Disney loses bid to toss Muppet Babies copyright lawsuit

Kermit The Frog

Kermit The Frog
Photo: Scott Gries/ImageDirect (Getty Images)

The original ’80s Muppet Babies cartoon is a licensing nightmare these days thanks to its regular use of clips from popular movies (and it’s not like we’d ever see a world where one massive company owns the Muppets and Star Wars and Indiana Jones), but the appeal of seeing the Muppets as babies was simply too good for Disney to resist. So, in 2018, it released a brand new Muppet Babies CG-animated series with the same basic premise—Muppets as babies—but without the “what if the Muppets just watch Star Wars in every episode?” hook and with a more explicitly baby-targeting tone.

According to original Muppet Babies writer Jeffrey Scott, though, he was still a little too close to his show for Disney to get away with it without paying him. Scott sued Disney in 2020arguing that his original deal for the first show gave him the rights to its production bible, meaning certain elements of Muppet Babies that were created for the show (and not imported from existing muppets cannon) belonged to him. When Disney made the new show, using elements from the old one (like the nanny character, certain running jokes, and the general blueprint for stories), it did so without giving Scott credit.

Since then, the suit was temporarily dropped on the grounds that Scott had lost control of the Muppet Babies production bible in bankruptcy court and therefore had no right to sue over something he no longer owned, but that has all been worked out. Now, The Hollywood Reporter says a federal judge has shut down Disney’s attempts to get the lawsuit dismissed, finding credible copyright claims in Scott’s argument that Disney is using his nanny character and that an episode of both the reboot and the original series feature the Muppet Babies learning about impressionist art by looking at “photorealistic” replicas of famous works (and both even have Animal shouting “Renoir!”).

Basically, the new Muppet Babies—which didn’t seem to have that much in common with the old Muppet Babies—is in legal hot water over being too much like the old Muppet Babiesand now the case is free to move forward.

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