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21.12.03

Disney (Allegedly) Making Money off Other People's Ideas?

I know it sounds preposterous, but there are charges that the big hit from Pixar Animation Studios this year, Finding Nemo, is actually an adaptation of someone else's work. Clarisse Fabre writes in an article (Le Nemo de Disney est-il la copie de Pierrot le poisson clown?, December 19) in Le Monde that French children's book author Franck Le Calvez has sued the Walt Disney Company and Pixar, claiming that Nemo is a shameless copy of his character Pierrot le poisson clown (Pierrot the Clown Fish), who appeared first in a book published in November 2002 by Flaven Scene, with illustrations by Robin Delpuech and Thierry Jagodzinski. Le Calvez is suing for the halt of sales showing the image of Nemo, because it infringes on his copyrighted Pierrot character, registered with the Institut national de la propriété industrielle on February 18, 2003, and protected beginning on January 4, 2004. He is also asking for damages. Judges in a civil court will hear the case in February 2004.

"Passionate" about clown fish and "worried" about their survival, Franck Le Calvez wrote a comic strip scenario, registered with the Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques (SACD) in December 1995: the little clown fish loses his father, who is eaten by a scorpion fish, and then is separated from his mother, whom he relocates at the end of the work. The student presented his work to production houses, who refused it. Having become a lawyer in maritime law, he financed the three-dimensional illustrations of his characters and registered them with the SACD in June 2002, with the idea of publishing a book. A new failure with publishers. So he created his own publishing house, Flaven Scene, and published 2,000 copies of his work—mostly distributed in Fnac stores in Paris and in the French National Aquariums.

"In Spring 2003," Mr. Le Calvez discovered Nemo, which was causing a stir in the United States. "There was a troubling resemblance between the two fish," he says. "The beginning of the story is similar, even if the scenarios are different." The second Pierrot volume appeared in October 2003, after the French opening of Nemo (Hachette). "So, Fnac Junior, which was supposed to distribute Pierrot, cancelled the order because of a marketing operation with Disney Hachette Productions," Mr. Le Calvez states. If the purchasing director of Fnac Junior, Laurent Turillon, admits to having had "two contacts, one year apart," with Flaven Scene, he responds that he "never ordered any Pierrot books or ran an operation with Disney Hachette Productions." The same denial from Disney: "The lawsuit planned in France is completely unfounded, because Finding Nemo, a work that belongs to Pixar and Disney, is the fruit of an independent creation and interferes with no copyright or author's work," explains the company's administration, which has hired five lawyers to handle the case. Mr. Le Calvez has three of his own.
Franck Le Calvez, Pierrot Le Poisson Clown, All Rights Reserved
Pierrot the Clown Fish
Still from Finding Nemo, Pixar Animation Studios, All Rights Reserved
Nemo
UPDATE:
See also this article (Un Français défend son poisson contre Disney [A Frenchman defends his fish against Disney], December 19) by Sophie Rostain in Libération.