Duke Caboom Duke Caboom

Kaboom! That’s the sound of Disney being hit by a new trademark infringement lawsuit.

The plaintiff this time is Kelly Knievel, son of legendary daredevil Evel Knievel and boss of K&K Promotions, which owns Evel’s rights and brand. The lawsuit alleges that Disney and its subsidiary Pixar appropriated Evel’s image in the character of Duke Caboom, the ineffective stuntman voiced by Keanu Reeves in last year’s Toy Story 4.

The 29-page complaint (which can be read here) highlights multiple similarities between Evel Knievel and Duke Caboom, including their poses, stunts, attire, and tendency to crash. It also alleges that the film’s cast were instructed not to mention Knievel in promotional interviews. It notes:

Defendants have used in commerce, and continue to use in commerce, the likeness, reputation, and image of Evel Knievel in the film Toy Story 4 through Defendants’ depiction of Duke Caboom, and has exploited the same connection through marketing, promotion, advertising, and sales of Toy Story 4, and in connection with the manufacturing, distribution, marketing, advertising, promotion, and sales of the Duke Caboom action figure, all without the consent or approval of K&K.

K&K is seeking a big payout, including “actual damages, compensatory damages, statutory damages, and profits stemming from [Disney’s] unlawful conduct,” as well as an award of exemplary/punitive damages owing to Disney’s “willful appropriation and/or infringement,” and a reimbursement of its attorneys’ fees.

Unsurprisingly, Disney disagrees. “The claims are without merit and we intend to defend against them vigorously in court,” said a spokesperson.

Cosmetic differences notwithstanding — Knievel, who died in 2007, was American, whereas Caboom is proudly Canadian — the resemblance between the two figures hasn’t passed unnoticed. Much coverage of the film pointed it out. A typical example is Matt Zoller Seitz’s review for RogerEbert.com, which describes Caboom as “a Evel Knievel-styled motorcycle rider who describes himself as the greatest stuntman in Canada.”

These kinds of lawsuits are common in the business. Case in point: earlier this year, Disney and Pixar were sued by artist Sweet Cicely Daniher, who alleged that Pixar stole her unicorn artwork idea for its film Onward.

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