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Screwed By The Lawyers / Western Animation

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  • Parodied In-Universe on The Simpsons a couple of times:
    • In "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", Herb Powell is talking to his fellow beggars sitting around a fire. One of them says that he had been operating Disney massage parlors, which were obviously unlicensed. Once Disney found out, their lawyers sued him for every penny, both for the copyright infringement and the PR damage his wildly inappropriate use of their characters caused. He tried to negotiate with them by changing the logo and putting Mickey's pants back on, but to no avail, and he still thinks they were being unreasonable
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    • One episode which provides this page's quote has Krusty the Clown, upset that a mural in a daycare features unauthorized use of his likeness, has a group of men sandblast the images of his face from the mural. This was based on a real-life incident where Disney told three daycares in Florida to remove murals of their characters from their walls.
    • Jokingly averted at the end of "The President Wore Pearls" when the episode ends with a caption which reads "On the advice of our lawyers, we swear we have never heard of a musical based on the life of Eva Perón".
  • At times, several music videos of Disney's DTV were pulled from YouTube due to music rights. In 2009, Several of them were blocked by WMG (Warner Music Group).
  • Disney's purchase of Marvel Comics put an end to Sony's production of The Spectacular Spider Man. (In general, Disney tried to avoid screwing with existing licensing deals, but Sony gave up the TV rights to Spidey so they could keep the movie rights.) Greg Weisman explained the show's situation here; he even points out that the companies themselves weren't to blame, but that it was just bad corporate luck.
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  • Disney later repeated the above method with Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network after acquiring Lucasfilm. Thankfully, episodes produced at the time of cancellation later aired on Netflix. Meanwhile, a four-episode arc with unfinished animation was posted to the official Star Wars website for free, another arc called "Bad Batch" was screened at a Star Wars Celebration in 2015, and episodes that didn't make it past the writing stage were adapted to a four-issue comic miniseries called Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir and a novel called Dark Disciple. Eventually, Disney Un-Canceled The Clone Wars for one last season, which debuted in February 2020.
  • In a similar vein as the examples above, 4Kids couldn't continue with their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptation after Nickelodeon acquired the TMNT franchise from Mirage Comics. 4Kids lost the rights to their adaptation to Nickelodeon as part of the deal.
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  • This caused the demise of King Louie of The Jungle Book in all Disney media for quite some time. The family of the late Louis Prima (who voiced Louie in the original movie) sued Disney because Jim Cummings did too good a job impersonating Prima when voicing the character in TaleSpin. As a result, Louie was completely absent from Jungle Book 2 and replaced by an Expy named King Larry in House of Mouse. He finally returned in The Jungle Book (2016), but only name-wise, plus becoming a Gigantopithecus. He did eventually become a playable character in the mobile game Disney Heroes: Battle Mode, likely meaning Louis Prima's estate gave up and let Disney use the original King Louie at last.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head is now available on DVD without many of the music video commentary segments due to not being able to license that amount of music. Arguably, those segments were half the reason why the show was entertaining. Even the segments that were made available for the DVD releases (on separate discs from the episodes themselves) aren't available online. Mike Judge wouldn't let a third of the series be released since he was embarrassed by it.
  • Some lawsuits by the members of the class depicted in Mrs. Munger's Class (whose likenesses were used without permission) ended the segment's run on One Saturday Morning and shut the door on plans for an ABC primetime version of the cartoon, also leading to it's replacement with the Suspiciously Similar Substitute Centerville.
  • King of the Hill's third DVD set was released a whole year after the second, and rumor has it that the delay was related to licensing issues for the music, explaining the third to sixth season box sets' lack of bonus features.
  • The U.S. release of The Tick animated series is missing one episode each in the two seasons released so far; due to a prominent minor character bearing a strong similarity to a well-known celebrity, and Buena Vista not wanting to spend the money to secure the likeness rights. Buena Vista still hasn't released the third season; for reasons unknown. The UK region 2 release by Lace International has all three seasons complete and uncut.
  • Music rights were the reason behind the long wait for Daria on DVD; being a MTV produced show, they used snippets of new music constantly, often using ten or more just one episode. Even just lasting seconds long, it led to a mind-boggling amount of rights to shuffle through. Eventually, they decided it was either clear all the rights, and pricing Daria out of the market altogether, or re-produce music that sounds good enough to pass for whatever mood they were going for.
  • Prior to the early 2010s, there was a contractual requirement that neither Wonder Woman nor any of her supporting characters could appear in any video production in which she was not one of the main characters. This prevented her from appearing in the DC Animated Universe until Justice League, and Wonder Girl was out of both Teen Titans and the first season of Young Justice. At one point, this was so bad that she couldn't appear in other shows in the DCAU, including crossovers with Justice League. Thus, she was the only Justice League founding member to never appear on Static Shock.
  • The Anvilicious Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue was hit with this, though not as originally expected — for a long time, it was believed that the show wasn't re-aired because the producers never got permission from Jim Davis to use Garfield in the show, and he threatened litigation if it ever aired again. However, Mark Evanier (head writer of Garfield and Friends) has debunked the rumor, and explained the original plan which got the copyright holders to cooperate specified limited airings.
  • VeggieTales' creator Phil Vischer says in "The Whimsical Wizard of Ha's" commentary note  that they got in trouble with New Line Cinema after their release of "Lord of the Beans".
  • This is the major reason why the TV special Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies is unlikely get a home video release, since DreamWorks Animation and Warner Bros. are not too fond of each other when it comes to cooperating. The special is available on video sites such as YouTube, but are sourced from low-resolution kinescope prints. And with NBCUniversal's acquisition of DreamWorks in 2016, whether or not it will ever be seen again is even more uncertain.
    • This is the same reason why Warner Bros., who now owns the rights to the show via Turner Entertainment, can't release a DVD set of The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show. However, it involves MGM outsourcing animation to Filmation. Despite this, one of the segments ("Jerry's Country Cousin") was released on the The Tom and Jerry Deluxe Anniversary Collection DVD set in 2010, Boomerang air the T&J segments currently in their Tom and Jerry block and the show airs in its original format overseas. The Boomerang streaming service also has 8 Droopy segments and all 30 T&J segments available, as of 2020.
  • Rugrats had an episode titled "Vacation" that was originally released on videocassette, then broadcast on TV before it mysteriously vanished, and failed to appear on any compilation DVDs for the longest time note . Depending on who you ask, either Nickelodeon was unable to regain clearance to show the song "Vacation" by The Go-Go's in the opening scene, or it could be a particular scene where Siegfried & Roy look-alikes are attacked by their white tigers (especially when you consider that a similar, real-life event happened six years after it was originally shown).
  • Pingu has suffered this several times when the series was remastered.
    • Originally, "Pingu Looks After the Egg" featured the song "Woodpeckers from Space" from the Dutch group VideoKids. When the entire series was remastered, HiT Entertainment could not get clearance for the song to appear again. As a result, the music was replaced by an instrumental version of David Hasselhoff's "Pingu Dance", which was used as the theme song beginning with Season 3 and replaced the original intro in the remastered versions of Seasons 1 and 2.
    • Likewise, "Ice Hockey" had a version of "Hand in Hand", the official song for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Again, HiT Entertainment could not get clearance for this song and replaced with a random orchestral score.
    • "Music Lessons", which introduced Pingu's grandfather, has a strange variation of this. Reportedly, the Pygos Group was sued by an unknown recording company after they discovered that Pygos did not get clearance to use the accordion music that Pingu's grandfather played while offering lessons to Pingu. Although it was released on VHS, the episode was briefly pulled for a while and not shown until it was remastered by HiT and the music was redone. The remastered version is the only version of the episode that is rerun or released on current home video releases.
  • Warner Bros. co-produced X-Men: Evolution and was responsible for home media distribution. Although the first three seasons were released to DVD in Region 1 (with the first two being released in the form of four volumes each season), the fourth season has yet to receive such treatment, since the rights to the series reverted back to Marvel (and all existing DVDs went out-of-print). Luckily for Americans, Marvel has released the entire series on iTunes, Hulu, YouTube and Google Play, so unless you live outside America, it doesn't really matter if Season 4 is on DVD or not.
  • MGM/UA's plans to release Popeye shorts on home video were put to a screeching halt by a cease-and-desist letter from King Features Syndicate, stating that MGM/UA had no rights to release Popeye material on home video. Even after Turner Entertainment acquired the Popeye cartoon catalog in 1986, it would take up to 2007 for an agreement to finally be reached to officially release the shorts on DVD.note 
    • Rumors began circulating that the legal issues flared up again after the home media releases were suspended after Volume 3 (which featured Popeye cartoons from the early 1940s) was released. Cartoon historian Jerry Beck later clarified that it was due to the prohibitive cost of having to restore more cartoons, and less to do with legal disputes. Eventually a third volume would be released on Blu-Ray in 2018.
  • When Nintendo licensed the Super Mario Bros. game series for animated television, they included a contractual requirement that Bowser be referred to only as "King Koopa". This also applied to other media, including the Live-Action Adaptation movie. One can only wonder if this obligation carries on to Universal's rumored Animated Adaptation in the works. By The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, the requirement was softened enough to allow his full name "Bowser Koopa" to be used, though not "Bowser" alone.
  • The Alvin and the Chipmunks Direct to Video film series that began with Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein was killed by a lawsuit between Universal Studios and Chipmunks licensor Bagdasarian Productions over a contract infraction by Universal, not, as some believed, because of under-performing sales of the second movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman. A third direct-to-video movie, Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks was made entirely by Bagdasarian. 20th Century Fox soon picked up the theatrical rights to Alvin and the Chipmunks afterwards.
  • When the complete series of ChalkZone was released on DVD in October 2014, the set did not include the season two episode "The Smooch" due to music licensing issues- the episode included the Baha Men's cover of "Coconut", and the song was too important to the plot to edit out. Due to the same reasons, the episode was also left off of the episode collections on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. Fortunately, the DVDs do contain "Power Play" and "All The Way To The Top", which were paired up with the episode (as the show's other releases didn't include them at all). The episode remained in the rerun rotation until 2013 when Nicktoons took the show off of their schedule. Whether or not it will appear in reruns again is unknown.
  • While ratings and budget issues played a major role, Class of 3000 was ultimately screwed over by a lawsuit. A man named Timothy McGee sued Andre 3000 for copyright infringement, claiming that he had pitched a similar series in 1997 called "The Music Factory of the 90's". Whether he actually did is up to debate, but the show wasn't profitable enough to have Cartoon Network view fighting the lawsuit to be worth it, and ended the series instead.
  • The most likely factor in the cancellation of Johnny Test. According to TV producer David Straiton, he and Scott Fellows created the concept for Johnny Test back in 1996 and unsuccessfully pitched it to a number of networks. Years later, he found out that Fellows got the show on TV without crediting or paying Straiton, so Straiton sued him for fraud and accounting malfeasance. However, the show is getting a Netflix revival in 2021, still helmed by Fellows, so this lawsuit didn't last long.
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies DVD set was missing nine of the 24 episodes either because Warner Home Video couldn't get clearances from those episodes' guest stars (Phyllis Diller, Jerry Reed) or couldn't afford to pay an extra license to use crossover characters (Addams Family, Josie and the Pussycats). This was mostly cleared up in 2019 when Warner released a Blu-ray set of 23 of the 24 episodes, with a standalone DVD set with the 8 recently-cleared episodes. The only episode still unavailable on home video is "Wednesday is Missing," allegedly because these releases came out as MGM was about to release their new Addams Family film, leading to possible brand conflict.
  • This is the reason why most Nickelodeon Rewind merchandise excludes Doug from anything. When The Walt Disney Company bought the show in 1996, they were given the rights to use Doug's image on merchandise and other promotional material. Nick still owns their episodes and their video rights (as well as promotional material such as stock art used before the Disney buyout), but overall very rarely use Doug on '90s Nick-oriented merchandise as they have to ask Disney for permission most of the time.
  • Because KaBlam! had a number of episodes that featured music videos for real songs (usually by They Might Be Giants), as well as the opening being a Real Song Theme Tune ("2-Tone Army" by The Toasters- a few of their other songs were used for the show's ending themes, the eyecatch, and background music), the show is currently the only Nicktoon from the '90s to not receive a home media release, has not aired in regular repeats since 2005, and is barely acknowledged by Nick themselves anymore (possibly to avoid having to deal with all of the music rights). Oddly, this was assumed to be the case with the individual shorts (especially with Angela Anaconda and Untalkative Bunny, which were spun-off into their own series by different companies), however numerous creators of the shorts have stated that Nick owns all the shorts produced, including the ones that were made into their own shows not owned by Viacom (so all Nick would own are the original shorts for them). This excludes the Lava shorts as they were produced by a different company, though all post-2000 reruns cut the shorts from the episodes they were in.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The character Starlight Glimmer was originally named Aurora Glimmer until an angry letter from Disney led to the name change.
    • Due to issues with the Chanel estate, Coco Pommel had her name changed to Miss Pommel in the merchandise and her last major appearance in Season 6. Afterwards, she was relegated to the background.
    • Nurse Redheart's cutie mark was subtly changed from a red cross to a white cross with a heart in it or a purple cross, depending on the work, in order to avoid issues with the Red Cross who have begun more fiercely defending the symbol, whose usage is protected under the Geneva Convention.
  • This is believed to be the reason why Barbie and Ken aren't in Toy Story of Terror! or Toy Story That Time Forgot (although Barbie does appear in Toy Story 4 in a flashback sequence). After the release of Toy Story 3, the rights to produce Barbie theatrical films were acquired by Sony, and so Disney and Pixar couldn't use the characters during the time of the spin-off films.
  • Until the mess with the great number of clips from other TV shows and movies is sorted out, it could be quite a while before Muppet Babies (1984) gets re-released on Region 1 DVD or Blu-ray. Some sources state that those clips were licensed with future use in mind, making the situation unclear.
  • In October 2020, Jeffrey Scott, the developer of the original 1984 Muppet Babies series, sued Disney for copyright infringement and fraud, saying that they didn't offer him a chance to work on the 2018 reboot or pay him for his original ideas. Fortunately, it didn't stop season 3 from premiering in January of 2021, but it did result in it being on the Disney Junior sub-channel instead of the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel.
  • The pre-October 1950 Noveltoons will likely take a while to get an official home video release as Paramount sorts out royalty issues over the use of the characters in the shorts (Paramount owns those shorts, while all the shorts from that point until 1962 are owned by Universal, who owns the characters in question). These issues, ironically, were the result of Paramount's own folly, having sold the characters and the post-October 1950-1962 cartoons to Harvey Comics, which Universal now owns.
    • Paramount pulled stupid moves even during animation's golden age. A huge example of this was when Paramount approached Marjorie Henderson Buell, owner of Little Lulu, as their contract for animated shorts was set to expire in 1947. Paramount demanded that Marge relinquish the rights to Little Lulu or they'll stop producing cartoons. Marge didn't take it well; the contract was not renewed and Paramount had to create a knockoff replacement, Little Audrey. Both characters were eventually bought out by Universal.
  • UK fans of South Park had to wait the better part of a decade between the releases of Seasons 4 and 5 of the show, due to a poorly negotiated home video contract that gave initial UK broadcasters Channel 4 a ten-year deal on all VHS and DVD releases. When Comedy Central pulled Channel 4's broadcasting license for the show and started showing it on their own UK channel, Channel 4 retaliated by sitting on the home video rights for several years, forcing Comedy Central to wait until the deal had expired and they could release it under their own brand.
  • This is the reason why the Dragon Tunes segments of Dragon Tales haven't been seen since 2010, due to issues to the legal rights to the songs. It also might be a factor in it being one of three shows (the other two being Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat and Big Bag) from Sesame Workshop not to rerun on HBO (Sony co-owning the series doesn't help). However, when it was on Netflix, each episode was put on there as individual stories to avoid problems with Dragon Tunes.
  • Robinson Sucroe, originally released in 1994, got screwed over by the discovery that the idea was plagiarized from The Adventures of Robinson Curiosity, a proposed idea for a series pitched to Cookie Jar Entertainment (then known as Cinar) by Claude Robinson. In 2004, Claude sued Cinar for plagiarizing Robinson Curiosity and won the case, barring the show from getting any further reruns or home media releases.
  • Hanna-Barbera's animated series of The Little Rascals is unlikely to see a U.S. home video release or cable reruns for two reasons: One is the ownership dispute between CBS (which acquired King World) and Warner Bros., and the other is Eugene "Porky" Lee's lawsuit against Hanna-Barbera, alleging unauthorized use of his likeness.
  • Thanks to Disney and MGM both claiming ownership of the series, RoboCop: The Animated Series remains unavailable on DVD in the US, leaving those who want to check the series out to track down the hard-to-find VHS volumes or the taped original broadcasts. As for why Disney's involved, the show was produced by Marvel Productions, whose library is owned by Disney, and the show is considered part of the library. The RoboCop IP itself is owned by MGM via Orion Pictures, who licensed the franchise to Marvel in the late 80s and early 90s.
  • In the Japanese dub of PAW Patrol, Ryder is named Kent.The reason why is because Takara Tomy, who distributes The Merch in Japan, wanted to copyright Ryder's name, but their rival, Bandai, had copyrighted the Japanese spelling, "raida", for the names of the warriors in their Kamen Rider series. Surprisingly, this didn't affect the release of Frozen II, which also featured a character named Ryder, possibly because various companies had the rights to The Merch for that movie, including Bandai, who makes the toys for Kamen Rider.
  • Nickelodeon's promos for Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty refer it to RBUK, and when it airs on the network, the show's theme song was abridged to remove the show's title. This may have to do with behind-the-scenes legal threats from both Warner Bros. and LEGO, the creators of Unikitty!, a spin-off of The LEGO Movie, feeling that the show's premise and main character are rip-offs of theirs. Ironically enough, the concept of a rainbow butterfly unicorn kitty predates both shows.
  • Vampirina is based off a series of children's books called Vampirina Ballerina. The shortened title for the Animated Adaptation is likely because Disney didn't want to get sued by Mattel for having a show whose title spoofs Angelina Ballerina.
  • In the late 2000's, several videos featuring cartoons from The Disney Afternoon, as well as Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and the English dub of Sailor Moon, got taken down by Warner Music Group because the theme songs to all of these shows were used for their CD Toon Tunes: Action-Packed Anthems.
  • This affected The Transformers, due to Hasbro signing on toys from just about every line they could get their hands on when their Japanese partner Takara decided they wanted to air the show in their markets as well. Takara put the kibosh on any characters based on toys owned by competing companies appearing in the show, and as a result, the Deluxe Insecticons and Deluxe Vehicles, among others, became Toyline Exclusive Characters. One character created particular problems with this, as Jetfire had a big expensive toy and episodes featuring him were already in production—despite the fact that he was a Macross Valkyrie, a toy very much owned by Bandai. As a result, Hasbro redesigned Jetfire's cartoon design completely to the point of looking nothing like his toy, changed his name to "Skyfire" for good measure, and had him vanish from the show a third of the way through the second season.
  • The Disney Junior Nursery Rhymes and Disney Junior Ready for Preschool segments do not feature any of the PJ Masks characters or any Bluey characters. Even though both are popular on the channel, Disney does not own the IP rights to both shows, and they aren't interested in paying Entertainment One, Ludo Studio, and BBC Studios royalties to use the characters in the segments.
  • A Schoolhouse Rock! segment about weather got pulled in 1987 because it was called "The Greatest Show On Earth", something that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus objected to. It would later appear on the 30th anniversary DVD.
  • Warner Bros. has released manufacture-on-demand DVD sets for the entirety of Challenge of the GoBots in three volumes (the first consisting of the Five-Episode Pilot, the second consisting of the next 30 episodes and the third consisting of the remaining 30 episodes) due to being the current rights owners like most other Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but have yet to provide a contemporary home media release for The Movie GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords because the film was originally distributed by Clubhouse Pictures, whose library was inherited by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after going defunct. This means that Warner Bros. can't give Battle of the Rock Lords a home media release without working out licensing issues with co-owner MGM.
  • For a while, home video releases of SpongeBob SquarePants excluded the show's very first episode, "Help Wanted", because of licensing issues with the song "Living in the Sunlight" by Tiny Tim.

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