there is any doubt Pixar got the idea from his story. Disney probably won't even deny it much, since they have that waiver. Obviously, if they did use his story, then the man deserves far more than $500, but he was seriously moronic for having signed that waiver in the first place. $500 IN CASE we use your story??? That was a license to steal. So basically the case will come down to whether that waiver is legally binding or not.

And SHAME on everyone who just immediately assumed Disney was blameless here without finding out the truth. Typical Americans.

From Tim Hillman on February 28, 2005 at 6:36 AM
Take it easy on us typical Americans, Kevin. In our society there is usually a presumption of innocence. After all, we’re the folks who believe that OJ is searching hard for the real killer on those golf courses in Florida, Bill Clinton never had sex with that woman, and Michael Jackson has never had plastic surgery or skin lightening.

I believe Disney is innocent. Don’t you? ;-)

By the way, welcome back. I missed the edgy attitude.

From TH Creative on March 1, 2005 at 8:09 AM
Mr. Baxter Writes: "Obviously, if they did use his story, then the man deserves far more than $500, but he was seriously moronic for having signed that waiver in the first place."

I Respond: Of course if he did not sign the waiver Disney would not have read his story..