Roger Rabbit Suit Back in Play

Here’s a movie you probably thought wouldn’t be making headlines in 2004.

But litigation surrounding the 1988 mega-hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit has been given new life. A California state appeals court reinstated a lawsuit last week that claims that the Walt Disney Co. potentially owes the author of the novel the film was based on, millions of dollars in merchandising royalties.

Gary K. Wolf, whose novel was published in 1981, claims Disney owes him a five-percent royalty from non-cash licensing agreements it made with McDonald’s and other companies to use characters from the film.

Disney contends the royalty agreement with Wolf only covered cash transactions. The action by the 2nd District Court of Appeal reverses a lower court ruling that had thrown Wolf’s 2001 lawsuit out.

Disney attorney Martin Katz says the ruling throws the matter back to the lower court, where he expects the company will win again. No hearing date was set. Who Framed Roger Rabbit grossed nearly $250 million. It also won four Academy Awards for technical achievements. Though they’re hardly the hottest items in toy stores, products based on the film’s character (chiefly Roger Rabbit and his sultry wife Jessica), continues to be marketed by Disney.