In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Debutts Marcus Productions., founded by Russell Marcus (former executive producer of Married… With Children), is suing the Walt Disney Co., the Jim Henson Co., and The Muppets Studio.
Marcus claims that the Muppet Workshop, which allows customers to build their own Muppet characters, was his idea – and that he’s being stiffed out of alleged royalties from the workshop.
According to the plaintiff, he came to an agreement with Tadpole Productions in 1998, the development division of Jim Henson. In the agreement, it was understood that the deal was to create potential television shows, but Marcus became more and more involved with the Muppet brand as the years went by.
Finally, in 2000 Marcus wrote a treatment for the “Muppet Workshop.” A year later, Henson and Marcus’s company agreed that, in exchange for use of the idea, Marcus would receive 2.5% of any royalties generated.
Disney entered the fold in 2004 by purchasing the Muppets franchise from Henson; during that year, Marcus says that he met with Disney executives to discuss “rebuilding the Muppets brand.” According to Marcus, he contacted Disney several years after they licensed FAO Schwarz to feature a “Muppet Whatnot Workshop,” but that Disney told him they hadn’t made a profit – therefore, Marcus wasn’t getting any royalties.
According to Marcus, however, Disney has expanded the workshop concept to several Disney theme parks, and is concerned that the company is allegedly hiding money from him. Marcus’s lawsuit describes a breach of contract, fraud and deceit, and unjust enrichment. Consequently, Marcus’s lawsuit also demands compensation for damages.