Concept art from Moana (left) and traditional Fijian camakau (photo via WCS Fiji).
Concept art from Moana (left) and traditional Fijian camakau (photo via WCS Fiji).

Disney’s next animated feature Big Hero 6 isn’t even out yet, but some parties have already begun claiming that Moana, a Disney feature scheduled for 2016 release, stole their intellectual property rights. The claims are based on a single piece of Moana concept art that Disney released last month.

Fijian organizations argue that Disney used the design of a traditional boat called a camakau (pronounced tha-ma-cow) without their permission. Colin Philp, a Mua Voyage coordinator, told the Fiji Times:

There are two ways of looking at the traditional canoe being featured in the Disney production. One would be people being happy that the traditional canoes are being featured. But the other way of looking at this is on the intellectual property rights side, that the canoe design or the collaboration of the design is quite valuable.

It’s something that I think they have gone ahead with without any approval from the iTaukei Affairs and the intellectual property owners, being the elders or the canoe builders of Fiji. While it is great that Pacific island voyaging culture is being featured, I do hope the owners (canoe builders) will receive appropriate compensation for use of their canoe design since the movie will make billions of dollars and the people from Korova are not being exploited.

Why contemporary Fijian boatmakers deserve compensation for a centuries-old boat design to which they have no authorship or ownership rights isn’t explained in the piece. From a legal perspective, there’s currently no evidence to suggest that Disney doesn’t have the same rights as the Fijian boatmakers to use a traditional camakau design in their work.

Amazingly, the boat isn’t the only tenuous claim of infringement being made against that piece of Moana concept art. An anonymous reader sent the image below that alleges Disney used a photo from this website for the background of their Moana concept art. Here’s the “proof”:


If two allegations can be derived from one piece of Moana still art, imagine the claims that’ll be made when the actual film is released.

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