Duke Caboom is freewheelin’ his way out of court, as a lawsuit over the cartoon motorcyclist has been shot down by a Nevada judge.
In 2019, Duke Caboom appeared as a new character in Pixar’s animated Toy Story 4. Presented as an insecure Canadian moto-stuntman, Duke Caboom became sort of a breakout star of the film, if such a thing can be said about a cartoon character. Perhaps the voice acting by Keanu Reeves helped, himself a Canadian motorcycle fanatic (transplanted into Hollywood of course)?
Kids loved Duke Caboom, which is just the sort of thing the moto industry needs. However, Kelly Knievel, son of famed stuntman Evel Knievel, had a different reaction: He sued Disney, which owns Pixar, for at least $300,000, saying the company infringed on his father’s image.
Wait, what? Here’s the thing: Evel Knievel was a master of self-promotion, and had copyrights for his stuntman character. After his death, Las Vegas-based K&K Promotions has the rights to that image and likeness, and Kelly Knievel (who’s part of that company) decided to sue Pixar as a result. The lawsuit (we wrote about it here) was asking for at least $300,000 in damages, for false endorsement and trademark infringements.
After the usual delays (no doubt exacerbated by COVID-19 roadblocks), the case finally arrived in a Nevada District Court, where a federal judge ruled against K&K Promotions’ lawsuit. The reasoning? The judge agreed that Duke Caboom’s cartoon persona was similar to Evel Knievel’s real-life schtick, but that it was permissible under the laws of artistic expression, and that there was no implied endorsement.
So, that’s probably where it all ends. And, it’s probably good news for the moto industry. Duke Caboom was a popular addition to the Toy Story series, and frankly, exactly the kind of character that kids will want to see more of, exposing them to the fun of motorcycles. He’s not a modern-day reincarnation of On Any Sunday, but maybe Duke Caboom’s antics are a gateway drug nonetheless?