As a federal court trial over ownership of the rights to “Rocky & Bullwinkle” got under way Friday, cartoon-ist Ted Key has filed a separate lawsuit seeking a court-ordered accounting of profits generated from the venerable TV show, licensed merchandise and future productions.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in L.A. Superior Court, Key claims Ward Prods. breached its agreement with him by fail-ing to pay his share of revenues generated by the TV show, which includes some of the characters Key created.
Key, who is also known as the creator of the Hazel comic strip, had a joint venture pact with Ward giving him a 25% share of all money generated by sales of the “Rocky & Bullwinkle” show to TV or homevideo, or licensing the characters for theme parks or film projects.
The lawsuit asserts Key, who knew “Rocky & Bullwinkle” creator Jay Ward for more than 50 years, created Sherman & Mr. Peabody, the dog and pet boy who rewrote historically important events with the aid of a time-travel machine. The characters were featured in the “Rocky & Bullwinkle” show.
“Ted and Jay were friends from childhood,” Key’s attorney Steven Ames Brown told Daily Variety. “It’s amazing that the Ward company would conceal anything from Ted or force him to sue to enforce his rights.” Ward died in 1989.
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Brown claims Ward “couldn’t draw and had nothing to do with the creation of any of the characters Key originated. It’s time to debunk the myths about (Ward) as a creator of cartoon characters.”
Key’s lawsuit was filed as MCA, Ward and General Mills began a trial in U.S. District Court over ownership of the cartoon icons.
Ironically, Key learned of the alleged accounting shortfall during his deposition in the MCA/Ward litigation.
Key’s action seeks an accounting and punitive damages.