Daniels v. Walt Disney Co.

958 F.3d 767 (2020)

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Daniels v. Walt Disney Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
958 F.3d 767 (2020)

Facts

In 2005, Denise Daniels (plaintiff), an expert on children’s emotional development, created a line of anthropomorphic characters called the Moodsters. The Moodsters were five color-coded characters, each representing a different emotion: pink—love, yellow—happiness, blue—sadness, red—anger, and green—fear. Daniels developed a television pilot featuring the Moodsters in 2007 and a line of toys and books that were sold at Target and other retailers beginning in 2015. The physical appearance of the Moodsters changed over time. In early iterations, they were insect-like with skinny bodies and tall antennae that glowed when a strong emotion was felt, and each Moodster was prone to a particular emotion. Later, they resembled small bears who wore detective hats and capes and were depicted as “mood detectives” helping a child discover his feelings about different situations. The characters had different names in different iterations. Daniels and her team pitched the Moodsters to various entertainment and toy companies, including the Walt Disney Company (Disney) (defendant) and Disney’s affiliate Pixar. In 2010, Pixar began development of the movie Inside Out, which was released in 2015 and was about an 11-year-old girl and five anthropomorphized emotions living inside her mind: joy, fear, sadness, disgust, and anger. The film’s director and co-writer, Pete Docter, said his inspiration was the way in which his daughter dealt with her emotions. Daniels sued Disney for copyright infringement. The district court granted Disney’s motion to dismiss, and Daniels appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McKeown, J.)

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