Evel Knievel's family is suing Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar over the use of Keanu Reeves' character in last year's hit movie Toy Story 4, alleging trademark infringement over the use of the legendary daredevil's likeness. In the animated movie, Reeves voiced Duke Caboom, a daredevil action figure with a white outfit and toy motorcycle. The character appears to be a parody of the Evel Knievel Stunt Rally Stunt Cycle toy released by the Ideal Toy Company in 1975.
"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," reads the trademark infringement complaint, filed by Knievel's son and K and K Promotions boss Kelly Knievel.
According to the complaint, Kelly also alleges the company has "suffered, and will continue to suffer, monetary damages to its business, reputation, and goodwill." The suit is seeking damages exceeding $75,000, and Kelly is also asking for "other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper."
For their part, Disney has responded to the lawsuit, and the House of Mouse appears to be very confident they'll come out on the winning side of the legal battle. "The claims are without merit and we intend to defend against them vigorously in court," a company spokesperson stated.
Toy Story 4 brought back Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as the voices of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, respectively. Like previous installments, the sequel also brought in several guest stars for special roles alongside Keanu Reeves. This includes Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, and Betty White. The movie was a tremendous hit at the box office, raking in over a billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales. It also won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Merchandise based on Toy Story 4 was also produced en masse, including toys based on the Reeves-voiced Duke Caboom character.
Robert "Evel" Knievel is perhaps the most well-known stunt performer of all time. Coined the "Last Gladiator," Knievel was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999 following more than 75 motorcycle jumps. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 69, but the famous daredevil is still very well remembered for his trademark look and death-defying jumps. Milo Ventimiglia is set to play Knievel in an upcoming miniseries about his life and legacy.
The similarities between Duke Caboom and Evel Knievel seem pretty clear, but Disney may argue that a parody is legally considered to be fair use of a copyrighted work. In any case, it will be up to the court to decide if K and K Productions is owed any damages for the use of the character in Toy Story 4. This news comes to us from Deadline.