Disney facing dollars 200m Writ of Spring

EIGHTY years after the first performance of Igor Stravinsky's discordant pagan ballet The Rite of Spring moved an uncomprehending Paris audience to riot, the score is again the cause of bitter disagreement. But this time the dispute is set to be fought out in the American courts rather than the orchestra pit.

Boosey & Hawkes, the London- based publisher that owns the copyright to Stravinsky's works, has taken umbrage at Walt Disney's 1991 decision to release a video version of Fantasia, its much-loved 1941 cartoon.

One sequence in the film depicts the creation of the world and the coming of the age of the dinosaurs to the accompaniment of a modified version of The Rite of Spring.

The publishers, who say videos were not even a twinkle in Stravinsky's eye when he gave Disney permission to use the music in the film, have fired off a writ claiming damages of about dollars 200m ( pounds 130m) for breach of their copyright.

'The licence Stravinsky gave Disney was explicitly restricted to the use of the music for one motion picture for theatrical distribution,' said Jody Pope, the New York lawyer representing Boosey.

Boosey, which bought the bulk of Stravinsky's copyrights from the composer in 1947, feels its case is reinforced by the fact that when Disney released a soundtrack of the film it agreed to pay royalties to reflect the fact its licence did not extend to alternative media.

Needless to say Disney, which has already sold more than 14 million copies of Fantasia, worth about dollars 300m, does not agree.

But then bad feelings between the Disney and Stravinsky camps run deep. Stravinsky, who was paid dollars 6,000 - dollars 1,000 of which went to his publishers - for the use of the music, felt he had been used and misled by Disney. His memoirs record that Disney's 'request' to record and perform the music was accompanied by the warning that if consent was not given the film studio would use the music anyway.

Disney would have been within its rights in so doing, at least in the US. At the time the music was composed in 1913 Stravinsky was a Russian citizen. No copyright treaty then existed between Russia and America - though, as many other countries around the world did offer protection to Russian works, Disney needed Stravinsky's consent if it was to release the film outside North America.

This insult became injury when Stravinsky saw the final version of the film, in which elements of his controverisal and complex score had been altered and the more difficult aspects dropped - though this, as Stravinsky records 'did not save the musical performance, which was execrable'.

His verdict on the cartoon sequence itself - in which the carnivorous Tyrannosaurus Rex finishes off his vegetarian cousins before being annihilated by the forces of climatic change - was no better. 'I will say nothing about the visual complement as I do not wish to criticise unresisting imbecility,' the composer said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before