An amateur cartoonist is facing up to 25 years in prison after falsely claiming Hollywood producers stole his idea for Kung Fu Panda.
Jayme Gordon filed a $12m (£9.7m) claim against the DreamWorks studio, alleging it based the 2008 animated feature on drawings he created nine years earlier.
While prosecutors accepted there were superficial similarities between the drawings, they claimed the 51-year-old from Massachusetts fabricated part of his story and backdated sketches he copied from Disney characters to strengthen his case.
In 1999 Gordon registered a number of drawings with the US Copyright Office of a “serious, mature” giant panda character called Kid and his “playful, mischievous” sidekick, Red. His called his picture stories Panda Power.
But after seeing a trailer for DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda in 2008, Gordon revised his drawings and character descriptions and re-registered them as Kung Fu Panda Power, a month before the film’s release.
He changed Kid’s appearance to that of a kung fu master and he re-wrote the description for both characters to match those of Po and Master Shifu in the film.
Kid was subsequently described as “immature” while Red became more serious and in 2011 he filed a lawsuit against DreamWorks for breach of copyright.
But he abruptly withdrew his claim two years later after DreamWorks confronted him with evidence that the original panda characters he claimed he sketched in 1992 had actually been traced from a Disney Lion King colouring book first released in 1996.
By then, the company had spent $3m (£2.4m) defending itself against the claim.
A federal jury convicted Gordon on four counts of wire fraud and three counts of perjury, ruling that, beyond what were superficial similarities, his original Panda Power characters and story had little in common with Kung Fu Panda.
Gordon will be sentenced on 30 March 2017.
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