Amended suit alleging misappropriation of blockbuster Inside Out filed against Disney, Pixar


Litigation-focused law firm, Robins Kaplan LLP® has filed an amended complaint detailing allegations that The Walt Disney Company and Pixar misappropriated the central concept and characters behind the animated hit movie Inside Out from a nationally recognized child development expert who had pitched her uniquely original material and characters to top studio executives.


One of the plaintiffs, Denise Daniels is a renowned expert in the emotional development of children. Ms. Daniels has worked with children affected by Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. From 2005-09, she and her team held several discussions with Disney executives about developing an animated series focused on emotional intelligence in children.


The program titled The Moodsters would take place inside a child and feature five characters, each representing a single emotion and distinguished by a color.


Ms. Daniels developed extensive materials about the show, which were shared with Rich Ross, then-president of Disney Channels Worldwide (later chairman of Walt Disney Studios), and Roy E. Disney, among other senior executives.

Ms. Daniels’s contact with Disney and Pixar included a discussion with Pete Docter, the director of Inside Out. According to the Amended Complaint, in that conversation, “Daniels walked Docter through in detail the characters, curriculum, and concept underlying The Moodsters.”

Pixar began work on Inside Out in 2010, the year following Ms. Daniels’s last discussions with the studios. The movie’s important similarities to The Moodsters include the use of five color-coded characters representing different emotions inside a child.

After its release in 2015, Inside Out was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The movie has grossed more than $950 million in worldwide ticket and DVD sales.

“Based on her decades of work with children, Denise Daniels created an original, accessible, and powerful way to tell a story about emotional intelligence through the use of five color coded characters each representing a different emotion,” said Ronald J. Schutz of Robins Kaplan and lead trial counsel for Ms. Daniels and The Moodsters Company. “Ms. Daniels copyrighted her work and shared it with Disney.”

Robins Kaplan previously secured an award of $320 million against Disney in litigation over profits to the ABC game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Robins Kaplan represented Celador International, the creator of the show.

“We’re familiar with rewriting the odds for our clients, particularly for those inventors and artists who need trial lawyers to stand up to larger, better-funded companies,” added Patrick M. Arenz of Robins Kaplan, who also serves as trial counsel for the plaintiffs.

The present case is Daniels v. The Walt Disney Company et al. is in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.