Isabella Tanikumi has filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company claiming Disney’s Frozen is not an original work, but instead the storyline and characters were stolen from her memoirs.

For the few people in the world who have yet to be exposed to Frozen, it features the story of two princesses, Elsa and Anna, living in the fictional country of Arendelle (loosely based on Norway), and their journey as they deal with the oldest sister’s cryokinetic powers. The oldest sister Elsa, who becomes queen of Arendelle, has the ability to control and create ice, a power she was born with. Along the way, movie-goers encounter a playful, lively snowman, a not-so-playful snow monster, an impressive ice castle, talking rock trolls, and a fight to save Anna from death by turning into a solid ice sculpture. Typical features of any autobiography.

Frozen was presented as being loosely based off of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” In the fairytale version, the Snow Queen is evil, lives in an ice palace, and several people’s hearts turn to ice when put under her spell. The parallels between the two stories are obvious, especially since much of Frozen centers around Elsa trying to deal with her powers, which others claim to be evil. While there are obvious differences between Frozen and “The Snow Queen,” it is important to remember that Disney is known for taking “dark” fairytales and making them kid friendly. In Disney’s Cinderella, for example, the stepsisters’ eyes were not pecked out by birds at the end of the film, as they were in the original Grimm Brothers version, nor was Snow White subject to multiple deaths that included suffocation by corset.

Isabella Tanikumi’s claims include copyright infringement, fraud and plagiarism, and she points out several similarities between Disney’s film and her autobiography. For instance, Tanikumi’s memoirs, entitled Living My Truth and Yearning of the Heart, do have some similarities to Frozen. Both stories feature two sisters. The oldest sister harms the younger one, causing the former to shut herself away from others. The settings of both stories take place in a village near snow-covered mountains. Perhaps the most curious similarity comes in the names of the characters. In both Frozen and Tanikumi’s memoirs, one of the sisters has suitors named Hans and Kristoff. However, a quick Google search reveals Hans and Kristoff (or Kristoffer) as two of the more popular Norwegian/Scandinavian baby names, which is the Disney-claimed inspirational setting for Frozen.

Tanikumi is asking for $250,000,000 in damages and is also seeking punitive damages.


Danielle Dudding

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2 Responses to Disney Sued Over Frozen

  1. Michael Griffin says:

    Let it go, Tanikumi! This should be kicked on a motion to dismiss. The plaintiff’s bar has clearly failed to self-regulate frivolous claims, so I hope the court is up to the task.

  2. Jackson Sattell says:

    Full disclosure — I have (unfortunately) never seen Frozen. However, this post is intriguing for the copyright infringement difficulties it implicates. If this woman is able to win (or settle for a large amount), what deters others from doing the same?

    There are so many people in the world and just as a matter of mathematics, some of their writings are going to oddly overlap and contain consistencies with published works. Hopefully the world of Copyright has significant safeguards against frivolous claims (although I am not saying this is one), or else we will start seeing so many more situations like this one.

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