Toy Stuntman Lands in Court

Not all fun and games

Fans of the Toy Story movies may recall the character Duke Caboom and his striking resemblance to Evel Knievel.  The likeness of Evel Knievel is owned by K&K Productions, the company that is now suing Disney and Pixar, as well as subsidiaries that helped in the production of Toy Story 4.  The character, portrayed by the voice of Keanu Reeves, was adapted into the film without prior authorization from the company that owns the branding rights to Knievel, who passed away in 2007.  The movie itself is not only mentioned in the lawsuit, but also promotional toys sold in 2019 are included.

From watching the Toy Story movies, it is easy to remember some of the most loveable toys from childhood, including Mr. Potato Head, Slinky, Barbie, and Ken.  The clear difference between these toys and Duke Caboom is licensing rights.  While some companies afford Disney and Pixar the opportunity to develop characters based off of their toys, other companies are not so willing to participate.  In the cases where licensing is denied, Disney and Pixar result to creating their own unique characters.

Throughout the movie, Duke Caboom is often seen paired with a matching motorcycle, similar to a toy version of Evel Knievel that was sold many years ago. The Toy Story franchise has found loopholes for previous movies that feature recognizable, popular toys. For example, the character Combat Carl bears a likeness to GI Joe, however, production was not given specific licensing rights to that character.  There are differences created in Combat Carl’s character that do not directly link him to GI Joe.  Similarly, while Duke Caboom alludes to the late stuntman’s persona, this character version does not possess the same bravery and confidence.  Also, since Evel Knievel’s name is not mentioned in the movie, it may be more difficult to prove that Disney and Pixar infringed on former products and the stuntman himself.