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To say that the Walt Disney Company is known for the fierce protection of its intellectual property (copyright, trademarks, etc) is probably the understatement of the year. So I was not surprised when they asked musician Deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) not to trademark his ‘trademark’ DJ costume. Like the name implies, it resembles a mouse. Disney has a trademark on the look and feel of Mickey Mouse so they were understandably worried. But the two really don’t have anything in common other than what mice naturally share (ears, eyes, and a mouth).

I think Disney might be making a mountain out of a molehill on this one. As a creature, a mouse is pretty ubiquitous. No one, even an idiot in a hurry, is going to confuse the technopunk Deadmau5 headpiece with the classic Mickey Mouse silhouette. Letting Zimmerman have his intellectual property appear on toys, clothing, or other products will in no way harm Disney’s vast wealth in the same arena.

Since I expect Deadmau5 to win pretty handily in court, I’ve been paying attention to the case only loosely. But a story in The Hollywood Reporter today, caught my attention. Turns out, while one arm of Disney was preparing to sue Deadmau5, another appendage was asking him to collaborate.

Disney’s music division asked him if he wanted to produce some music for Disney’s new animated series Star Wars Rebels. But he lost that opportunity because of the dispute. Disney, through a third party, also offered him the opportunity of contributing to a live concert series commemorating the 75th anniversary of Fantasia. In the invitation, Disney’s business partner states:

“Deadmau5 is the most innovative musician of our time, and Disney the most successful entertainment brand to ever exist. Bringing these two visionaries together, with this particular franchise, provides for an incredible opportunity that could touch millions of people around the world.”

They even sent Deadmau5 a mockup of his intellectual property combined with Disneys iconic Sorcerer Mickey (above).

main-street-from-castle

A group of guests have filed a lawsuit against Disneyland and Walt Disney World alleging the new Disabled Access System (DAS) violates the American with Disabilities Act, specifically for guests with cognitive impairments, such as autism. The main argument of the lawsuit is that prior to the new DAS system, Disney was much more accommodating allowing families to have wonderful experiences together. And because Disney had the knowledge to provide those accommodations then, to not provide them now is discriminatory. The lawsuit gives multiple examples of guests who are unable to comply with the new DAS process without risking a meltdown from the impaired individual.

As you might expect, the lawsuit systematically excludes evidence that doesn’t support its theory. For nearly everything it lists as examples of Disney’s bad behavior, I’ve read first hand accounts of the exact opposite behavior from Disney. But that’s how a lawsuit works.

Some of the facts in the lawsuit are incorrect or border on the incorrect. It mentions that a photo of the disabled guest is added to the DAS, but then states that it is related to the entry to the park, which it’s not. It’s related to making sure the person who is using the DAS is the disabled person, not someone who picked it up off the ground.

They also accuse Disney of sponsoring videos to make the ‘rented invalid’ problem seem worse than it was. I would like to see the evidence for that.

What is true, is that Disney changed their procedures and they are not as accommodating to those with cognitive impairments as they were in the old system. But it does not also follow that that change now places Disney outside the boundaries of the protections the ADA provides.

I guess that is now for the courts to decide.

Jungle Cruise - Courtesy Disney

Update: a cast member on the Jungle Cruise lends some insight below.

A woman is suing Walt Disney World over injuries she claims to have suffered on the Jungle Cruise attraction at the Magic Kingdom. The guest claims she was unloading from the boat when it was struck from behind causing her to fall. She wants $15,000 in compensation for her injury, her hospital visit and lost wages.

If the guest’s claim is true, Disney will likely have video of it. However, based on her story, I have doubts it happened exactly that way. The boats at the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise unload one at a time and the boat behind it does not approach within even a half-dozen yards until the boat at the dock is empty. At least that’s Standard Operating Procedure as I’ve experienced it. For her boat to be struck while she was disembarking seems like there was a pretty bad violation of safety standards. If that was indeed the case, it would not be that difficult for Disney to implement a gate system to prevent this sort of collision while unloading going forward.