Joy, Are you Happy about This Lawsuit?

Daniels v. Disney (C.D. Cal. 2017)

Depending upon your mood, this case might make you happy, sad, angry, or afraid — perhaps even fill you with love.

Daniels is known for creating the Moodsters – five anthropomorphic color-coded, gendered characters each representing a single abstract emotion that live in an world inside a child’s mind.


This might sound familiar if you have watched the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out.

InsideOut The recently amended complaint alleges Copyright Infringement and Breach of Implied Contract:

Daniels conceived of The Moodsters, a children’s animated television pilot (“The Moodsters Pilot”) starring five color-coded anthropomorphic characters, each individually representing a single emotion: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and love. These characters live in an abstract world inside a child. For instance, early materials about The Moodsters explain that “[s]omewhere deep down inside every child is a wonderous world where The MoodstersTM live.”

According to the allegations, Moodsters was pitched to several folks at Disney/Pixar 2005-2009. In 2010, Disney began work on Inside Out.

Read the complaint: [First Amended Complaint_Moodsters]


14 thoughts on “Joy, Are you Happy about This Lawsuit?

  1. 7

    The lawsuit alleges a 2010 start date on “Inside Out” at Pixar and Wikipedia says Docter began working on it in 2009, but I have a vague memory of Docter describing the basic concept of the film during a talk he gave on 2003-06-01 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. That would pre-date any of the alleged disclosures. Perhaps my memory is inaccurate and I have conflated that talk with a Docter interview I read or heard later. I wonder if a video or transcript of that talk would back my memory up.

      1. 7.1.1

        There’s another twist; checking my records, I see that he actually gave two talks that day, a talk open to a general public audience and another talk exclusive to Northeast Ohio ACM SIGGRAPH members. A video of the general audience talk might not reveal his discussion of the concept if it took place during the more intimate talk he gave. I do remember that he disclosed his next assignment at Pixar (not “Inside Out”) and it electrified the audience because it hadn’t been previously announced (I think it might have been “Toy Story 3”, which ultimately he ended up not being listed as the director on), and I also remember that when “Inside Out” was finally formally announced on Pixar’s slate I thought to myself, “Jeez, that too a long time, I heard about that movie years ago.”

  2. 6

    Here’s one: the quirky adventures of five popular bottled or jarred condiments, brought to life with the magic of animation. The short-tempered salsa, the bland boring mayonnaise, the everyman ketchup, the smart aleck mustard and the shy unloved vegamite. Now if only someone could solve the deep intractable problem of synching up the audio to the characters’ mouth movements.

  3. 5

    This type of “story line” case seems to often lead to disputes as to the extent or scope of copyright law protection, not just disputed issues of copying. E.g., the “Scène à faire” principle in U.S. copyright law in which certain aspects of a creative work may be held not protected when mandated by or customary to a genre. Nor does copyright protect ideas.

    1. 5.1

      17 U.S.C. § 102:
      “..In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”

  4. 3

    Can we say “scenes a faire”? Too soon to say if this is a valid defense, but it will be raised.

  5. 2

    Different colored characters, each with its own simple and distinct “personality,” designed to appeal to children.

    Somehow I feel like I’ve seen this show before.

    1. 1.1

      Anyone remember Herman’s Head

      For the record, I’ve never heard of this or the “Moodsters” and if you had asked me about “Inside Out” out of context I would never have been able to identity that either.

      Definitely remember the Neighborhood of Make Believe, where most of the puppets embodied a fundamental human emotion/tendency.

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