Disney sued over Toy Story 4 Evel Knievel 'knock-off'

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Archive photo of Evel Knievel circa 1976Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Evel Knievel became an iconic figure of the 1970s because of his daredevil stunts

The son of famed 1970s stuntman Evel Knievel is suing Disney and Pixar over the daredevil character Duke Caboom who features in Toy Story 4.

Kelly Knievel has accused the movie giants of financially gaining from a character they had based on his father without seeking permission.

"Evel Knievel did not thrill millions, break his bones and spill his blood just so Disney could make a bunch of money," he said.

Disney denies the allegations.

A spokesperson for Walt Disney Co said the company would defend itself vigorously against what it called the meritless claims, the Associated Press reports.

Montana-born Evel Knievel - real name Robert Craig Knievel Jnr - was renowned for his breath-taking motorbike stunts during the 1960s and 1970s.

He famously jumped over the Caesars Palace fountain in Las Vegas and 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in London, and used a rocket-powered bike to attempt to cross Snake River Canyon in Idaho.

Many of these attempts ended in crashes, but he said claims that he had broken every bone in his body during his career were overblown.

Media caption,

Evel Knievel's son Kelly Knievel talks about his attempt to jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium

Duke Caboom - voiced by Keanu Reeves in Toy Story 4 - is described by Disney-owned Pixar as a "1970s toy based on Canada's greatest daredevil and stuntman" who "has confidence and swagger" but "has never been able to do the stunts as advertised by his own toy commercial".

Kelly Knievel, whose Las Vegas-based K and K Promotions filed the federal trademark lawsuit, has had publicity rights to Evel Knievel since 1978 and is seeking damages totalling more than $300,000 (£236,000) on charges of false endorsement and unjust enrichment.

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The lawsuit alleges similarities in the look of Knievel and the Caboom character, and says a propelled stunt toy sold to market the movie was very similar to one of Evel Knievel released in 1973 and recently re-released. The Caboom character was also marketed as part of a McDonald's "Happy Meal" promotion.

The complaint also accuses Disney of having "expressly instructed cast members to avoid drawing any public association between Duke Caboom and Evel Knievel", but added that the connection was obvious to observers.

"It is obvious Duke Caboom is a knock off of Evel Knievel," K&K said in response to Disney's reaction to the lawsuit. "I don't see a big long line of Disney executives ready to get on a motorcycle and jump 13 buses, nor do I remember any Canadian daredevils from the 70s.

"While we note that Disney uses their Mickey Mouse lawyers to aggressively protect Disney intellectual property, they did not seek permission to use Evel Knievel at any time."