Disney fights back against unlicensed “Star Wars,” “Frozen” characters from New York-based company

in Disney, Events, Movies, Movies & TV, Parties

Photo via Characters for Hire Facebook page

New York-based company Characters for Hire is facing a lawsuit from Disney.

Disney alleges Nick Sarelli, who operates Characters for Hire, LLC, runs a “knock-off business … built upon the infringement of Plaintiffs’ highly valuable intellectual property rights.” Characters for Hire provides unlicensed versions of “Star Wars” and other Disney characters, including Elsa and Anna from “Frozen.”

The summary judgment memo goes on to say, “Defendants have admitted to changing at least the following names and titles in their customers’ reviews: ‘Luke/Darth experience’ to ‘Star Battle,’ “Star Wars storyline’ to ‘Star Battles storyline,’ ‘Darth Vader’ to ‘Dark Lord,’ ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Star Battle(s),’ ‘Darth Maul’ to ‘Mauler,’ ‘Princess Leia’ to ‘the Princess,’ and ‘Chewbacca’ to ‘Big Hairy Guy.'”

If you’ve visited Times Square in recent years, you probably noticed the costumed characters offering to take pictures with tourists for money. Knock-off Disney, Marvel, and Lucasfilm characters have definitely been spotted at the tourist hotspot, and the New York Police Department once asked Disney to do something about the unlicensed characters. However, this lawsuit against Characters for Hire is a different matter, as the company is geared toward corporate events and entertainment.

The law firm representing Characters for Hire argues Disney doesn’t control the rights to the centuries-old fairytales and mythology that served as inspiration for their famous characters, and those stories belong to the public domain.

Both Disney and Characters for Hire can point to other legal cases that support their side of the argument.

The full legal brief is available to read here.

Do you think knock-off Disney characters are a harmless addition to birthday parties or do you prefer to visit the “real” characters in Disney parks?

Source: The Hollywood Reporter


  1. Luis Perez

    “Centuries old fairy tale” or not you’re infringing on Disney’s rendition of it.

  2. Tom vancho

    Totally agree. I was at an event at a apple farm in upstate ny this past weekend and there waa a company there who brought snow white. She tried her best was in no way comparible to disneyworld. And people also thought she was brought there by disney. And didnt live up to the disney difference.

  3. Deseri

    Giving kids the opportunity to see a similar character to those on TV is very special for them. Not everyone can afford a trip to Disney. In places like Canada we KNOW that the characters are not brought there by Disney and are not representing them, they are simply trying to help children keep their imagination blooming.
    And by seeing those characters live that child goes home and rewatches a Disney movie again and again then begs to go to the next one that is released because they are so excited to see that character in real life. (I work in a daycare and have seen it happen numerous times when children have come back from an event that had characters similar to Disney characters present)

  4. Mark

    “Disney doesn’t control the rights to the centuries-old fairytales and mythology” Last time I checked Star Wars was made in 1977 and still under copyright. That is blatant infringement and they know it.

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