Disney Faces Massive VFX Lawsuit Tied To Billion-Dollar Profits

By Zack Zagranis | Published

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Did Disney know it was using stolen tech to produce their live-action Beauty and the Beast film? That’s what a lawsuit brought against the company by Steve Perlman and the firm Reardon alleges. According to The Hollywood Reporter, should Perlman’s Disney Lawsuit bear fruit, it could cost the company billions.

Disney Accused Of Illegally Using VFX Technology In The Live-Action Beauty And The Beast

beauty and the beast

Steve Pearlman is the creator of MOVA, the VFX technology used to make Beauty and the Beast‘s CGI Beast look so realistic. Pearlman alleges Disney used the technology illegally. But Beauty and the Beast is just the beginning of the story. Five months after the film was released, Perlman accused Disney in a lawsuit of using the potentially pilfered MOVA technology in other films, including Guardians of the Galaxy as well as several Avengers movies.It appears that DD3, the company Disney worked with on Beauty and the Beast and several other projects, may not have actually owned the MOVA tech that was so crucial to the movie’s look. What the Disney Lawsuit must prove is that the studio knew about DD3’s potentially illegal use of MOVA but went ahead and commissioned the use of the technology anyway.

MOVA Tech First Appeared In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

MOVA—technology that captures facial expressions and translates them into photorealistic CGI—first hit the scene in 2008 with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The uncannily realistic reverse-aging effects used in the Brad Pitt film were lauded as a milestone in VFX’s work. Soon, Rearden’s tech was being used in a smorgasbord of films, including Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Amazing Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, as well as several movies across a variety of studios. The films using MOVA have collectively grossed roughly $9.5 billion at the box office.

The Battle Over Licensing

Disney box office

In 2016, prior to the Disney lawsuit, a federal judge froze Digital Domain’s ability to license MOVA in a preliminary injunction that targeted Virtual Global Holdings—the British Virgin Islands-based firm that falsely claimed to own MOVA and was the one that licensed the tech to DD3 in the first place. It was after the injunction was given that DD3 worked with Disney on Beauty and the Beast and the other MCU films. In the trial that started yesterday, Disney will have to prove that they didn’t know about the previous legal decision before hiring DD3.

How Disney Might Get Out Of The Lawsuit

Disneyland magic happens

One thing working in Disney’s favor is an instruction given by the court telling jurors that the studio wasn’t party to the original case and, therefore, isn’t bound by the previous trial’s final judgment. The purpose of the instruction is to make up for the fact that Disney didn’t get to present a defense in the original case between Perlman’s firm Reardon and DD3 affiliate Shenzhen Haiticheng Science and Technology.Disney tried to go one step further and urged the court to consider issuing an instruction that explicitly informs jurors that the company didn’t know that DD3 was infringing on Perlman and Rearden’s intellectual property when they made movies using MOVA.

If Guilty, Disney Could Pay $139 Million In Fines


The trial is expected to last a week, with each side allotted 16 hours in which to present its case. If Disney is found guilty in the lawsuit, they could be ordered to pay Reardon a percentage of Beauty and the Beast‘s profits, amounting to roughly $100 million to $139 million. In the event that the studio is found not guilty, Disney might still have to contend with further lawsuits for the Avengers films Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.