Disney + Show ‘Behind The Attraction’ Charged With Copyright Infringement

All the way back in 2019 – what feels like another life – Disney has launched its own streaming service, Disney +. Not only were there hundreds of Disney, Marvel, LucasFilm, and Pixar movies and TV shows available in one place, Disney also released original content and promised a lot more. An original series released on launch day was The story of the imagination which tells how Imagineers created some of the most iconic elements of Disney parks around the world.

Credit: Disney

The story of the imagination was incredibly popular, so Disney + subscribers were extremely excited when Disney announced that it would be releasing another original series called Behind the attraction. Behind the attraction was not as popular as The story of the imagination, mainly due to the fact that massive Disney fans felt the show didn’t tell them as much new information about the rides and attractions as they hoped.

Behind the attraction
Credit: Disney

However, for an artist, Behind the attraction do something that The story of the imagination didn’t – illegally copied the artwork he created years ago.

James St. Onge graduated in structural engineering and heads the incredibly popular The Art of Engineering YouTube Series – which currently has more than 200,000 subscribers. In this series, James creates his own blueprints and designs to explain to the masses how certain things work, like cranes, roller coasters, and some Disney attractions – that’s where the problem lies.

Engineering art
Credit: Art of Engineering YouTube channel

Unfortunately, when some people watched Behind the attractionIn the Tower of Terror episode, they thought the images used in the show were very similar to the designs James had created for his own episode of Art of Engineering on the ride. They reached out to James, and he decided to watch for himself and came to the same conclusion.

The tower of terror
Credit: Behind the attraction

He took to Twitter to show how close the two works were.

Several people mentioned that the graphics for the Tower of Terror episode of “Behind the Attraction” are very similar to my YouTube video, so I decided to watch it myself. On the left, my original illustration from my video. Right behind the attraction on Disney +

James went on to explain that not only Seven Bucks Productions – who made Behind the attraction – apparently used his illustrations with very little modification made, but they also got a number of things wrong when explaining how the ride works. James claims they didn’t correctly say how many elevator shafts there are, and the series has shown driving vehicles facing different directions, which is not possible.

tower of terror struck by lightning
Credit: Disney

While James admitted that Disney did not produce the series, they are the ones showing it on their streaming service. He was also disappointed that someone else was credited with being the graphic designer when the work was almost identical to his.

It should be noted that Disney did not produce the series. It was created by Seven Bucks Productions and The Nacelle Company. The graphic design is attributed to award-winning graphic designer Jeremy Samples, so it’s disappointing that they are copying instead of producing original artwork.

Now, there are a lot of people who may think that Disney did nothing wrong – Tower of Terror is their attraction, so any created artwork that features it automatically becomes Disney’s. However, according to Jacques, it can have legal status because its design is that of a building and not of an attraction.

Most of the claims of smaller designers are swept under the rug by Disney, as much of their art falls under the category of “fan art” or derivative work. If you draw a picture of Mickey Mouse, Disney automatically owns the rights to your work and can use it as it sees fit.

However, Tower of Terror is not a typical work of art. It’s a building. Buildings fall under a different set of copyright rules because they are protected as works of architecture, and that protection is different from things like paintings or intellectual property in movies.

James continues with more information on how buildings fall under different rules and even cites the copyright law it refers to.

If a building is visible to the public in the United States, you are permitted to create an artistic representation of that building (such as a photograph or drawing) without violating copyright. This is described in the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA 1990).

Engineering blueprints and blueprints are still protected as regular works of art, but as I said before, I didn’t use (or even have access to) any of these when creating my video. All of the drawings in the video are my own artistic representation of the building and ride system.

James spoke with Inside the Magic and says he created the video in June 2019, so the designs he did were created in the months leading up to that. James has a Masters of Applied Science, which applies to a research-oriented Masters in Canada.

I have an engineering background so I created drawings and blueprints for many years before I started the YouTube channel. I guess I have about 10 to 15 years of experience in graphic design and creating technical drawings (it started in high school before going to college for engineering). I started doing more “artistic” designs for my YouTube videos in early 2018, where I tried to combine basic engineering designs with my own personal style.

Tower of Terror Engineering Art
Credit: James St. Onge

While it’s important to remember that Disney did not produce the Behind the attraction series, they show it off on their platform and advertised it as something every Disney fan should watch. Disney also worked with Seven Bucks Productions to create their new movie, Jungle cruise. Seven Bucks is also set to be the sequel to the Dwayne Johnson / Emily Blunt movie.

At the time of publication, James said no one from Disney or Seven Bucks Productions had contacted him regarding his plagiarism allegations.

What do you think of James’ work compared to what has been used in Behind the attraction? Let us know in the comments.

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