Sunday, May 6, 2012

One of the most outraging shocks of my life: discovering Pixar had stolen my picture and concept for their "original" movie Up

Directed by a plagurist named Pete Docter
Written by a thief named Bob Peterson
96 minutes
Rated PG (for some peril and action, as well as teaching children that you can make a fortune off of stealing someone else's idea)

[NOTE: This is where I usually share a publicity still of the movie in question that I happen to be reviewing and commenting on. This time, for obvious reasons, I simply refuse to do it.]

I cannot begin to tell you how much this release enrages me.

For those of you out there who have not yet heard; Pixar, who had already established a track record for ripping off other people's characters, concepts and ideas, STOLE MY PICTURE AND CONCEPT FOR THIS MOVIE.

What had happened was this:

Back in 1987 when I was still living in the Tri-Valley of the Bay Area, there was a restaurant over in the Target parking lot of Dublin called The Big Yellow House. It looked exactly like its name and was a victorian-style two story building, and it looked gorgeous both on the outside and inside. I had gotten to eat there a handful of times due to my parents being fans of it, and one night after one of those visits I came up with a project idea while I had the Willy Wonka song Pure Imagination spinning around in my head; and because I still had a delight for the concept of having my cartoon characters travel by balloon, especially since falling in love with the record cover of Prince & The Revolution's Around The World In A Day, why not a series of houses?

So I began creating a series of sketches for such a project to be used for its cover and "main" pages. The centerpiece for the book's cover was a yellow house inspired by the Big Yellow House Restaurant being carried lovingly away through the clouds by multicoloured heart-shaped balloons. I called the book Free. I was hoping to eventually use it to raise money for charity, which has always been my lifelong goal with my work. The title was designed to be white and gracefully giving the impression of being written in the sky above as though it were written from air and cloud, and while no characters would be present in the actual cover, they would become visible upon opening the cover in a closeup of the house itself. Other airloft houses and designs would also decorate and engage the reader to encourage the notion of emotional and physical freedom, a peacful reflection to refresh the spirit of whoever looked at it.

After having copies of it mailed to myself via registered mail to protect it, I put it away for future completion as 1998 brought on the whole mess of my family's disaster and implosion, suddenly having to move away and my whole life immediately being thrown into chaos.

One day a certain individual from England who now had my business card, whom I now wish with all my heart and soul I had never met due to all the trauma he ended up causing me, asked to see some of the samples of my work that I had been creating over the years, and I was happy to share them. Certain pictures he asked if he could have copies of because he enjoyed them so much, and, as was my custom at the time, I said yes, of course. One of those pictures was the main cover illustration for Free. I had told him that he was allowed to have copies so long as he promised not to show them to anyone.

So guess what? Soon afterward I had found out the creep had posted several of my pictures (along with my name, address and telephone number!) on something I was unfamiliar with at the time called the internet, and had even handed several such pictures over to other peoples' personal amateur book publications for inclusion!

I demanded to know what he thought he was doing, and it was obvious that he was stubbornly convinced that he was supposedly "doing me a favor" by giving me "exposure".

At first it seemed fairly simple to get rid of most of them, but my cover for Free was apparently a popular one: it kept popping up on the web all over the place! I can't begin to tell you how many years I spent chasing it down and telling people to remove it, how hard I tried so hard to protect my baby, but then finally around 2002 or so, it seemed that I had finally managed to get it permanently removed. Thank God, I thought to myself, now it's safe again. Or so I thought. But years later I would learn that my troubles were only magnified.

Fast forward to just a few years ago: imagine my shock and horror when one day I was going to work and saw, right in front of my eyes, MY OWN PICTURE STARING BACK AT ME IN A MOVIE POSTER FOR AN UPCOMING PIXAR THING CALLED "UP"!

I just stared at it in sheer outrage and horror. It was my exact house. My exact concept. The lettering style I had created for my title had been stolen. Even the clouds in the background were in the exact same formations! Everything, EVERYTHING, was exactly the same. The only two differences were (a) the balloons were now normally-shaped ones as opposed to heart-shaped, and (b) it was digitally created by computer as opposed to hand-drawn. Apart from that, exactly the same.

Can you imagine how I felt when I saw that?

I had already watched for years as Pixar would steal ideas, characters and concepts before, but I never once thought they would take advantage of and steal from a penniless charity artist.

Current circumstances which cannot be discussed here prevent me from being able to actually sue, but let me just say that I politely discussed the situation with certain people immediately after discovering it, explaining that I have legal proof in my possession. Afterwards, I have noticed little alterations made since in the film's advertising. The original movie poster advertising for Up which was blatantly stolen from me now tends to be replaced with a different picture of the house up in the sky at the top left corner of the photograph and the film's three main characters hanging off its bottom with a hose. The title graphic now tends to have a smaller graphic of a ballooned house placed within the center of the letter "P" so as to create a bit of difference from my own. And the current DVD boxes are far different still.

However, nothing will mollify me from this situation. That's my concept up there. That's my idea. And it really makes me sick that others clearly lacking in imagination, talent and inspiration would stoop so low. If any of those people involved, ANY of them, tell you that it's an original idea and how they supposedly came up with Up entirely on their own then they are lying. Plain and simple.

What do I want? I don't want their damn money. I couldn't care less about that. What I want is for them to have the balls to GIVE ME CREDIT HERE. Which, so far, I have yet to see them do.

It has taken me quite a while to control my sheer outrage over the situation to actually sit down here and write about this whole nonsense. I ended up having to sit through this thing one day while waiting to have my teeth worked on, so I'll go ahead and attempt to remark on my reaction to the story itself.

The actual script, which has been praised to death by sheeple critics for reasons I still can't fathom considering how very Pixar-traditionally calculated it is, starts off with two children who both have a strong desire to see the world, especially after seeing footage of an explorer named Charles Muntz (and also after seeing my own illustrations, apparently) who disappears after attempting to prove that he discovered a "lost world". Ho hum, such originality. The kids' names are Carl and Ellie. They grow up, fall in love, have a big Yellow House, and suddenly they are elderly, Ellie is gone, and Carl has pretty much closed himself off. Deciding that enough is enough and that he's going to at least make that One Special Trip he and Ellie had been hoping on all their lives, he attaches the balloons and attempts to fly there, accidentally bringing along a scout kid in the process, and reach Paradise Falls, which is basically a weird patchwork of ideas and goals stolen from countless other films, not to mention an annoying take on the usually lovable idea of talking dogs.

Yawn, same old, same old. Does this sound like Pixar just threw together a bunch of claptrap in order to have an excuse of a story to hang my idea on to? Of course it does, because that's precisely what it is. I have yet to see Pixar do anything unique or original, apart from the original way that they keep ruining the industry with their recycled trash, and Up is no different. I remember how people used to (and in some circles still do) criticize Spielberg for attempting "deliberate button pushes" instead of honest emotion, and that phrase precisely describes the stunt that Pixar is known for doing. I think it says something that I recently saw a comment on a trailer for their new upcoming movie Brave (which I'm sure is also "borrowed" from yet another source) that remarked, "If it weren't for the fact that it has Pixar's name on it, I wouldn't at all be interested in it." Uh, hello? Whatever happened to individual thinking? Why should you feel obligated to go see something just because Pixar's name is on it if it doesn't look like it interests you at all? But that's another topic for another day.

Meanwhile, as for my book Free, I still plan on publishing it eventually. And when I do, I am not altering its illustrations, much less its cover, in the slightest. It IS my idea and book, after all. And I WILL release it precisely as it was intended.