We know animated movies are sometimes based on other stories or fairytales. These are some Disney and Pixar animated films that “borrowed” from other movies or stories that weren’t fairytales though. Some are intentional, and some may be coincidental. Others may have been stolen and even had lawsuits against them. You can judge for yourself.
Why not just change the characters to cars? The computer-animated movie Cars, released in 2006 by Pixar and Disney, uses a similar plot to a non-animated movie called Doc Hollywood (1991). The difference is Cars has all the characters as animated vehicles. They both tell the story of a young character who crashes his car (or himself) in a small town on the way to an important event. In Cars, it is a racing event. In Doc Hollywood, it is a job interview.
They stay in the town for several days doing some community service but end up staying. The car the main characters crashes in Doc Hollywood also looks similar to the main red racecar character, Lightning McQueen in Cars.
Before there was Up, released 2009, there was a French short called Above Then Beyond made by a group of French students in 2005. The plot is similar to an elderly widow who sees a giant sail on her home that allows her home to go up in the air to escape eviction. Up has some plot differences like an adventure in South America. The movie seems to have taken its concept from the French film and even has a lot of similar shots.
The Fox and the Hound
The Fox and the Hound was inspired by a non-fairytale book called A Life in the Woods by Daniel P. Mannixs. Both tell the story of a fox and bloodhound, but there are many differences in the stories. The book is darker than the movie. In the book, the fox kills the hound’s father. The owner of the hound and his father are angry, so they try to kill the fox. The fox and hound are not friends as they as portrayed in the Disney movie.
The Princess and the Frog
The Princess and the Frog by Disney also takes inspiration from a book. This film was inspired by Ed Baker’s novel titled, The Frog Princess with a similar plot where a princess meets a frog. The Princess and the Frog also has some similarities to a straight to VHS movie called The Swan Princess. The Swan Princess features a French frog named Jean-Bonn that has similar characteristics to Naveen from The Princess and the Frog. There are also film shots that look similar.
Though the original owner lost his lawsuit against Disney, Finding Nemo (2003) was accused of ripping off Pierrot Le Poisson Clown (Pierrot the Clown Fish), a French children’s book released in 1995. In both stories, the main character tries to find a parent they are separated from and end up going on an underwater journey where they meet other sea characters along the way. In Finding Nemo, Nemo loses his father while Pierrot tries to find his mother in the book. The cover also looks oddly similar to Finding Nemo.
Like with Cars, Monsters Inc., the Pixar film might have borrowed its plot from a non-animated film called Little Monsters. In Little Monsters, Fred Savage plays the main character who meets a big blue monster under his bed in his bedroom, which takes him down to a world where all monsters from children’s bedrooms live. The plot is the same as in Monsters Inc. except Monsters Inc. has a little girl meet a monster in her closet.
Stanley Mouse, an artist who drew rock posters and album covers as well as the logo for the Grateful Dead, also claimed that the Mike and Sully characters from Monsters Inc. were ripped off from his drawings. His drawings were supposed to be used in a movie called Excuse My Dust, which was never released. Excuse My Dust also has plot similarities. The setting was a place called “Monster City” similar to “Monstropolis” in Monsters, Inc. Mouse filed a lawsuit and claimed his ideas when stolen when he met a story artist from Pixar who said he was a fan of his work and wanted to work with him on future projects.
Disney and Pixar did not just borrow the story for Inside Out, but may have also taken the name. Damon Pourshain, a film director from Canada, sued Disney. He claims that he made a short film of the same name and showed it on the campus of Sheridan College when he was a student where Sheridan faculty worked closely with Pixar. Author Carla Jo Masterson also sued. She claimed Inside Out screenwriters and Disney executives attended the awards ceremony, such as the 2011 Academy Awards, where they had access to her book, What’s On The Other Side Of The Rainbow? (The Secret of The Golden).
Her book depicts childhood emotions as characters in a similar way Inside Out does. Disney was sued again by Denise Daniels who claimed she pitched her project “The Moodsters” to creative talent at Disney. “The Moodsters” is a set of toys that also uses the characters of different emotions. This case was dismissed. With all the lawsuits against Inside Out, maybe they should file a lawsuit against each other.
Toy Story, released in 1995, may have been based on the plot and characters off a 1986 TV film by Jim Henson called The Christmas Toy. It aired on ABC which Disney later owned. Both films tell the stories of toys that come to life by walking and talking when people aren’t looking. In The Christmas Toy, the toys become frozen though if they get caught by a human. The films also have similar characters. The film’s main character in The Christmas Toy is the muppet Rugby the Tiger. He wants to be the favorite Christmas toy like he was last year. Similar to Woody in Toy Story, he is the owner’s current favorite toy.
The Christmas Toy has a character, Meteora, that is similar to Buzz Lightyear and known as the “Queen of the asteroids.” Meteora is also a new toy from space who wants to get the owner’s attention and thinks it is more than just a toy. Pixar wanted to use a Barbie character in the original Toy Story but could not get permission for it from the creators of Barbie, Mattel (even though they were able to use it in later Toy Story films). However, the Bo Peep character in the first Toy Story looks similar to a Barbie doll character in The Christmas Toy who at one point wears a Little Bo Peep outfit.
The Lion King
The Lion King may have been based off a Japanese manga called “Kimba the White Lion” which had several installments in manga and television. Walt Disney was a fan of the creator Osamu Tezuka, who was an animator and comic artist. He even met him at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The Lion King and “Kimba the White Lion” have several similarities. Both tell the story of a young lion who loses their father and then decides to leave home. He learns lessons along the way and is guided back home where he ends up ruling the kingdom as the king. There are some differences, such as Kimba has several interactions with humans, while The Lion King has all animal characters. Though Disney denied the connection and said it was a coincidence, even Matthew Broderick who played the voice of Simba thought The Lion King was a remake of Kimba.
A Bug’s Life
The Pixar film A Bug’s Life might have had many sources of inspiration. The 1998 film was based on a 1934 short film “The Grasshopper and the Ants” by Walt Disney. The short film was originally inspired by aesop fable, “The Ants and the Grasshopper.”
A Bug’s Life also has similarities to the movie Antz, which was released the same year by Dreamworks. Antz has a similar plot. In both films, an ant is trying to find their place in their world of bugs. It is possible that Antz may have taken ideas from A Bug’s Life as Pixar had been in production of their film before Dreamworks started working on Antz. Whoever came up with the idea first, now we have two films about a bug’s journey.