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DreamWorks sued for using Kung Fu Panda idea

Hollywood Reporter is reporting that DreamWorks Animation has been sued by a gentleman who claims he pitched a “spiritual kung-fu fighting panda bear” to the studio in 2001 and that the studio passed on the idea only to later create the movie Kung Fun Panda with Jack Black.

From the story, it appears the case is in the beginning stages, but that Terence Dunn, who is bringing the suit, has won a small but important early legal victory

Lawyers for both sides were in court on Thursday arguing a small but key issue. One of the challenges from the plainitiff’s perspective in these idea submission cases is that you don’t really know how much the damages are until you look at the studio’s books. The studios, obviously, don’t want that to happen, or at least they want to make you jump through hoops and spend a lot of money on lawyers to make that happen. So, like many corporate defendants in Hollywood lawsuits, DWA lawyers at Loeb & Loeb filed a motion to split (or “bifurcate”) the case into separate phases of liability and damages. That would have forced Dunn to prove he was owed money before he even got to delve into the books to figure out how much that might be.

But Judge Joanne O’Donnell has issued a tentative ruling shutting down the DWA strategy and denying the motion.

Community Comments

#1 Mike Peterson
@ 4:25 am

Art Buchwald successfully sued Paramount for cutting him out of “Coming to America,” but he was a lot farther along in the process before they disappeared him — had an option and had worked with them in developing a script. If this guy can only say that he sent in a treatment, it’s going to be tougher and will likely revolve around proving they actually saw it.

Still, a panda is an obscure enough animal that it would be hard to claim they each thought of it independently. This should be interesting.

#2 Frank White
@ 5:26 am

Kung Fu Pandas……..Ninja Turtles…….Samurai Penguins….it’s all the same idea really used over and over again just different animals……

#3 Rich Diesslin
@ 11:19 am

No way, my TaeKwonDo Toads are totally unique … (or will be now if anyone makes a profitable movie). Seriously though, time will tell if this guy has a case (or good lawyers or both).

I heard once that the whole Lion King thing was based on a Japanese storyline. Moving to non-animated movies that the Magnificent Seven was based on a prior movie called the 7th Samurai. A lot of ideas get repeated, sometimes easier than others to tell if they are ripping one off or just telling a similar tale.

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