Evel Knievel, Duke Caboom
Credit: Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Disney

The family of Evel Knievel filed a lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company, Pixar, and subsidiaries this week, claiming that the character Duke Caboom in the movie Toy Story 4 was improperly based on the late motorcycle daredevil.

"It is obvious Duke Caboom is a knockoff of Evel Knievel," said Kelly Knievel, Knievel's oldest son and the head of plaintiff K&K Promotions, in an exclusive statement to 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."

Duke Caboom, who was voiced by Keanu Reeves in the hit 2019 animated film, was described in Disney promotional copy as a "1970s toy based on Canada's greatest stuntman. Riding his powerful Caboom stunt-cycle, Duke is always prepared to show off his stunt poses with confidence and swagger."

Knievel, born Robert Craig Knievel, became a household name after his failed attempt to jump across the water fountains in front of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on his motorcycle in 1967. Although the stunt was unsuccessful and left him with near-fatal injuries, it helped launch him to stardom. Fans lined up to see his subsequent death-defying jumps, and he also became known for his flashy leather jumpsuits, which often featured stars and stripes.

A spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company said a statement to EW, "The claims are without merit and we intend to defend against them vigorously in court."

K&K Promotions is seeking in excess of $75,000 for alleged copyright and trademark infringement for use of Knievel's likeness, reputation, and image in Toy Story 4, "done in a manner that is likely to cause confusion or mistake." And for the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of the Duke Caboom action figure, which the complaint alleges is similar to the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, a toy released in 1973 made in Knievel's likeness. Other claims include unjust enrichment, unfair competition, and trademark dilution.

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