Did you see Toy Story 4? Even if you didn’t, since it was a major Disney/Pixar motion picture, you may know about Keanu Reeves’ film role as a toy based on Duke Caboom. In the movie, the actual human known as Caboom was a Canadian stuntman known for outrageous motorcycle stunts in the 1970s. This video introduces the character in a 30-second TV spot released by Pixar prior to the full-length film’s theatrical release.
Painfully obvious homage to real-life American stuntman Evel Knievel, or massive intellectual property ripoff? Knievel’s son, Kelly, alleges that it’s the latter. In September, 2020, his legal team filed a lawsuit against Disney, Pixar, and several commercial arms of the massive Empire of the Mouse regarding products and merchandising for the film.
In the suit, K & K Promotions Inc. alleges that Disney and Pixar purposely crafted Caboom to resemble Knievel, and knowingly infringed upon intellectual property rights associated with Evel Knievel. K & K is Kelly Knievel’s company, which says that it owns all intellectual property rights associated with his father. The suit was filed in Las Vegas, Nevada, where K & K is based.
K & K also claims that Disney and Pixar issued its Toy Story 4 stars explicit directives to avoid mentioning Knievel by name. You can read the full complaint here, which contains a comparison to the character of Forky (who is voiced by Tony Hale). Even though he resembles a spork, he couldn’t be called by that name, because it is also trademarked by an entity that is neither Disney- nor Pixar-affiliated.
Knievel is seeking over $375,000 in relief, alleging that K & K owns “exclusive ownership and rights to all goodwill and commercial value arising from the use of Evel Knievel’s image and likeness.” The lawsuit seeks several types of damages, including actual, compensatory, statutory, punitive, and profit. It also seeks to recoup all associated legal fees from the House of Mouse.
A Disney spokesperson said, “the claims are without merit and we intend to defend against them vigorously in court.” Honestly, would you expect them to say anything different at this point, regardless of how any of this turns out?