Tai Chi expert claims 'Kung Fu Panda' stolen from his pitch

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Tai Chi expert claims 'Kung Fu Panda' stolen from his pitch

Tue Jun 01, 2010 @ 05:50PM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Kungfupanda EXCLUSIVE: A martial arts guru is accusing DreamWorks Animation of stealing one of its most lucrative characters.

Terence Dunn, who describes himself as a writer-producer-teacher-philosopher and says he "pioneered the practice of Tai Chi, Kung Fu and Qigong in modern medicine," claims in a lawsuit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court that he originated the idea for a movie about a "spiritual Kung-fu fighting panda bear" and met with the studio months before it decided to make "Kung Fu Panda" without him. 

Dunn says that in November 2001, he disclosed to DWA exec Lance Young his idea for a feature about a panda "who is adopted by five animal friends in the forest (a tiger, a leopard, a dragon, a snake and a crane), whose destiny is foretold by an old and wise sage, Turquoise Tortoise, and who comes of age and fulfills his destiny as a martial arts hero and spiritual avatar ... by leading his friends to save the inhabitants of peaceful Plum Flower Village ..."

Dunn,terence After a number of development phone calls between Dunn (left), Young and another DWA exec, Michael Lachance, the studio allegedly passed on the idea in February 2002. A few months later, DreamWorks allegedly began developing "Kung Fu Panda," its hit 2008 film starring the voice of Jack Black as a panda "substantially similar in all respects" to the one Dunn described, according to the complaint. The film grossed more than $630 million worldwide and has spawned a DVD sequel, a planned TV show and a theatrical sequel scheduled for next summer.

Dunn says his conversations with the studio created an implied-in-fact contract. He wants at least $1 million in damages.

DWA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dunn is represented by Glen Kulik at Kulik Gottesman Mouton & Siegel in Sherman Oaks, Calif.  


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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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