“Onward” Lawsuit: Artist Sues Disney and Pixar for “Stealing” Her Unicorn Van

in Disney, Pixar


Credit: Disney-Pixar

It looks like Disney is involved in another lawsuit — and this time, someone’s claiming that her “Vanicorn” concept has been stolen without her permission.

That’s right: a “Vanicorn” is a real thing. According to a recent report by the Hollywood Reporter, an artist named Sweet Cicely Daniher is suing Disney, Pixar, and Onward producer Kori Rae. Daniher alleges that Rae and the Onward team conspired to secretly create an animated doppelganger of her one-of-a-kind unicorn-adorned van (which she calls her “Vanicorn”) without her permission. And now, she’s suing for copyright infringement.

Related: Pixar’s Onward: Special Meaning For Anyone Who Has Lost Someone They Love

The lawsuit states, “At the risk of belaboring the point, the Plaintiff has had a real thing for unicorns, for a very long time, and they have been a central theme and subject matter of her artistic work, throughout the entirety of her career.”

From the looks of it, Daniher has loved unicorns and other mythical creatures for many years of her life. She even published a photography book in 2014 called I See Unicorns. And for six years, she has owned a “tremendously cool, dark blue and/or purple 1972 Chevrolet G10 van, with red shag carpeting, red velour walls and seating, and a white shag carpet roof.”

You can take a look at some of the photos of Daniher’s “Vanicorn” on her Instagram below:

And here is Pixar’s real-life version of the van from Onward, which has been displayed at D23 Expo and Pixar Animation Studios. As you can see, it bears a striking resemblance to Daniher’s Vanicorn.

Onward van at Pixar Studios
The Onward van, Guinevere, visits Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Pixar even reached out to Daniher back in 2018 so that they could rent her vehicle for a special event. She was allegedly told that “the Vanicorn would be used for an event limited to ‘a one day music festival/activity day for Pixar employees and families’ and that the Vanicorn ‘would just be a show piece and not used in any way other than a visual prop.'”

But in May, Daniher found out about Disney and Pixar’s upcoming film Onward, which features two blue elves who travel around in a van that looks a lot like the Vanicorn. Daniher posted a comparison photo on Instagram, which you can see below.

She also said that Onward producer Kori Rae called her in early June to apologize. In the complaint, Daniher states that Rae admitted that Pixar intentionally did not inform her that they intended to use the Vanicorn as a prop in Onward back in 2018 when they rented the vehicle because at the time the film did not have a title, and without a title she could not sign a non-disclosure agreement.

So Daniher is suing for copyright infringement, as well as a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act, and violation of the California Artists Protection Act. She’s seeking damages and also asking the court for an injunction barring defendants from distributing, marketing or selling infringing advertisements, merchandise, and the film itself, and she wants a declaration that defendants’ related copyrights are invalid.

Daniher’s lawyers argue that the van rental contract prohibits any photos, videos, or visual representations of the Vanicorns for any purpose other than the event it was rented for. You can read an excerpt of the complaint below:

“[T]hey have altered this Plaintiff’s highly personal and public transubstantiation of her lifelong artistic interest in unicorns into the Vanicorn (a uniquely San Franciscan work of public, mobile, automotive art, and a redemptive and validating act of recovery from toxic masculinity and a former marriage) and which has, instead, been pilfered by the Defendants as a commercial and corporate conduit for the aspirations of a pair of blue boy elves looking for their father in a mass marketed Disney film, and was accomplished by the Defendants under wickedly misleading pretenses.”

Disney hasn’t yet responded for comment requests, according to the Hollywood Reporter. We will update Inside the Magic as soon as more information regarding this lawsuit becomes available.

Do you think Disney and Pixar should have told Daniher that they took inspiration from her Vanicorn for the Onward van? Or is Daniher in the wrong and she isn’t owed anything? Let us know your take in the comments.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

in Disney, Pixar

View Comments (5)