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Judge dismisses ‘Toy Story 4’ lawsuit from Evel Knievel’s son

A federal judge in Las Vegas has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Evel Knievel’s son against The Walt Disney Co. and Pixar over a character in “Toy Story 4.”

Knievel’s son, Kelly Knievel, had claimed the animated movie’s Duke Caboom character knocked off his late father’s famous daredevil persona.

Kelly Knievel runs K and K Promotions, a Las Vegas-based company that has owned publicity rights to Evel Knievel’s image and likeness since 1998, the complaint filed last year stated. He sought unspecified damages totaling more than $300,000 on allegations that include false endorsement and unjust enrichment.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan dismissed the suit on Sept. 23, writing that the movie’s character had enough attributes — including “a different name, different clothing, Canadian rather than American insignia, the addition of a moustache, and a different hair color” — to differentiate him from Evel Knievel, who died in 2007 at age 69.

“Features shared by both the Duke Caboom action figure and Evel Knievel are shared by many stuntmen, such as a jumpsuit, helmet, and motorcycle,” Mahan wrote. “Duke Caboom is not a representation of Evel Knievel simply because he is a stuntman … Duke Caboom is not a carbon copy of Evel Knievel minus a few details.”

Last year’s complaint pointed out that in 1973 the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle debuted. It was an action figure doll in the daredevil’s well-known patriotic jumpsuit and helmet, able to be bent into any position.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” Kelly Knievel wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “We are considering our options” at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

An email message to the Associated Press from The Walt Disney Co. spokesman Jeffrey R. Epstein said he was traveling and unavailable for immediate comment.

When “Toy Story 4” premiered at CinemaCon in Las Vegas in April 2019, the complaint alleged, Duke Caboom was “featured largely on the top left of the poster.” In the movie, the character first appeared on a red and white motorcycle in a white jumpsuit covered in Canadian insignia.

Consumers and film reviewers “universally caught on to the connection,” the lawsuit stated, while the movie company avoided making any public association, connection or comparison “even if directly asked.”

But Mahan determined that Disney did not break the law by using Knievel’s likeness as inspiration for its character.

“The court finds that by no means is Evel Knievel the sum and substance of the work at issue here; at most, it is one of the ‘raw materials’ from which the Duke Caboom action figure was created,” Mahan wrote. “Furthermore, the Duke Caboom action figure is a representation of Disney’s expression in the film and not an attempt to immitate Evel Knievel.”

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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