Court Rules Star Trek/Seuss Mashup Is Copyright Fair Use

ComicMix was the winner today when a Federal judge decided the remaining copyright issues in Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ suit to stop the Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! project.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) had claimed the crowdfunded book, featuring the writing of David Gerrold and the art of Ty Templeton, infringed their copyright and trademark for Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! A court ruling in May 2018 disposed of DSE’s trademark claims, but the copyright claims remained to be litigated.

In granting ComicMix’s motion for summary judgment U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino explained: “Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that there is ‘no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.’”  

ComicMix argued there was no copyright infringement because Boldly is fair use, and under applicable caselaw “the doctrine of ‘fair use’ shields from infringement particular uses of a copyrighted work.” 

Judge Sammartino wrote that Congress set forth four non-exclusive factors for use in evaluating whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is fair: 

(1) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

The Hollywood Reporter’s Eriq Gardner explained the judge’s analysis of this factor in his story:

In an attempt to foreclose a successful fair use defense, Dr. Seuss Enterprises pointed to the Federal Circuit’s 2018 decision in Oracle America, Inc. v. Google. That case deals with copyrighted Java API code and whether Google infringes when it makes its own version intended to allow software programs to communicate with each other. It’s a high-stakes battle that has a good shot of being taken up by the Supreme Court. When it comes to the purpose and character of Boldly, Dr. Seuss analogizes the book to what Google did with Java.

“The Court does not find Oracle persuasive,” responds the judge, addressing what she sees as the key distinction. “in Oracle, the Defendants copied the 37 SE API packages wholesale, while in Boldly ‘the copied elements are always interspersed with original writing and illustrations that transform Go!’s pages into repurposed, Star-Trek-centric ones.’ Defendants did not copy verbatim text from Go! in writing Boldly, nor did they replicate entire illustrations from Go! Although Defendants certainly borrowed from Go!—at times liberally—the elements borrowed were always adapted or transformed. The Court therefore concludes, as it did previously that Defendants’ work, while commercial, is highly transformative.”

(2) The nature of the copyrighted work;

The judge finds that the factor of the nature of the copyrighted work — Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go — slightly favors the plaintiff before addressing the amount and substantiality of the portion used.

(3) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

Judge Sammartino said that she considered the situation in the current case to be comparable to a suit about a poster created to advertise Naked Gun 33-1/3: The Final Insult:

Although the Court ultimately concluded that Boldly was not a parody, the Court concludes that this csse is most analogous to the situation in Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp. In Leibovitz, the defendant was alleged to have infringed a famous photograph of a nude, pregnant  Demi  Moore  that  appeared on the cover of the August 1991 issue of Vanity Fair. The photo of Ms. Moore was itself “a well known pose evocative of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.”

As part  of  an  advertising  campaign  for  an  upcoming  movie,  the  defendant  commissioned  a  photographer  to  take  a  photo  of  another  nude,  pregnant  woman  in  a  similar  pose,  and  “[g]reat effort was made to ensure that the photograph resembled in metic ulous detail the one  taken  [of  Ms.  Moore]  by  [the  plaintiff],”  from  the  model’s  posture  to  her  hand  placement to the use of a large ring on the same finger.  The defendant’s photograph was then digitally enhanced using a computer to make the skin tone  and body shape more closely resemble that of Ms. Moore in the plaintiff’s original photo.  Leslie Nielsen’s face was superimposed on the model’s body, “with his jaw and eyes positioned roughly  at  the  same  angle  as  Moore’s,  but  with  her  serious  look  replaced  by  Nielsen’s mischievous smirk.”  The finished poster advertised that the movie was “DUE THIS MARCH.” 

The Second Circuit stressed that, “[i]n assessing the amount and substantiality of the portion used, [the court] must focus only on the protected elements of the original.”  Consequently,  the  court  reasoned,  the  plaintiff  “is  entitled  to  no  protection  for  the  appearance in her photograph of the body of a nude, pregnant female,” but rather  only  “the  particular  way  the  body  of  Moore  is  portrayed.”   

The  court  clarified that, “[e]ven though the basic pose of a nude, pregnant body and the position of the hands, if ever protectable, were placed into the public domain by painters and sculptors long before Botticelli, [the plaintiff] is entitled to protection for such artistic elements as the particular lighting, the resulting skin tone of the subject, and the camera angle that she selected.” The court ultimately concluded that the defendant “took more of the [plaintiff’s] photograph than was minimally necessary to conjure it up, but” that there was “little, if any, weight against fair use so long as the first and fourth factors favor the” defendant. 

As in Leibovitz, the Court must take care in distinguishing precisely those elements of the Copyrighted Works to which Plaintiff is entitled copyright protection.  Examining the cover of each work, for example, Plaintiff may claim copyright protection in the unique, rainbow-colored  rings  and  tower  on  the  cover  of  Go!  Plaintiff,  however,  cannot  claim  copyright over any disc-shaped item tilted at a particular angle; to grant Plaintiff such broad protection would foreclose a photographer from taking a photo of the Space Needle just so, a result that is clearly untenable under —and antithetical to—copyright law.  But  that  is  essentially  what  Plaintiff  attempts  to  do  here.    Instead  of  replicating  Plaintiff’s rainbow-ringed  disc,  Defendants  drew  a  similarly-shaped  but  decidedly  non-Seussian  spacecraft—the  USS  Enterprise—at  the  same  angle  and  placed  a  red-and-pink striped planet where the larger of two background discs appears on the original cover. Boldly’s cover also features a figure whose arms and hands are posed similarly to those of Plaintiff’s narrator and who sports a similar nose and eyes,  but Boldly’s narrator has clearly been replaced by Captain Kirk, with his light, combed-over hair and gold shirt with black trim, dark trousers, and boots. Captain Kirk stands on a small moon or asteroid above the Enterprise  and,   although  the  movement of the moon evokes the tower or tube pictured on Go! ’s cover, the resemblance is  purely  geometric.   

Finally,  instead  of  a  Seussian  landscape,  Boldly’s  cover  is appropriately set in space, prominently featuring stars and planets. In short, “portions of the old work are incorporated into the new work but emerge imbued with a different character.” 

(4) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Hollywood Reporter summarized the court’s take on the last factor:

When it comes to Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!, the judge concludes that it isn’t likely usurp its predecessor’s position in the children’s book market because ComicMix has targeted those familiar with both the Seuss and Trek canon with a work that includes some sexual innuendo (hello, Captain Kirk). The derivatives market is called a “closer question,” but the judge notes that Dr. Seuss has “introduced no evidence tending to show that it would lose licensing opportunities or revenues as a result of publication of Boldly or similar works.”

Judge Sammartino, finding this factor did not favor either party, invoked the Supreme Court’s statement in Fogerty v. Fantasy Inc. to justify ruling for ComicMix:

The Supreme Court has admonished, “[t]he primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but ‘to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’   To this end, copyright  assures  authors  the  right  to  their  original  expression,  but encourages  others  to  build  freely  upon  the  ideas  and  information  conveyed  by  a  work.”   

Following the ruling an attorney for the losing side, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said the group was “considering all of its options, including an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit.”

The text of today’s decision also revealed ComicMix originally planned to follow up Boldly with two other Suess/Trek mashups, “Picard Hears A Q” and “One Kirk, Two Kirk, Red Shirt, Blue Shirt,” whose fate is now uncertain.

[Thanks to Eric Franklin for the story.]

ComicMix Whittles Away Another Leg of Star Trek/Seuss Mashup Lawsuit


Could the day be coming when Dr. Seuss Enterprises doesn’t have a leg left to stand on? In November 2016, during a Kickstarter campaign to fund Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) filed suit for damages claiming the project infringed their copyright and trademark on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! A new ruling has disposed of the trademark claims.

Although ComicMix suffered a setback in December 2017 when the federal Judge Janis L. Sammartino allowed both the copyright and trademark claims to go forward, on May 21, she applied a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent and granted ComicMix’s motion for judgment on the trademark issues. Only the copyright claims remain to be litigated.

The Hollywood Reporter article “‘Star Trek’/Dr. Seuss Mashup Creator Beats Trademark Claims” briefed the reasons for ComicMix’s latest victory.

At the time, ComicMix also argued that its work merited First Amendment protection under a test established in Rogers v Grimaldi, a 1989 decision that resulted from a lawsuit brought by the actress Ginger Rogers over the Fellini film Ginger and Fred. The test directs judges to examine whether use of a mark has artistic relevance, and if so, whether the work is explicitly misleading. Although ComicMix’s Boldly appeared to Sammartino to meet the criteria for protection, the judge highlighted a footnote in the Rogers decision that provided an exception for “misleading titles that are confusingly similar to other titles.”

…And but, something happened while all this was going down.

Fox Television was caught up in a fight over the title of Empire, its hit show about a feuding music-industry family.  Empire Distribution — a record label and publishing company that has worked with such hip-hop artists as T.I., Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar — had brought its own trademark claims, but Fox prevailed, thanks to the Rogers test. This case went all the way up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed Fox’s win.

Soon after Dr. Seuss Enterprises scored its victory in December, ComicMix pointed to the Empire case as having disavowed the Rogers footnote that had created an opening for trademark claims over titles.

Sammartino agrees, writing that the 9th Circuit “applies the Rogers test rather than the likelihood-of-confusion test” and that the 9th Circuit states “that the [Rogers] footnote had only ever been cited once by an appellate court, and even then the Second Circuit had rejected its applicability.”

The parties are now scheduling witness depositions and preparing for the next round of litigation.

ComicMix Suffers Setback in Star Trek/Seuss Mashup Lawsuit

Revoking part of an order she handed down this summer, federal Judge Janis L. Sammartino ruled December 8 that Dr. Seuss Enterprises gets to engage both copyright and trademark claims in a lawsuit against ComicMix for a crowd-funded book project titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

The litigation began last November, during a Kickstarter campaign to fund Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) filed suit for damages claiming the project infringed their copyright and trademark on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!

The judge had dismissed the trademark infringement portion of the claims in June (“ComicMix Gains Partial Victory in Dr. Seuss Lawsuit Over Literary Mash-Up”), however, The Hollywood Reporter story “Lawsuit Over Mashup of ‘Star Trek’ and Dr. Seuss Gets Past Alpha Quadrant” said the judge has considered an amended complaint and is allowing all the claims to move forward including one for unfair competition. (Here’s the full opinion.)

The biggest difference is the analysis of trademark and quite notably, what is causing ComicMix some trouble on that front is the font of its title.

Nominative fair use is an important concept in trademark law, referring to certain allowances to use another’s mark for purposes like commentary, criticism, comparative advertising, or parody. The standards were articulated by an appeals court in 1992 in a case where newspapers used toll numbers to conduct polls of The New Kids on the Block.

Sammartino looks at three factors to determine whether ComicMix has an appropriate defense of nominative fair use in this dispute. On two of those factors — whether the product in question is readily identifiable without use of the trademark and whether ComicMix has done acts that would falsely suggest sponsorship or endorsement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises — the defendants get the edge. But ComicMix can’t dispense with the trademark and unfair competition claims thanks to that other factor — whether its use of Dr. Seuss’ mark is more than reasonably necessary to identify it.

The mark in question is the title, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Judge Sammartino explained:

Defendants not only use the words ‘Oh! The Places You’ll Go!’ in the title of Boldly but also use the exact font used by Plaintiff. The look of the lettering is unquestionably identical on both books, down to the shape of the exclamation point. This situation is similar to that in Toho [a precedent case]. The Court finds it was unnecessary for Defendants to use the distinctive font as used on Go! to communicate their message (i.e., that Boldly is a mash-up of the Go! and Star Trek universes).

The reference to Toho is a callback to a case made by Toho, the controller of the Godzilla intellectual property, against a book publisher in 1998.

Glenn Hauman portrayed the decision to ComicMix readers in a positive light, focusing on this part of the ruling — “Judge rules that an illustration style can’t be a trademark”.

Yesterday, Judge Janis Sammartino handed down a ruling in our ongoing case, Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix, allowing the case to proceed to discovery while narrowing the allegations in significant ways.

Quoting from the decision:

Plaintiff cited no authority to support its assertion that its general “style” is a protectable trademark. Plaintiff only argues that the book can be subject to both trademark and copyright protection and that distinctive characters can qualify as trademarks. Plaintiff claims the Ninth Circuit has recognized Plaintiff owns trademark rights to “the character illustration of the Cat [in the Hat’s] ‘stove-pipe hat’.” But the illustration of the Cat’s hat is different than the general “illustration style” and non-specific “characters and backgrounds found throughout” Plaintiff’s books, in which Plaintiff asserts trademark rights now. And Plaintiff does not allege trademark rights in any specific character or background image in [Oh, The Places You’ll] Go! The Court is not holding illustrations of specific characters within Go! are precluded from trademark protection, but at this stage of the proceedings and based on the information in front of the Court, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claimed general “illustration style” is not protectable.

Hauman continued:

…When we speak of an artist’s “trademark style” we’re not actually speaking of a legal trademark, and as such it’s not something that can be legally claimed.

And this means that if, say, Ty Templeton draws a portrait of me looking like I was drawn by Dr. Seuss, there’s not a thing Dr. Seuss Enterprises can do about it.

Of course, this is generally a good thing. This means that no artist can be charged with stealing someone else’s “trademark style” or the way they draw (or for that matter, how they shoot a photograph or a movie). We all learn from each other, we all influence each other— particularly in comics— and we all build on other works and artistic traditions and styles to create new works of art to tell stories.

The judge summed up her decision — “the Court again cannot say as a matter of law that Defendants’ use of Plaintiff’s copyrighted material was fair,” which could be up to a jury if the case goes to trial. She denied ComcMix et al’s motions to dismiss DSE’s claim of copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter for the story.]

ComicMix Gains Partial Victory in Dr. Seuss Lawsuit Over Literary Mash-Up

Last November, during a Kickstarter campaign to fund Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) filed suit for damages claiming the project infringed their copyright and trademark on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go!

ComicMix LLC moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the motion was partially granted on June 9. U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the trademark infringement claims, but allowed the copyright claim to proceed, awaiting proof of any harm to the Dr. Seuss estate’s licensing opportunities. The estate has been given two weeks to amend its copyright infringement claims.

As ComicMix reports:

Judge Sammartino found that the book is “a highly transformative work that takes no more than necessary [from Dr. Seuss’s books] to accomplish its transformative purpose and will not impinge on the original market for Plaintiff’s underlying work” She emphasized that the case has broader significance: “…This case presents an important question regarding the emerging ‘mash-up’ culture where artists combine two independent works in a new and unique way. … Applying the fair use factors in the manner Plaintiff outlines would almost always preclude a finding of fair use under these circumstances. However, if fair use was not viable in a case such as this, an entire body of highly creative work would be effectively foreclosed.”

The court decision also explained why it rejected the motion to dismiss the copyright infringement claim.

In codifying the fair use doctrine, Congress set forth four non-exclusive factors for courts to consider in evaluating whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is fair:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

…As it stands in this case, factors one and four — which “…have ‘dominated the case law’ and are generally viewed as the most important factors[,] …currently stand in equipoise. Factor two weighs slightly in favor of Plaintiff [DSE], and factor three is neutral. And although it would appear that the purposes of copyright favor Defendants [ComicMix, et al], that determination is also a close and unsettled call. Ultimately, given the procedural posture of this motion and near-perfect balancing of the factors, the Court DENIES Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, without relevant evidence regarding factor four the Court concludes that Defendants’ fair use defense currently fails as a matter of law.

Doctor Seuss Enterprises has until June 23 to present evidence about the effect on the market for the work whose copyright is allegedly infringed.

ComicMix Moves For Dismissal of Seuss Lawsuit

oh-the-places-youll-boldly-go

File 770 reported in September a crowdsourced appeal for funds to publish Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman.

While the Kickstarter was in progress, Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) objected, claiming that the project infringed their copyright on Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go! They filed suit for damages on November 10 in Dr. Seuss Enterprises vs. David Gerrold, et al.

Now ComicMix’s Haumann reports his attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the Dr. Seuss lawsuit on the grounds that Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! constitutes fair use of any elements of Dr. Seuss books protected by copyright or trademark law.

A GeekNation article by Michael Hinman summarizes the contacts between DSE and ComicMix prior to the lawsuit:

Even at the start of the campaign, ComicMix acknowledged there could be problems moving forward with the book project, telling potential donors “there may be some people who believe that this might be in violation of their intellectual property rights. And we may have to spend time and money proving it to people in black robes. And we may even lose that.”

Just before the crowdfunding campaign was completed, raising nearly $30,000, Dr. Seuss Enterprises made a copyright claim to Kickstarter, forcing the company to remove the campaign and freeze the funds. That prompted an angry letter from ComicMix attorney Booth just before Halloween.

In that letter, Booth demanded the Seuss people to reinstate the campaign, especially since Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel Publishing had agreed to publish the book, and rush it for a Christmas release.

“Also anticipating Christmas sales, one vendor ordered 5,000 copies of the book as long as printing and shipping are completed by Nov. 11, but ComicMix expects to lose that order because, thanks to your notice, Kickstarter is withholding all $29,575 that the campaign raised, so ComicMix cannot use that money to cover the printing costs as intended.”

ComicMix’s response to the suit and its motion to dismiss are analyzed by Janet Gershen-Siegel at Semantic Shenanigans (“Seuss v. Gerrold, et al – Getting the Ball Rolling”). Her post includes links to copies of all the defense’s filings.

The Memo of Points and Authorities filed with the court outlines the defense’s arguments for dismissal. Here are two excerpts illustrating their main justifications. The memo itself also contains highly-detailed narrative comparisons showing the differences between the original work and ComicMix’s takeoff.

Introduction: Oh, the Uses Seuss Sues!

Defendant ComicMix LLC (“ComicMix”) respectfully moves the Court for an order dismissing this matter for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), on the grounds that ComicMix’s allegedly infringing book constitutes fair use of any elements of Dr. Seuss books protected by copyright or trademark law.

This case presents a simple question: May an author’s estate use the courts to stymie publication of a book that makes critical, parodic use of the author’s books? On the facts alleged, the answer must be no. The Copyright Act, the Lanham Act and the First Amendment fully protect ComicMix’s right to comment and build on Dr. Seuss’ works. The law does not place his beloved books above parody, beyond critical commentary, or past the reach of cultural transformation and nominative use….

Copyright law limits the scope of DSE’s claims.

DSE alleges that Boldly infringes its copyrights to Go!’s title, “story arc,” and characters and illustrations from Go!, Horton Hears a Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (“Grinch”), The Lorax, and The Sneetches and Other Stories. Doc. 1 ¶ 26. Yet copyright covers few of those elements, and Boldly infringes none….

DSE declines to identify any such well-delineated character, leaving its allegation of character “misappropriation” wholly speculative. No character in Go! meets this standard. The one character to appear more than once (except perhaps some elephants, who do not reappear in Boldly) is the protagonist, a walking cipher. The boy has no name or dialogue and few distinguishing characteristics beyond his yellow knit-cap and onesie. This lightly sketched everyman lacks the “distinctive character traits” required to be protectable by copyright. Towle, 802 F.3d at 1020.  Further, Boldly does not copy any Dr. Seuss character or its traits. In the boy’s place is the Enterprise’s captain, wearing the uniform of Star Trek commanding officers (a gold shirt with an arrowhead insignia over the left breast, and black trousers) or a spacesuit, or on one page, a green tunic like Captain Kirk sometimes wore. His spiky, adult hairstyle is not covered by a child’s knit-cap. Boldly’s wholly distinct characters do not infringe on any protectable character trait of the original. Nor does Boldly infringe on Go!’s simple, episodic storyline. See RJN Ex. 6. In Go!, the boy decides to leave town. He joins a balloon race, taking the lead before getting stuck in a tree. He lands in a “Slump,” comes to a place with unmarked streets, and has a hard time deciding where to turn. In confusion, he races down the road to “The Waiting Place,” where “everyone is just waiting.” He escapes to watch a musical performance by a “Boom Band”, then to join a parade of banner-flying elephants, and then to play on a convoluted ball-field. His athletic skill makes him world-famous, but he is again left all alone to face more scary things. Copyright does not protect the general plot line of an adventurer persevering as he faces both emotional and physical highs and lows. “The copyright of a story covers what is new and novel in it.” Bradbury v. CBS, 287 F.2d 478, 485 (9th Cir. 1961). “General plot lines are not protected by copyright law.” Cavalier v. Random House, Inc., 297 F.3d 815, 823 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). “Familiar stock scenes and themes that are staples of literature are not protected.” Id.

Any story element in Go! that is not too generic to warrant copyright protection is not copied in Boldly, which depicts no confusing streets, balloon races, Slump, Waiting Place, music, elephants, or parades. The Go! boy’s one idiosyncrasy, a talent for playing an unusual multi-player sport, also does not recur in Boldly. Instead, Boldly is filled with allusions to episodes of the original Star Trek series. Any similarities between the plot lines of Boldly and Go! are generic and unprotectable.

The judge has allowed the plaintiff until January 19 to file its opposition to the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, ComicMix will have three weeks to file any reply. And the judge set a hearing for March 16, 2017.

Pixel Scroll 11/13/16 ROFLMPO – Rolling On File, Laughing My Pixels Off

(1) LITIGATION. File 770 reported in September about the Kickstarter appeal raising funds for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman.

The holders of the Dr. Seuss rights have objected and sued for damages reports TMZ.com in “Oh, The Lawsuits You’ll See”.

Dr. Seuss‘ stories should NOT be rehashed with Vulcans or Klingons in the mix — at least not without permission … according to a new lawsuit.

The Doc’s camp just filed suit against ComicMix, which thought it’d be neat to make a ‘Star Trek‘ version of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In the docs, obtained by TMZ, the Seuss’ co. says ComicMix fused elements of the classic book with their own story, and even jacked actual prose from the original … all without asking.

They say ComicMix knew damn well it was doing the Doc dirty because its Kickstarter page for the project mentioned they might have to go to court to prove their work was parody and not a violation of copyright. They acknowledged, “we may even lose.”

Team Seuss is suing for damages. A lawyer for ComicMix tells us they love Dr. Seuss and hope to resolve the suit amicably.

(2) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MARS SERIES. Don’t wait until the November 14 premiere. Stream the Mars premiere now.

The year is 2033, and humanity’s first crewed mission to Mars is about to become a reality. As a clock counts down the final 90 seconds to landing, an expert crew of astronauts endures the final harrowing moments before touching down on the red planet. Even with the best training and resources available, the maiden crew of the Daedalus spacecraft must push itself to the brink of human capability in order to successfully establish the first sustainable colony on Mars. Set both in the future and in the present day, the global miniseries event MARS blends feature film-caliber scripted elements set in the future with documentary vérité interviews with today’s best and brightest minds in modern science and innovation, illuminating how research and development is creating the space technology that will enable our first attempt at a mission to Mars.

(3) TAOS TOOLBOX. Walter Jon Williams announced today the “Most Famous Author in the World” George R.R. Martin will be joining the Taos Toolbox faculty as a special guest. The Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop takes place June 18-July 1, 2017.

George was our guest for the very first Taos Toolbox, and now he’s consented to return for our tenth anniversary. We’re pleased and flattered to have him, even if it’s only once per decade.

The other faculty are Walter Jon Williams, Nancy Kress, with special lecturers Steven Gold and E.M. Tippets.

(4) DINO DUTY. Tastes great? Less filling?  “Jurassic World 2 Will Be Both a Jurassic World Sequel and Jurassic Park 5, Says J. A. Bayona” at CinemaBlend.

Earlier today, I had the great pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with J.A. Bayona in promotion of his upcoming movie A Monster Calls, and it was towards the end of our chat that we talked a bit about his next project. I posed the aforementioned question to the filmmaker, and he not only enjoyed the challenge of the query, but explained why his installment in the dinosaur franchise will be both Jurassic World 2 and Jurassic Park 5.

(5) TOVAR OBIT. Lupita Tovar, the Mexican actress who starred in the 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula that was shot at the same time on the same sets as the Bela Lugosi picture has died at the age of 108 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

… Lupita returned to Mexico to great acclaim to star in Santa (1932), her country’s first talking film, and later appeared in The Invader (1936) opposite Buster Keaton, Blockade (1938) with Henry Fonda, South of the Border (1939) with Gene Autry and The Westerner (1940) with Gary Cooper….

Lupita Tovar’s daughter is Susan Kohner, who earned an Oscar nomination for portraying the young woman who rejects her black mother (Juanita Moore) and tries to pass herself off as white in the 1959 Douglas Sirk melodrama Imitation of Life.

Other survivors include her grandchildren Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, Kohner’s sons, who shared an Oscar screenplay nomination for About a Boy (2002).

Tovar was married to Czech-born producer and Hollywood agent Paul Kohner, who represented the likes of Greta Garbo, John Huston, Lana Turner, Ingmar Bergman, Yul Brynner, David Niven, Billy Wilder and Charles Bronson, from 1932 until his death in 1988.

(6) DRACULA EN ESPAÑOL. For those unfamiliar with the movie, here’s some background: “Night Shift: 6 Reasons to Watch Universal’s Spanish-language Dracula (1931)”.

They worked like children of the night, shooting from sundown to sunrise. Directed by a man who didn’t know a word of their language, the Spanish-speaking actors filmed an obscure alternative version of what would become one of the most famous movies of all time.

“Above all,” explains Lupita Tovar, the film’s heroine, “we wanted our version to be the best.” And, in many ways, it is.

For those of us who’ve watched and rewatched the Lugosi version, the simultaneously shot Drácula opens up a mind-boggling parallel universe—one with much improved camerawork and often more convincing acting.

This is a lavish, artful film in its own right, so much more than the “bonus feature” it’s listed as on home releases. If I haven’t hooked you already, here’s why any movie buff or horror fan needs to see Drácula.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man premieres. Did you know: in order to achieve the effect that Claude Rains wasn’t there when his character took off the bandages, James Whale had him dress completely in black velvet and filmed him in front of a black velvet background.
  • November 13, 1940 — Walt Disney’s Fantasia premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York; first film to attempt to use stereophonic sound.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born November 13, 1955 — Whoopi Goldberg

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 13, 1947 – Joe Mantegna, who appeared in both the stage production and the Disney movie of Ray Bradbury’s Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.

(10) NORTHBOUND SEASON 2. Production has begun on GeekNation sci-fi series Northbound Season 2. Watch the Season 2 Teaser.

Northbound is a post-apocalyptic webseries set in a North American wilderness soon after a mysterious, cataclysmic event killed millions in a single day. Season 1 of the series is available to view for free exclusively through the entertainment website, GeekNation. The filmmakers are comprised of a Michigan and Los Angeles-based team that is dedicated to shooting in Michigan, and contributing to the long-term growth of the Upper Peninsula region.

Season 1, and the upcoming Season 2 of Northbound are designed as a prelude series to a feature film titled Northstar. Taken as a whole, The Northstar Saga will tell the story of a father as he works to discover why his daughter was one of the rare survivors to be rendered comatose after The Cataclysm. His journey will put him into contact (and inevitable conflict) with others that are struggling to rebuild lives, communities and an overall sense of purpose in a hazardous new world.

northbound-northtar

(11) PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH. Ethan Mills reviews the movie Arrival (beware copious spoilers) at Examined Worlds.

Director Denis Villeneuve has created a beautiful adaptation, from the striking cinematography to Jóhann Jóhannsson’s unnervingly sublime score. Amy Adams portrays the quiet strength and struggle of the main character, Dr. Louise Banks. I think I speak for most of my fellow college professors when I say it’s great to see a college professor depicted in a movie as a full human being rather than a pompous jerk, an emotionless egghead, or the absent-minded comic relief.

(12) STYLING ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Stephanie Merry takes the aliens in Arrival as a cue to look at how Hollywood has looked at aliens in sf films of the past 40 years, including Close Encounters, Mars Attacks! and Edge of Tomorrow. Beware mild spoilers in “The aliens in ‘Arrival’ are stunning. How do they compare to other film creatures?”

The aliens in “Arrival” are spectacular, and that’s no small feat. In most “first contact” movies, the otherworldly creatures almost always let us down. Either they’re predictable — you know, little green men speaking an echoey, indecipherable language or stereotypical “Greys” with the big eyes and the egghead — or they look fake.

Carlos Huante tested many iterations with director Denis Villeneuve before they settled on the final design for “Arrival,” which came out this week and follows a linguist (Amy Adams) who’s trying to understand what these visitors want. The creature artist first considered a very conventional look but also tried out beings that were more like stone creatures; ones composed of stacks of paper; and egg-shaped critters ambling around on spider legs.

(13) ROLL ‘EM. Victoria Silverwolf at Galactic Journey finds fiction sometimes parallels Hollywood in “[November 13, 1961] (Un)moving Pictures (December 1961 Fantastic)”.

Back to the movies.  Point, by John T. Phillifent (perhaps better known under his pen name John Rackham), deals with a group of filmmakers who travel to Venus to make their latest blockbuster.  The proposed feature involves beautiful female Venusians, and seems intended to provide a bit of satire of silly science fiction movies such as Queen of Outer Space.  Although the author’s description of Venus is a bit more realistic than that, it’s still not terribly plausible.  The Planet of Love is a very dangerous place, inhabited by all kinds of deadly creatures, but its atmosphere is breathable, and humans can walk around on its hot, steamy surface without spacesuits.  The plot deals with a pilot who agrees to take the film crew into the Venusian wilderness.  As you might expect, things quickly go very wrong, and the story turns into a violent account of survival in a hostile environment.  All in all it’s a fairly typical adventure yarn, competent but hardly noteworthy.  Two stars.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Winkelman.]