Disney Forced to Pay Hundreds of Thousands In ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Lawsuit

in Disney, Entertainment, Featured, Movies, Movies & TV

A mystical creature with a lion-like face and ornate horns holds a glowing, intricate staff in a dimly lit, enchanting forest setting.

Credit: Disney

Despite the controversy surrounding Disney’s many live-action remakes, a lot of them perform really well in theaters. Nearly a dozen of them — including The Lion King (2019), Aladdin (2019), The Jungle Book (2016), and Cinderella (2015) — have made hundreds of millions of dollars for the Mouse House. In 2023, Disney’s most successful Disney film (not Marvel, Pixar, etc) was the live-action remake of the hit 1989 film, The Little Mermaid.

Areil (Halle Bailey) looking at Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) during Under the Sea as Seahorses swim by
Credit: Disney

In 2017, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures brought one of Disney’s most iconic and beloved animated films to life with the release of Beauty and the Beast. The film starred Harry Potter star Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as The Beast, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, and Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice. The film was an absolute hit and made nearly $200 million in its opening weekend alone.

But sadly, Disney broke some rules when making the movie, and a judge has now told them how much their rule-breaking will cost them.

The Beast (Dan Stevens) and Belle (Emma Watson) dancing
Credit: Disney

On December 21, a jury found Disney guilty of copyright infringement because they used certain software on the film that they knew they did not have the right to use.

In 2021, Rearden Studios — a visual effects studio — claimed that Disney did not properly license its MOVA Contour Reality Capture software, which was critical in creating Dan Stevens’ Beast. Rearden also claimed that Disney did not make an innocent mistake; they knew exactly what they were doing.

Dan Stevens as The Beast in Beauty and the Beast
Credit: Disney

Related: Beauty and the Beast Disney+ Prequel Postponed Indefinitely

Rearden asked a jury to award him $100 million in damages, $38 million of which would be from Disney’s profits from the film. In the end, the advisory jury suggested that the judge award Rearden $600,000. More than $300,000 in those damages were for profits Disney made by using the MOVA software.

It has been about five months since the jury made their decision, and now a judge is following their suggestion.

The Beast roaring (Dan Stevens) in live-action 'Beauty and the Beast'
Credit: Disney

According to Courthouse News Service, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar determined that Disney would pay out $345,000 in damages to Rearden for the illegal use of its software.

The judge needed to go through his own calculation of the amount of profit the developer was entitled to for infringement of its technology after he had ruled during the trial that Rearden wasn’t entitled to a jury verdict on that issue.

The jury found Disney liable for vicarious copyright infringement because one of the companies it relied on to create the computer animated appearance of the “Beast” used Rearden’s proprietary contour facial capture technology, which uses software to generate lifelike facial expressions for animated characters in movies and video games.

Emma Watson as Belle stands next to a life-sized, ornate candelabra character in a lavishly decorated room, in a scene from the movie "Beauty and the Beast.
Credit: Disney

Rearden did not get nearly as much as it was hoping for because, according to Judge Tigar, Disney had been able to prove that a lot of the film’s profits were due to other factors.

“Disney met its burden of proving the profits from BATB were substantially attributable to factors other than the infringement,” Tigar said, “including but not limited to: fanship for the 1991 animated movie; Emma Watson’s portrayal of Belle; the story; the Disney brand; the music; the overall cast; and the thousands of individuals and hundreds of vendors that worked on the movie for more than two years.”

josh gad (left) as lefou and luke evans (right) as gaston in beauty and the beast tavern scene
Credit: Disney

Related: Animated Magic: Why Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’Shines on Valentine’s Day

Neither Rearden nor Disney responded to the judgment made in the lawsuit.

The Beauty and the Beast lawsuit was not the first time that Rearden had sued Disney for the improper use of its MOVA technology. The studio also claimed that Disney and Marvel had illegally used MOVA in several of its Avengers movies and in the 2014 Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy: VOL. 1. 

Guardians of the Galaxy cast
Credit: Marvel Studios

Regarding those lawsuits, it was determined that Disney and Marvel did not know that they were not allowed to use the MOVA Contour technology. The company that Disney used for those films — DD3 — had been involved in some shady practices, including fraudulent sales and bankruptcy filings.

To date, Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast has made more than $1.2 billion.

Do you think Disney was punished enough for illegally using Rearden’s MOVA technology? Let us know in the comments!

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