Disney Sued Over Visual Effects – Episode 150

Disney is being sued over a visual effects technology it used to create the live-action Beauty and the Beast, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The company Rearden is suing Disney alleging copyright, patent and trademark infringement. At issue here is Disney’s use of a facial-capture technology called MOVA Contour. Hear more about this in this week’s podcast below.

Disney used MOVA to make Dan Stevens into the Beast and change Josh Brolin into Thanos. Disney Licensed the software from Digital Domain, another visual effects company. Since 2015, Rearden has been involved in legal battles against Digital Domain and its affiliates over MOVA, claiming that a former employee, Greg LaSalle stole the technology and unlawfully sold it to Digital Domain.

In addition to financial damages, Rearden is asking a judge to stop Disney from selling or showing these movies until the suit is resolved, and is also seeking orders to destroy all infringing copies. Collectively the films have taken in more than $3.5 billion in global box office.

Is The Lawsuit Credible?

We’ll know whether or not this suit has any legs if the judge grants the request to stop Disney from selling/showing these films. That’s a tall order and Disney has some of the best lawyers in the entertainment business. Disney wants this thrown out altogether.

It’s also very interesting that Rearden is going after Disney at all. Disney did business with Digital Domain, not Rearden. However, the suit alleges that Disney explored acquiring the technology itself from the former Rearden employee, but when Rearden sent a letter pointing out that it owned the rights to MOVA, Disney dropped out of the bidding. Rearden thinks Disney knew the rights to the software were in question and used the software anyway.

We’ll keep an eye on this one to see how it turns out.

Petition to Remove J.J. Abrams as Star Wars IX Director

A new petition appeared online asking Lucasfilm to remove J.J. Abrams as the director of Star Wars, Episode IX. The petition was posted on Change.org by Matt Vela and has received more than 4,500 signatures as of Sunday. In part, the letter reads:

Although not reflected in the box office sales, most fans agree that Abrams’ vision for Episode VII resulted in a rehash of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. There was virtually no creativity, and no risks taken…

Therefore, to prevent Star Wars Episode IX from becoming yet another rip off of the original trilogy (specifically, a rip off of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), and for the good of the Star Wars brand, we demand that Kathleen Kennedy remove J.J. Abrams as director of the upcoming Episode IX film.

Ed has a brilliant response to this on the Disney Movie Database . Though it may not sound like it, Vela is a very big Abrams fan. His first petition on Change.org asked Paramount to bring back J.J. Abrams to direct Star Trek 4. (He also asked Donald Trump to declassify all information related to extraterrestrial life).

Bad Directors or Bad Management?

Ever since Lucasfilm replaced Colin Trevorrow with JJ Abrams, Star Wars fans across the galaxy have been chiming in on the decision. But Lucasfilm has started a disturbing trend with the Star Wars films. Even as they push for diversity in their films, the director’s chair remains filled with familiar faces.

I can’t exactly blame them for this. Would you give someone you don’t know $150 million to make a movie? Still, this preference for familiarity leaves up and coming directors out of the Star Wars family. These are the same directors that Marvel has been embracing.

In this week’s episode, Ed pointed out that Lucasfilm is moving in the direction of Marvel Studios. Eventually, each Star Wars film will have its own feeling and not have to stick to the Skywalker genre.

Are Summer Blockbusters Dead?

We just went through the worst summer box office season in more than a decade. For the first time since 2006, receipts failed to top $4 billion. We had one of the worst Augusts on record and three movies – Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2, Spiderman Homecoming – made up more than 30 percent of the box office.

That sounds bad, but I have a hunch that the total box office for 2017 won’t be down. This year’s biggest film, Beauty and the Beast, was released in March. Thor: Ragnarok is coming out in November and Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be released in December. Summer no longer holds the exclusive rights to big movies.

Obviously, Summer is still an important time to movie studios, but for the past two years Star Wars has dominated the box office from December. The rules have changed. Consequently, months like March and April are starting to overperform and June and August are sinking. The summer blockbuster may not be dead yet, but summer is no longer the king of the box office.



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