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Woman claims Over the Hedge creators may have been influenced by her strip

Like clockwork, every time a successful movie comes out, someone comes out of the woodwork claiming that the movie idea was based on their earlier work and that the creators are plagiarists who are raking in money off of someone else’s idea.

According to Minnesota public radio, Moira Manion is a cartoonist from Minnesota who had a comic strip about a fox and a snake living on the edge of suburbia back in in the early 1990’s which was distributed through Argonaut Entertainment.  In 1995, when Argonaut went out of business, she unsuccessfully shopped the strip to other syndicates.  She ended up dropping the feature without a distributor.

But in early 1995, Manion’s syndicate, Argonaut Entertainment, went out of business. She pitched Franky & Ralph to the major syndicates and received only rejection letters. Despite the hand-written notes of encouragement in their margins, she decided to lay down Franky & Ralph temporarily to pursue other ideas.

A few months later, with her suburban streetwise fox and naive rattlesnake still fresh in her head, Manion ran across a notice in a newspaper trade magazine.

“It said that coming in October, United Feature Syndicate would be launching a new strip about a streetwise raccoon and a practical, naive turtle who lived in the suburbs because their woods had been destroyed by the suburbs,” Manion says.

It was her first notice of a strip called Over the Hedge. With the backing of the same syndicate that carries Peanuts and Dilbert, Over the Hedge grew over the next decade to reach readers in more than 200 daily newspapers. And this spring, its creators hit the jackpot of their trade.

The computer-animated movie “Over the Hedge” opened second at the U.S. box office, just behind “The Da Vinci Code.” After three weekends it remains at No. 3, and has pulled in more than $112 million.

Her lawyer told her it would be difficult to prove that T. Lewis and/or Michael Fry blatantly ripped off the idea and so she’s never pursued legal action.

The story does have a response from Lisa Klem Wilson, general manager of syndication for United Media.

Clarification: This post does not in anyway insinuate that the subject, Moira, claims or suggest that T. Lewis or Michael Fry stole her idea. This is a story really about similar ideas that occur frequently in the creative industry.

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Community Comments

#1 Monty Rohde
June/10/2006
@ 2:01 pm

Doubt the idea was plagiarized. It’s not exactly an origional theme or idea to begin with. Unless she can dig up strips that are the same nearly word for word she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

#2 Monty Rohde
June/10/2006
@ 8:01 am

Doubt the idea was plagiarized. It’s not exactly an origional theme or idea to begin with. Unless she can dig up strips that are the same nearly word for word she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

#3 Moira Manion
June/14/2006
@ 1:27 pm

Hello. I’m the cartoonist you’re speaking about.

Does the article or the interview say that I say that I was “ripped off?” No. Because I could not then nor can I now state or prove that the creators of “Over the Hedge” did so. With such a coincedence, consulting a Intellectual Property attorney was normal.

What I do state is an undisputable fact: “Franky & Ralph” was being read by over two million readers in the U.S. and Canada (according to Argonaut statistics in 1994) two years before “Over the Hedge” was in print.

The interview is how I honestly felt, which Minnesota Public Radio believed would speak to many who have been in similar situations, or who can imagine themselves in such a situation.

Moira Manion

#4 Moira Manion
June/14/2006
@ 7:27 am

Hello. I’m the cartoonist you’re speaking about.

Does the article or the interview say that I say that I was “ripped off?” No. Because I could not then nor can I now state or prove that the creators of “Over the Hedge” did so. With such a coincedence, consulting a Intellectual Property attorney was normal.

What I do state is an undisputable fact: “Franky & Ralph” was being read by over two million readers in the U.S. and Canada (according to Argonaut statistics in 1994) two years before “Over the Hedge” was in print.

The interview is how I honestly felt, which Minnesota Public Radio believed would speak to many who have been in similar situations, or who can imagine themselves in such a situation.

Moira Manion

#5 Moira Manion
June/14/2006
@ 1:29 pm

In addition:

Monty, if you listen and read to the interview, you’ll see that I am NOT seeking to sue. Fact-check before you make statements.

Moira Manion

#6 Moira Manion
June/14/2006
@ 7:29 am

In addition:

Monty, if you listen and read to the interview, you’ll see that I am NOT seeking to sue. Fact-check before you make statements.

Moira Manion

#7 Monty Rohde
June/16/2006
@ 1:05 pm

I?m sorry but the interview as posted on MPR really doesn?t state much of anything. Whenever you hear of someone having a ?similar idea? consulting a property rights lawyer it almost invariably means a lawsuit. This may not be the case most of the time, but it is what garners the most public attention in the media (i.e. Di Vinci Code, etc.). Hence it is logical to assume you were contemplating a lawsuit. Obviously, this is not the case because you have just stated such.
While I believe one should be as factually accurate as possible I am not trying to make an argument, nor am I trying to persuade anyone to my point of view. I merely made a casual comment on the situation as briefly perceived. While I can appreciate how you are defending your personal reputation, I will not fact check every informal opinion I express in less than a paragraph or every comment coming from my mouth. If you personally abide by that standard then I commend you.

#8 Monty Rohde
June/16/2006
@ 7:05 am

I?m sorry but the interview as posted on MPR really doesn?t state much of anything. Whenever you hear of someone having a ?similar idea? consulting a property rights lawyer it almost invariably means a lawsuit. This may not be the case most of the time, but it is what garners the most public attention in the media (i.e. Di Vinci Code, etc.). Hence it is logical to assume you were contemplating a lawsuit. Obviously, this is not the case because you have just stated such.
While I believe one should be as factually accurate as possible I am not trying to make an argument, nor am I trying to persuade anyone to my point of view. I merely made a casual comment on the situation as briefly perceived. While I can appreciate how you are defending your personal reputation, I will not fact check every informal opinion I express in less than a paragraph or every comment coming from my mouth. If you personally abide by that standard then I commend you.

#9 Moira
June/17/2006
@ 1:33 am

Apologies, Monty. I meant to direct that addition to “The Daily Cartoonist,” for not doing the fact-checking. The very title of the above article is false. Apparently “The Daily Cartoonist” didn’t feel the need to listen to the entire interview. Even without doing so, there is no place in the MPR article where I claim that the “Over the Hedge” creators stole my idea.

Moira Manion

#10 Moira
June/16/2006
@ 7:33 pm

Apologies, Monty. I meant to direct that addition to “The Daily Cartoonist,” for not doing the fact-checking. The very title of the above article is false. Apparently “The Daily Cartoonist” didn’t feel the need to listen to the entire interview. Even without doing so, there is no place in the MPR article where I claim that the “Over the Hedge” creators stole my idea.

Moira Manion

#11 Monty Rohde
June/17/2006
@ 3:44 am

It’s okay, I can understand why you’re upset. Cut the guy some slack, this is just basically a news blog of a former editorial cartoonist with a wife, three kids, and job. This is more of someone’s hobby than a professional site. It is however an easy place to find information, and what is written here can influence people’s opinions. The title was off, his interpretation was off, and I am assuming he acted in a way fairly similar to what I did. Skimmed and didn’t look too deep.

Um, Alan, though I have no place to request you doing so, I believe an apology is in order. The post is slanted and factually incorrect. It looks like your website is beginning to carry some weight.

#12 Monty Rohde
June/16/2006
@ 9:44 pm

It’s okay, I can understand why you’re upset. Cut the guy some slack, this is just basically a news blog of a former editorial cartoonist with a wife, three kids, and job. This is more of someone’s hobby than a professional site. It is however an easy place to find information, and what is written here can influence people’s opinions. The title was off, his interpretation was off, and I am assuming he acted in a way fairly similar to what I did. Skimmed and didn’t look too deep.

Um, Alan, though I have no place to request you doing so, I believe an apology is in order. The post is slanted and factually incorrect. It looks like your website is beginning to carry some weight.

#13 Alan
June/20/2006
@ 4:18 pm

Moira – As much as I try to conform to a higher standard for this blog, the postings are subject to my interpretation and bias. I apologize if I have caused additional angst – it was not the intent.

I’ll reword the headline and anything else that might be construed as “untrue” within the coming days.

Best of luck on your future endeavors. Please let me know if something newsworthy comes about so I can highlight it.

#14 Alan
June/20/2006
@ 10:18 am

Moira – As much as I try to conform to a higher standard for this blog, the postings are subject to my interpretation and bias. I apologize if I have caused additional angst – it was not the intent.

I’ll reword the headline and anything else that might be construed as “untrue” within the coming days.

Best of luck on your future endeavors. Please let me know if something newsworthy comes about so I can highlight it.

#15 Moira
June/24/2006
@ 2:45 pm

Alan,

Thank you. I take no offense. I just would not want “Over the Hedge’s” creators to believe I’m stalking them for a cut in their profits.

There are so many creative people who’ve seen ideas quite similar to theirs do well in the hands of others. (Case in point, Jane Yolen’s book “Wizard’s Hall,” which came out eight years before the Harry Potter books, and to which H-P is very similar.)

I wish you well in your work and endeavors.

Moira

#16 Moira
June/24/2006
@ 8:45 am

Alan,

Thank you. I take no offense. I just would not want “Over the Hedge’s” creators to believe I’m stalking them for a cut in their profits.

There are so many creative people who’ve seen ideas quite similar to theirs do well in the hands of others. (Case in point, Jane Yolen’s book “Wizard’s Hall,” which came out eight years before the Harry Potter books, and to which H-P is very similar.)

I wish you well in your work and endeavors.

Moira

#17 ken hamilton
March/14/2007
@ 4:01 am

i want to here from you, love ken.

#18 ken hamilton
March/13/2007
@ 10:01 pm

i want to here from you, love ken.

#19 chelsey
October/4/2007
@ 1:45 am

I DON’T KNOW YOUR COMIC STRIP I ONLY KNOW THE ORIGINAL OVER THE HEDGE THAT I’VE BEEN READING FOR 6 YEARS AND ALL OF THE OTHER COMIC STRIPS BUT NEVER YOURS

MICHAL FRY AND T LEWIS IS WHERE THEY GOT THERE INFLUENCE
FROM NOT ONE WITH A FOX AND SNAKE!! I AM SORRY BUT I WATCHED ON THE
DVD THAT THEY GOT THERE INSPIRATION FROM OTH COMIC STRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#20 chelsey
October/3/2007
@ 7:45 pm

I DON’T KNOW YOUR COMIC STRIP I ONLY KNOW THE ORIGINAL OVER THE HEDGE THAT I’VE BEEN READING FOR 6 YEARS AND ALL OF THE OTHER COMIC STRIPS BUT NEVER YOURS

MICHAL FRY AND T LEWIS IS WHERE THEY GOT THERE INFLUENCE
FROM NOT ONE WITH A FOX AND SNAKE!! I AM SORRY BUT I WATCHED ON THE
DVD THAT THEY GOT THERE INSPIRATION FROM OTH COMIC STRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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