French author says Disney caught his fish

PARIS — A Paris judge on Wednesday will examine a claim by children’s author Franck Le Calvez that Disney plagiarized his book “Pierrot the Clownfish” in its film “Finding Nemo.”

Le Calvez, who filed suit against the studio in December, claimed the story and characters are too close to his own to be coincidence.

In 1995, Le Calvez said he made the rounds at production companies with his script for an animated film based on his character, Pierrot, to no avail. He published the story as a book in November 2002 under his own banner Flaven Scene, which he created after failing to find a taker for “Pierrot.”

The author copyrighted the story in 1995 and the design of his clownfish in February 2003.

Le Calvez maintains that stores won’t sell his book now because it’s seen as plagiarizing the film. Only 600 of the 2,000 copies of “Pierrot the Clown Fish” were distributed in stores.

“Finding Nemo” is set to top $500 million in the overseas box office — a record for an animated film. France is the third-largest overseas market after Japan and the U.K., pocketing $63 million for the Disney/Pixar film.

While a date for the trial has yet to be set, Le Calvez will ask at the Wednesday hearing that Disney be banned from promoting the film using Nemo’s image or selling any merchandise that reproduces the clownfish.

Disney, which has published “The Art of Finding Nemo” (Chronicle Books), focusing on what inspired the digital artists at Pixar in creating Nemo’s world, has denied copyright infringement.

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