Disney+ Show ‘Behind the Attraction’ Accused of Plagiarizing Artist’s Work

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Behind the Attraction Tower of Terror

Credit: Disney

All the way back in 2019 — which seems like another lifetime — Disney launched its own streaming service, Disney+. Not only were there hundreds of Disney, Marvel, LucasFilm, and Pixar movies and television shows available in one place, but Disney also released some original content and promised a lot more. One original series released on launch day was The Imagineering Story which told the story of how Imagineers created some of the most iconic elements of Disney Parks around the world.

The Imagineering Story
Credit: Disney

The Imagineering Story was incredibly popular, so Disney+ subscribers were extremely excited when Disney announced that it would release another original series called Behind the Attraction. Behind the Attraction was not quite as popular as The Imagineering Story, mostly due to the fact that massive Disney fans felt the series didn’t tell them as much new information about rides and attractions as they were hoping it would.

Behind the attraction
Credit: Disney

However, for one artist, Behind the Attraction did something that The Imagineering Story did not do — illegally copied the artwork that he created years ago.

James St. Onge has a degree in Structural Engineering and runs the incredibly popular YouTube series Art of Engineering — which currently has over 200,000 subscribers. In this series, James creates his own blueprints and drawings to explain to the masses how certain things work, like cranes, roller coasters, and some Disney attractions — which is where the problem lies.

Art of Engineering
Credit: Art of Engineering YouTube Channel

Unfortunately, when some people watched Behind the Attraction‘s Tower of Terror episode, they thought that the images used in the show were very similar to the designs that James had created for his own Art of Engineering episode on the ride. They reached out to James, and he decided to watch for himself and came to the same conclusion.

Tower of Terror
Credit: Behind the Attraction

He took to Twitter to show just how close the two works were.

Several people have mentioned that the graphics in the Tower of Terror episode of ‘Behind the Attraction’ are very similar to my YouTube video, so I decided to give it a watch for myself. Left is my original artwork from my video. Right is from Behind the Attraction on Disney+

James went on to explain that, not only had Seven Bucks Productions — the production company created by Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia that made Behind the Attraction — seemingly used his artwork with very few changes made, but they also got a number of things wrong in explaining how the ride works. James claims that they didn’t correctly say how many elevator shafts there are, and the series showed ride vehicles facing different directions, which isn’t possible.

tower of terror getting struck by lightning
Credit: Disney

While James acknowledged that Disney did not produce the series, they are the ones who are showing it on their streaming service. He was also disappointed to see that someone else got credit for being the graphic designer when the work was almost identical to his.

It’s worth noting that Disney did not produce the series. It was created by Seven Bucks Productions and The Nacelle Company. Graphic design is credited to award-winning graphic designer Jeremy Samples, so it’s disappointing they would copy instead of producing original artwork.

Now, there are a lot of people who may think that Disney has done nothing wrong — Tower of Terror is their attraction, so any artwork created that features it automatically becomes Disney’s. However, according to James, he may have legal standing because his design is of a building, not an attraction.

Most claims from small creators get swept under the rug by Disney because a lot of their art falls into the category of ‘fan art’ or derivative work. If you draw a picture of Mickey Mouse, then Disney automatically owns the rights to your work and they can use it as they please.

However, Tower of Terror is not a typical artistic work. It is a building. Buildings fall under a different set of rules when it comes to copyright law because they are protected as architectural works, and this protection differs from things like paintings or IP in films.

James continues with more information on how buildings fall under different rules and even cites the actual copyright law he is referring to.

If a building is viewable by the public in the United States, then you are allowed to create an artistic representation of that building (like a photograph or drawing) without violating copyright. This is outlined in the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA 1990).

Engineering plans and blueprints are still protected as regular artistic works, but as I said previously, I did not use (or even have access) to any of these when creating my video. All the drawings in the video are my own artistic representation of the building and ride system.

James spoke with Inside the Magic and says that he created the video back in June 2019, so the drawings he made were created in the months leading up to that. James has a Master of Applied Science, which applies to a research-based Masters in Canada.

I have a background in engineering, so I was creating drawings and blueprints for many years before I started the YouTube channel. I would guess that I have about 10-15 years of experience with graphic design and creating engineering drawings (this initially started in high school before I went to university for engineering). I started making the more “artistic” drawings for my YouTube videos in early 2018, where I tried to combine basic engineering drawings with my own personal style.

Tower of Terror Art of Engineering
Credit: James St. Onge

While it is important to remember that Disney did not produce the Behind the Attraction series, they are showing it on their platform and have advertised it as something all Disney fans should watch. Disney has also worked with Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions to create their newest film, Jungle Cruise. Seven Bucks is also slated to make the sequel to Jungle Cruise.

At the time of publication, James says that no one from Disney or Seven Bucks Productions has reached out to him regarding his plagiarism claims.

What do you think about James’ artwork compared to what was used in Behind the Attraction? Let us know in the comments.

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