Evel Knievel’s Son is Suing Pixar Over Duke Caboom

Published on September 28, 2020

Of all people, Evel Knievel’s son is suing Pixar over Toy Story 4. One of the animated film’s highlights, Duke Kaboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves), was a low-key parody of the Evel Knievel image — but hardly a ripoff of the famous daredevil’s image. Knievel’s son, however, argues, “It is obvious Duke Caboom is a knock off of Evel Knievel.”

Kelly Knievel is behind the lawsuit. The son of the icon, who’s held the publicity rights to Evel’s name and image for 42 years, is accusing Pixar of making money off his father’s image without his approval. “Defendants have used in commerce, and continue to use in commerce, the likeness, reputation, and image of Evel Knievel in the film Toy Story 4 through Defendants’ depiction of Duke Caboom,” the lawsuit reads, “and has exploited the same connection through marketing, promotion, advertising, and sales ofToy Story 4, and in connection with the manufacturing, distribution, marketing, advertising, promotion, and sales of the Duke Caboom action figure, all without the consent or approval of K&K.”

Duke Caboom was a wonderful addition to the Toy Story universe. He was a Canadian stuntman, an insecure and lost daredevil on a motorcycle. As far as the comparisons to Evel Knievel go, that’s about it. The man and the animated character share next to nothing in common besides a motorcycle. At most, it’s a parody of the idea of Knievel, but even calling it a parody may be stretching it. 

Kelly Knievel, who runs K and K promotions, alleges that’s not the case, though. “As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ unlawful appropriation of Evel Knievel’s rights of publicity, K&K has suffered, and will continue to suffer, monetary damages to its business, reputation, and goodwill,” the lawsuit adds. 

Knievel is suing Pixar for over $75,000 in damages. Pixar wants to shutdown the lawsuit fast, and the company’s representatives are confident that’ll happen. “The claims are without merit and we intend to defend against them vigorously in court,” a spokesperson for Pixar commented. In press materials, Pixar never mentioned Knievel’s name. “1970s toy based on Canada’s greatest stuntman,” read the character’s description. “Riding his powerful Caboom stunt-cycle, Duke is always prepared to show off his stunt poses with confidence and swagger.”

One of Knievel’s biggest arguments is that Pixar released a Duke Kaboom toy similar to one of his dad, whose real name was Robert Craig Knievel. The stunt artist passed away in 2007 and lived one wild life always worth reading about and examining. Duke Kaboom, personally, shares little in common with Knievel, too. The man’s son is convinced it’s a knockoff, though. “It is obvious Duke Caboom is a knockoff of Evel Knievel,” Knievel told EW. “I don’t see a big long line of Disney executives ready to get on a motorcycle and jump 13 buses, nor do I remember any Canadian daredevils from the ’70s. While we note that Disney uses their Mickey Mouse lawyers to aggressively protect Disney intellectual property, they did not seek permission to use Evel Knievel at any time.”

When researching the origin of Duke Kaboom, it’s often noted his physicality or image was loosely inspired by Evel Knievel, but there’s no comment from the film’s director, Josh Cooley, or the screenwriters that the American stunt performer was a substantial influence for Duke Kaboom. Canada’s finest and most insecure stuntman has very little in common with Evel Knievel’s rugged image. The two are polar opposites as stunt performers. Pixar, likely for good reason, is confident the lawsuit from Evel Knievel’s son won’t be successful if it ever reaches court. 

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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