Artist suing Disney and Pixar over art van design ‘theft’ by “Onward” animators

A report in The Hollywood Reporter tracks down the history behind a new lawsuit against Disney by the artist who says her “Vanicorn” art van was copied by Pixar for use in their upcoming movie “Onward.” Artist Sweet Cecily Daniher has sued Disney and Pixar, and the movie’s producer Kori Rae, for copyright violation and a conspiracy to copy her one-of-a-kind art van without permission.

Back in June the artist posted a message to Instagram asking her followers if they thought Pixar stole the design of her ‘Vanicorn’ for their movie van. A few days later, she posted the same image with this message to Instagram claiming that the company had rented her van, but didn’t tell her it would be used as inspiration for the main vehicle in the animated feature.

Apparently Onward’s producer Kori Rae called her to apologize, but that was not enough for Sweet Cecily Daniher who felt deceived and eventually file suit. The THR story has embedded the lawsuit, but Disney was not willing to comment.

I am not a lawyer, but while this may or may not rise to the level of copyright violation (I would say it doesn’t as the images are distinct) and the other allegations, Pixar’s artists obviously used her van as a launching point for their final design. That said, there were probably other inspirations too. Art seldom comes from just one source.

I do think the artist deserved to know that’s how her van would be used up front. If she said no, Pixar could have used one of probably 3,000 other vans with similar designs from the 70s and 80s as inspiration. On the other hand, the artist could also get a a significant lift from all the great publicity that would have come her way as the creator of the Unicorn art van that inspired Pixar’s “Onward” van if she said yes. But if the facts are as represented in the lawsuit, Pixar could have been more up front.

Do you think the artist has a case or is this just a case of poor communication between two artists?

2 thoughts on “Artist suing Disney and Pixar over art van design ‘theft’ by “Onward” animators”

  1. One little problem, it isn’t her art. I just found an interview with her from a couple of years ago where she mentions the artist who painted the van — http://rockinvan.com/chickvanners_cicely/cicely.html. She may have come up with the concept, but given that a google search for “unicorn van art” comes up with more than a few results, it isn’t an original idea.

    Disney’s lawyers will make short work of this one.

    1. Getting all the facts is important. Disney violated an agreement with the van’s owner that the vehicle and its imagery would not be used beyond a single contracted use for a special event. It’s telling an Onward producer allegedly called to apologize for the “borrowing”. This would not the first time Disney has appropriated others’ ideas.

      And you are right. Disney lawyers will make short work of this and suggest paying her off to make the matter go away.

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